IOWA CITY — If ever we’ve approached an Iowa-Iowa State football week with less anticipation than the present, let’s not dwell on it while operating heavy machinery.
So far, the story of major-college football in our state is “The Late Summer of Our Discontent.” A loss to a MAC team (Iowa, against Northern Illinois), a loss to a Missouri Valley Football Conference team (Iowa State, against Northern Iowa), and an uninspiring 28-14 victory over a second-division Valley club (Iowa, Saturday against Missouri State at Kinnick Stadium).
The Hawkeyes play the Cyclones Saturday in Ames. The theme could be “Somebody’s Gonna Win!” Or so one might assume.
For now, Iowa did win a game. For the first time in 329 days. And it statistically bullied the FCS Bears, 489 yards to 197. If not for two Missouri State touchdowns in a 10-second span early in the fourth quarter, it’s a 28-0 shutout and the griping from the outside world is muffled to a degree.
But this was a rout for the taking, and the Hawkeyes didn’t take it. Awful penalties, a surrendered pick-6, getting nothing out of a 1st-and-goal at the MSU 8 on one drive and a 4th-and-1 at the MSU 2 on another … ugh.
An old football saying is teams makes the most improvement between the first and second games of the season?
“Well, I hope it’s not true today,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I think there were some things we did better, but we certainly played cleaner last week.”
The Hawkeyes need to make real growth in Week 3, or they’ll struggle at Iowa State no matter how unimpressive the Cyclones were in their opener.
If I’m the Cyclones, though, I didn’t like how willing Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis was Saturday to let his running backs and blockers go to town. Because as David Johnson (199 yards) and UNI showed at Jack Trice Stadium, you can run on ISU.
Mark Weisman peeled off his sixth career 100-yard rushing performance, with nice round numbers of 30 carries and 180 yards. His teammates collected another 116 yards on the ground. Freshman LeShun Daniels powered for first-downs on his first three collegiate carries, showing why Ferentz lifted his red-shirt without remorse.
“That’s vintage Big Ten football, Iowa football,” Missouri State Coach Terry Allen said.
Even quarterback Jake Rudock had seven carries for 33 yards and two dandy touchdown dashes.
“He’s tough-minded,” said Weisman, an authority on tough-mindedness.
Throw in Damon Bullock and Jordan Canzeri, and I’ll say it: Iowa’s running back curse is dead! Kaput. Vapor.
If Weisman stays healthy, that is. And Bullock, Canzeri and Daniels. Weisman was beaten down in the second half of last season. He has a support staff this season.
“We’re going to need all those guys to work together,” Ferentz said. “That’ll help us.”
You can’t knock Iowa’s defense this week. Granted, Missouri State will be the 12th-best team Iowa faces in the regular-season unless Purdue keeps wheezing. But you hold anyone to 197 yards and one offensive score, you’ve done well.
“I think it’s the start of something,” said Hawkeye defensive end Dominic Alvis. “We’ll learn from this, and I think we’ll be a way better defense by the end of the year.
“Because I’ve seen the potential all throughout camp. We’ve shown some signs here and there. We’ve just got to put everything together and build off the momentum, and we’ll shape up to be a great defense.”
It would have been an easier sell were it not for Missouri State’s 27-yard touchdown pass followed 10 seconds later by its 28-yard interception return for a TD. Instead of a ho-hum 28-0 win with defensive dominance, it was a ho-hum 28-14 with defensive dominance. That score in this game doesn’t sound too wonderful no matter the team stats.
So on to Cy-Hawk Week we go. “Somebody’s Gonna Win!” Who’s getting all tingly?