You start out with the Hawkeyes making stupid penalties on both sides of the ball, the offense getting sacked and not finding a running game, the defense missing tackles and blowing coverage and special teams missing two field goals and kicking off out of bounds again.
What does that add up to?
THE GREATEST COMEBACK IN THE HISTORY OF IOWA FOOTBALL, 31-27, OVER PITTSBURGH!
Since I didn’t make it to the first game, this felt like the home opener for me.
I woke up on Saturday at 5 a.m., loaded the coolers, fed the cats, took a hot tub, read the paper, ate breakfast, loaded the van and took a shower. I was ready to go at 7 a.m., but decided to watch “The Rifleman” with my homeboys Lucas McCain and Mark.
I got to the ramp 8 a.m., was set up and ready to go at 8:30 a.m.
I stopped at a couple of tailgates, one with former Hawkeye center Jim Hilgenberg, which was fun; and another with Ann, Amanda and Tony.
I went into the game at 10:45 a.m. and was all set to go when they put on “Back In Black” and the players took the field.
Too bad the Hawkeyes weren’t.
By the time the third quarter was over, so was I. My dogs were barking (my legs hurt) so I went back to the van, got small, turned on the radio and watched the fourth quarter on the jumbo screen from the top of the ramp.
It was almost as good as being on the field, because the crowd kept getting louder each time the Hawkeyes came back to score.
Iowa was down 24-3 in the third quarter, then 27-10 in the fourth but would never say die.
Kirk Ferentz said it best.
“The most important thing is the guys hung in there and kept fighting,” said the coach. “If you do that, you give yourself a chance. That’s why the games go 60 minutes. It was all three phases. James did a great job, we had receivers step up, kickoff coverage gave us a spark, it was good team football and a good team win.”
Amen to that, brother Kirk.
Lets start out with the offense.
How about James Vandenberg?
He started slow, but when the chips were down and the Hawks had to go to their two-minute offense with most of the fourth quarter to go, James was on fire. At one point he completed nine passes in a row, and finished 31-48 for 399 yards and three touchdowns.
All three touchdown passes were right on the money. The first went to Keenan Davis on a 14-yard slant across the middle. The last two were perfectly-thrown touch passes to Kevonte Martin-Manley, one for 25 yards the other for 22.
Iowa’s one-two punch of Keenan and Marvin McNutt saw Keenan with 10 catches for 129 yards while Marvin had eight for 112... not bad.
“We just kind of got in a flow,” said James who has seven touchdown passes and only one pick so far. “We just kept completing passes to those guys. They caught everything today. We really kept the defense off guard because they don’t get that pass rush and we were able to gain momentum. The guys did a great job up front. I feel like I didn’t get touched once we went into that mode.”
That mode was the two-minute offense and it worked to perfection.
James was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the week for his performance against Pittsburgh. He not only passed for three touchdowns, he scored Iowa’s first touchdown in their amazing comeback.
Marcus Coker pounded out 86 yards on 23 carries which comes out to 3.7 yards per pop.
True freshman Damon Bullock got a couple snaps at running back and carried one time for 4 yards. It looked like he scored on the replay, but James took it in on the next play.
The Panthers came out with a 3-4 defense, something the Hawks don’t usually face, and it took a while to get the blocking down. Pittsburgh blitzed on almost every down.
Iowa’s tight ends, Brad Herman and Zach Derby, each caught only two passes, but they were open down the middle all day.
The defense made a couple of changes in the starting lineup.
They moved Dominique Alvis, who played tackled the first two games, to end, and started senior Thomas Nardo for the first time.
Also Micah Hyde moved back to corner, Jordan Bernstine to strong safety and Tanner Miller to free safety.
The results were Iowa had three sacks by Dominique, Broderick Binns and Mike Daniels while Micah picked off two big passes and had 10 tackles.
Jordan continues to impress with his speed and open-field tackling. He had eight tackles, including two for a loss, and a 69-yard kickoff return which was called back.
Iowa’s linebackers were all over the field with James Morris leading the way with 13 stops. Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens followed with eight and seven respectively.
Last week Mike Meyers kicked a field goal which hit the upright and scored. This week he hit the upright and missed. He also missed a 50-yard attempt finishing 1-3.
For the second week in a row, he had a kickoff go out of bounds… that just can’t happen.
Eric Guthrie had six punts for a 45.5 average which is great. For the season, Eric’s average is 44.4... not bad.
Kickoff coverage for the Hawkeyes was much better as they gave up an average of 19.8 yards.
A 2-1 record is a whole lot better start than 1-2. The Hawkeyes grew up a little last Saturday. They are still young and still need a lot of improvement to have a good season.
The penalties need to be cleaned up, especially the late hits, the running game will get better, as well as the tackling. The secondary shouldn’t have as many breakdowns once they play together for a while, and Mike Meyers is still a good field goal kicker.
This week’s game is big, because Iowa has a bye the week after, then opens the Big Ten season at Penn State.
They host Louisiana Monroe on Saturday and like Coach Ferentz said, at this point they can’t over look anybody.