The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Iowa's inability to put teams away in the second half continued to plague the team in winnable games. The Hawkeyes squandered countless opportunities from quick-snapping the ball on third-and-1 at the NIU 39 before everyone was set to throwing a bomb on third-and-1 on the final play of the third quarter. Four times Iowa had the ball inside Huskies' territory in the second half, only to come away with three points. On two other possessions, the Hawkeyes had the ball at their 40 or better.
Iowa ran 80 plays, but they hardly sustained drives in the second half. The Hawkeyes were 6-of-10 on third-down conversions in the first half; 1-of-7 in the second half. Iowa held the ball for 18:48 in the first half; 11:52 in the second half. Iowa ran 47 plays before halftime; 33 plays after halftime.
Iowa running back Mark Weisman was asked if he liked the offense's tempo.
"Probably not because we got off the field too fast," he said. "We need to have those long, sustaining drives and that’s what we’re about here. We’ve got to be more consistent."
D – Northern Illinois? Northern Illinois!
-- Marc Morehouse
D plus – I can’t wait for this week’s Missouri State-Iowa game. Just kidding.
-- Mike Hlas
D – I saw this game once before. It was against Purdue last year.
-- Scott Dochterman
BY THE NUMBERS
7 -- Consecutive losses by Iowa
6 -- Iowa third-down conversions in the first half
1 -- Iowa third-down conversions in the second half
9 -- Northern Illinois points off Iowa turnovers
3 -- Career touchdowns by Iowa LB Christian Kirksey
Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey scored his third career touchdown with a 48-yard fumble return early in the second quarter. Late in the first quarter, NIU tight end Luke Eakes caught a pass in the right flat and Kirksey drilled him with a perfect form tackle. The ball squirted out, Kirksey picked it up and zoomed for Iowa's first touchdown. The score cut Iowa's deficit to 10-7.
"I think it breathed a little life into our team on offense, defense and special teams," Morris said. "And that’s what we need, we need plays like that this year."
"I basically was just trying to make a play and just make a tackle and the ball happened to come out," Kirksey said. "We do ball drills a lot in practice, and I was doing what I was coached to do. That's pretty much it. We lost though, so the play doesn't mean anything."
Kirksey posted a game-high 14 tackles. It was his 21st birthday.
NOT-SO SPECIAL TEAMS
After a Jake Rudock interception late in the third quarter, Northern Illinois' drive stalled at Iowa's 46. Facing fourth-and-5, the Huskies elected to fake a punt. Upback Desroy Maxwell took the snap and rolled right. He optioned to punter Tyler Wedel, who ran to Iowa's 4 for a 42-yard gain. Three plays later NIU kicker Mathew Sims kicked a field goal to cut the Huskies' deficit to 24-20.
"I saw the fake the second it happened," Iowa linebacker James Morris said. "It sounds like, my understanding was, there was some miscommunication on the back end as far as who was setting the edge, and I was pursuing the ball. But it was one of those deals where we were outflanked. I was over the ball, and they optioned it out to somebody."
"We had to find a way to make a play," NIU Coach Rod Carey said. "They hemmed us up on offense, and we had to do something to get going."
Iowa averaged just 13.3 yards per kickoff return. Returner Jordan Cotton brought back three kickoffs from his end zone, two were taken to the 19 and another at the 10. Had he knelt for a touchback, Iowa would have taken over at the 25.
"All I was doing was trying to give us a spark," Cotton said. "That’s all I was trying to do. It’s my job to be smart back there and that if it’s in the end zone to take a knee or if I catch it cleanly to take it out if I feel confident. But I’ve got to be smarter back there."
STRUGGLING WITH POSITIVES
Iowa ran the ball 43 times for 207 yards. Junior running back Mark Weisman carried 20 times for 100 yards. Wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley hauled in nine passes for 79 yards.
Those statistics would be considered sterling in victory. However in defeat, they’re just numbers.
“If I play a great game and we lose, it kind of takes away everything from it,” Martin-Manley said. “You play hard, you make those catches in the name of winning.
“It’s hard to see the positives now,” Weisman said. “It hurts now, so you’ve got to move on from it.”
Iowa (0-1) plays host to Missouri State (0-1) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. BTN will televise the game.