KANSAS CITY, MO. –
Any conclusion worth having is worth jumping to.
They can’t run the ball, they can’t stop the big play, they can’t make the quarterback sweat even when it’s a sultry 92 degrees.
They can’t yet, anyway.
That said, they traded oomph and grunt Saturday with the No. 8 team in the country. They didn’t shun the run, they picked off two passes, they neutralized a slippery punt returner.
When the third quarter score crawled across the bottom of all the ESPNs, baseball games and golf tournaments, eyebrows raised, beer bellies quaked.
Iowa (0-1) finally succumbed, 27-7, to powerful Kansas State (1-0) before 77,148 fans in the Eddie Robinson Classic at Arrowhead Stadium. The Hawkeyes have lost nine straight and 19 of the last 23. But Saturday’s score can spin several different ways.
Maybe even positively. Maybe it’s time to re-think all those wonderful and pithy Iowa disses.
“I’m sure a lot of people were surprised,” senior safety Ryan Hansen said. “The line was 28 points or something. I feel like we’re better than a lot of people think we’ll be.”
Kicking back with a bottle of grape Pedialyte, a drink made to fight dehydration in sick toddlers, defensive end LeVar Woods didn’t bite on the inevitable moral victory question.
“When I look at the scoreboard, I see K-State winning,”
the senior said. “We might have won some little battles, but we didn’t win it all. That’s all that matters.”
K-State quarterback Jonathan Beasley starred on a day when even the ball sweated. The senior completed 14 of 28 for 250 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
With Iowa failing to mount a consistent pass rush, Beasley and a SWAT team of talented receivers made a living on third down, completing three passes of 28 or more yards that eventually led to K-State touchdowns.
When the Wildcats needed a big play, they pulled one out of petty cash.
On third-and-4 from their 38-yard line, Beasley hit a wide-open Martez Wesley for a 60-yard gain to Iowa’s 2. Wesley sprinted behind the zone coverage of Tim Dodge, who played his first game at cornerback after switching from offense this spring.
The play set up David Allen’s 1-yard TD and gave K-State a 7-0 lead with 10 minutes, 42 seconds left in the first quarter.
On their next series the Wildcats faced a third-and-6 at their 12.
Beasley hit receiver Aaron Lockett for a 45-yard gain. The drive ended in Jamie Rheem’s 24-yard field goal.
The big plays led to the slippery slide that Iowa fans remember so painfully from last season. K-State sustained drives, and Iowa’s defense camped – and baked and eventually wilted – on a rotisserie of a field.
And therein lies the rub. Sure, it was a generally positive defeat, a positive as these things can be. But there’s also spin the other direction.
Iowa’s offense scored seven points, generated nine first downs and 156 yards total offense. Iowa rushed for more yards (80) than it passed (76).
“We didn’t look sharp at all in the passing game.
That’s a little bit disappointing,” Iowa Coach Kirk
Ferentz said. “I think that’s a little bit us and a
little bit K-State.”
Iowa quarterback Scott Mullen, who completed 10 of 26 for 76 yards, was sacked six times and constantly pressured. That pressure forced Iowa’s hand on the game’s deciding play. Trailing 17-7 late in the fourth period, a blitz forced Mullen into a quick read.
Receiver Kevin Kasper didn’t pick up the blitz call. He
didn’t see Mullen’s pass, which hit him squarely on the
Tiger Hawk sticker and bounced into Jerametrius Butler’s
waiting arms. Butler returned the ball to Iowa’s 15, and three plays later, Beasley scored and K-State had a sweat-free 24-7 lead.
“We’ll improve offensively, I’m confident of that,” Ferentz said. “And it will happen quickly. It took
a long time last year, but I don’t think it’s going to
take as much time this year.”
This is a game that will be spun for the next two weeks. The glass is either half full or entirely empty, depending on the point of view.
Iowa’s defense caused three turnovers and made five straight stops in the second half. Yet, the Wildcats rolled up 428 yards offense and averaged 5.7 yards on 75 plays.
Running back Ladell Betts averaged 5 yards on 10 carries. The bulging ice pack on his left leg can only be ominously spun.
Positive spin: Iowa’s defense caused three turnovers,
including two interceptions. Negative: The offense failed to capitalize.
“We didn’t come down here to be a scout team,” Ferentz said. “We had chances to make it a game, we didn’t. That’s frustrating.”
It’s still August, too early for conclusions. But let the spinning begin.