Howe: Iowa on Offensive

If Iowa is to reach the heights it hopes to this season, it's clear the offense will have to drive the ship.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - If we didn't know what 2011 Iowa football was about before Saturday, the Hawkeyes confirmed our suspicions during a 45-24 homecoming win against Indiana - Really good offense, solid special teams, mediocre defense.

Iowa could find itself in a lot of different positions seven games into the season considering that mix of phases. The Hawkeyes stand at 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten. They're a win from bowl eligibility and still in the race for the Big Ten championship game.

Iowa shouldn't face a lot of resistence next week in Minneapolis. Then comes the November gauntlet of Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and Nebraska, the last two coming on the road.

Visions of Denard Robinsin and the Wolverines shredding this Iowa defense seem realistic. True freshman Tre Roberson and the Hoosiers leave town having put up 414 yards of offense a week after Northwestern posted 490.

"It's fairly obvious, we give up four pretty lengthy drives; they're getting too much yardage one the ground for us to be where we want to be," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Northwestern ran for 153 yards last week. The Hoosiers rumbled for 218. That's been mostly unheard of in the Ferentz Era since coordinator Norm Parker rebuilt the unit a decade ago.

This Hawkeye team looks little like the successful ones we've seen under this coaching staff. The bend-but-don't-break defense bends too much. The offense throws it all over the yard.

Again, the Hawkeyes are 5-2 on their way to 6-2. It doesn't matter how you get there.

There's a lot of truth in the mantra that defense wins championships. So does a high-powered offense.

The Hawkeyes will improve on defense. While it's in that process, the offense can win games.

"The good news is that guys are getting some experience (on defense)," Ferentz said. "They're being called upon, jumping in and doing a good job."

It's been a learning process for everyone, including the Hawkeye coaches. They relied on the old blueprint at Penn State. Give credit to the Nittany Lion defense, but this Iowa offense should have, and would have, scored more than three points had the gameplan been more open.

Iowa has been hit hard by injuries on this defense, something they could ill afford considering the departures they had from last year's unit. However, guys like Christian Kirksey, Tanner Miller and Dominic Alvis have continued to show progress.

Indiana scored touchdowns on its first two drives Saturday. Iowa adjusted.

"The offense is really helping us out," Kirksey said. "We needed to pick it up and we did. We didn't want to be the weak link."

Really, very few teams don't have a weak link.The squads that don't have a soft area usually do big things.

"We really could have done a lot better today," said senior defensive end Broderick Binns, who recorded two tackles for loss. "It does seem like we're making some improvements on little things. We're not a perfect defense, yet. I don't think we'll ever be perfect."

Binns' perspective is a good one wth him having played on some stingy units in the past. The years' defense is much more limited in its ceiling.

All the more reason for the Iowa coaches to lean on the offense. The defense just needs to be good enough to win, kind of like the offense has been at times in the past.

We've seen plenty of Iowa teams where the defense carried the offense.While the coaches have grown comfortable with that set-up, they're smart enough to see how special is this unit.

Quarterback James Vandenberg and wide receiver played catch on Saturday. The Hoosiers defense knew it was coming but was woefully overmatched.McNutt looked like the high school senior playing with the third-graders, grabbing passes and holding it above outreached hands.

Running back Marcus Coker has put the fumble issues behind him and punished would-be tacklers behind a head of steam. The Iowa offensive line has taken steps toward being the dominating unit some folks predecited coming into the season.

Yes, the Hawkeyes haven't faced the '85 Bears the last two weeks. Northwestern and Indiana have proven to be very giving.

Fortunately for the Iowa, there aren't a lot of standout opposing defenses remaining on the schedule, save Michigan State. Purdue and Nebraska are improving on that side of the ball, but they're suspect.

It seemed like it took longer this season than in the past for the identity of the Hawkeye team to surface. As we head to the last week of October, it has cleared up.

Iowa is on the offensive. And that's really for what Hawkeye fans have been clamouring.So, enjoy.

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