IOWA CITY, Ia - It's hard to quibble with a dominating, 45-0 victory, but please allow me to do so.
I'm not going to bash Iowa's thrashing of Ball State here at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. Any rundown of the college football scoreboard each week will provide examples of favorites being knocked off or at the very least thrown a scare.
Adam Robinson eased the nerves of Hawkeye fans fretting about the loss of Jewel Hampton to injury. Ricky Stanzi tossed a career-best three touchdowns for a second week in a row. The defense dominated.
As a Hawkeye fan, you loved those things after last week's setback against Arizona. However, if you watched closely, you saw cracks that need plugging.
It turned out to be an inauspicious start for the home team against a Ball State program that has lost to Liberty, not the concept but the school. Iowa took possession of the ball first on Saturday. The drive ended with a punt after a couple dropped passes and a delay of game on fourth and less than a yard from the visitors' 41.
Iowa cleaned up some special teams woes that plagued it last week in the desert, although they should have covered the punt better after the opening drive. The Hawkeyes exchanged those issues with penalties (9-86 yards) and some iffy tackling.
"It's both kind of encouraging and discouraging at the same time," Iowa guard Julian Vandervelde. Said. "We feel like we probably should be farther along by now. You can see the things that we still need to work on - penalties, missing blocks. There are a lot of yards that we're leaving out there."
On the second drive of the game, Iowa grabbed a 7-0 lead after an Adam Robinson touchdown run on third and goal. The previous two plays looked sloppy, including on first down when Stanzi had to lunge forward to get the ball to Robinson.
Iowa is a developmental program. They usually improve as the season advances. But they're making some mistakes that they should be beyond at this point. And with Big Ten play starting next week with Penn State, they're going to have a tougher time overcoming them.
"We'll correct them (Sunday)," Ferentz said. "We lost contain. We didn't tackle very well. We may have gotten the guy down, but we weren't tackling, had a lot of reaching and things like that.
"Then the drops on offense. And the penalties, we have been doing pretty well with penalties from three games until today. We went the other direction. I think out team still is a team that has a lot of potential to improve an awful lot. It's going to have to improve an awful lot because it's going to get tougher next week for sure."
Iowa traveled to Arizona ranked in the Top 10 nationally. I don't think they've shown in the first four weeks of the season to be worthy of that ranking. Top 25? Yeah. Top 10? Not.
The Hawkeyes had a 52-yard punt return by Colin Sandeman called back because of a block in the back by Don Nordmann. On Saturday Stanzi and Johnson-Koulianos again showed inconsistent timing. There also was a fumbled center-quarterback exchange that didn't appear weather related.
The good news in all of this is the trend of Ferentz teams getting better with age. There's a lot of firepower on this squad but history also indicates that the Hawkeyes must be sharp and not beat themselves to achieve the highest levels of success.
"We have a lot of room to improve," Vandervelde said. "We know that we haven't reached our peak yet. We have a long way yet to go.
"But as long as everybody keeps that positive attitude and continues trying to reach that potential as a team I think we're going to keep growing."
Despite Penn State struggling with a much-improved Temple program on Saturday, the Nittany Lions are a quality Big Ten team with plenty of revenge on their minds coming to Kinnick for the conference opener next Saturday night. Dropped passes, bad timing, penalties and other miscues could sink Iowa against them and in the weeks following with Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State next up.
The Hawkeyes need to take a bigger step forward in the maturation process.
"There was a realization (after the Arizona game) that we're not improving fast enough," Vandervelde said. "So now, for us, the focus is to see just how fast we can improve week to week until we get to that point where we're happy with it."