If misery loves company, fans of Iowa’s three state-school football teams will get along beautifully this week.
The emotional low-point of the season came to all three fan-bases either Thursday night or Saturday. Let’s cut this in thirds.
Northern Iowa. Would any other FCS team in the nation gone to top-ranked North Dakota State and scared the Bison the way No. 4 UNI did Saturday in the Fargodome?
The Panthers were so, so close to being No. 1 themselves once this week’s polls were released. But the two-time defending champions responded like, well, champions.
UNI led NDSU 23-10 going into the fourth quarter. Had the Bison not converted a 4th-and-6 at the UNI 11 with a touchdown pass to make it 23-17. And they did what they did at Kansas State in the first week of the season, going on a long touchdown drive late in the game to win the game, 24-23.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Panthers standout junior linebacker Jake Farley broke a leg in the fourth quarter. He is the son of head coach Mark Farley, who has coached UNI to seven Gateway/Missouri Valley championships and has a 65-25 mark in league play.
UNI had its first losing season in 10 years last season, but no panic-buttons were pushed. Winning at Iowa State in the season-opener indicated the Panthers were still the Panthers. This heartbreaking 1-point road loss to the kings of FCS confirmed it.
Iowa State. Seldom is a game between two unranked teams talked about nationally days after it’s over, but such was the case after ISU’s 31-30 loss to Texas Thursday night in the game of the Fumble That Wasn’t.
What got lost in the controversy was this: The Cyclones looked so much better than they did in their first two games, losses to UNI and Iowa. Offensively, a Sam Richardson who isn’t hampered by a bad ankle is a much-more dangerous Sam Richardson. And Aaron Wimberly may already be the most-exciting running back Iowa State has had since Ennis Haywood at the turn of the 21st Century.
They weren’t flawless by any means, but Paul Rhoads’ defenders made all sorts of good plays over 60 minutes, open-field tackles and pass break-ups.
But the heartache of the result … whoa. And now ISU embarks on three straight games against ranked teams, at Texas Tech and Baylor, and at home against Oklahoma. Texas Tech is averaging 520 yards per game. Baylor? Would you believe 779.5?
Iowa. In the last five minutes of the first half of their game against Michigan State Saturday, the Hawkeyes turned back into the team that had roughed up its last few opponents. MSU went from a 202-21 advantage in yardage to 210-161, and from ahead 10-0 to trailing 14-10.
That was the first half. The Hawkeyes were blanked after that, while MSU scored four times for a resounding 26-14 win. The Spartans couldn’t manage 300 yards against any previous FBS opponent, and two of them were named Western Michigan and South Florida. They had 412 yards Saturday.
A victory would have put Iowa on the cusp of being relevant nationally, of taking a 5-1 record to Ohio State on Oct. 12. Instead, Michigan State is now once again taken seriously as a Big Ten team and the Hawkeyes still aren’t part of the discussion.
Iowa has progressed from last year in the eyeball test, no question. But at the halfway pole of the season, it’s 4-2 like it was last year. Last year, it beat Northern Illinois and Michigan State and lost to Iowa State and Directional Michigan. This year, a flip-flop of those results.
And just like last year, the back half of Iowa’s schedule is more loaded than the front half.
Oh yeah, it rained a lot in Iowa from Thursday night to Saturday, too.