WHAT WENT RIGHT
Iowa defeated Pittsburgh on Saturday night to improve their unblemished record to 0-3. There's been many positives to draw from and some of it has been of it has been off the field in terms of changing the attitude of the program, developing a better mindset, and becoming a stronger unit. There's no question that's been one of the driving forces as they try to learn from the woes of the last few seasons.
The number one thing on the field that has gone right in the early 2015 campaign is the run defense. The Hawkeyes front seven is leaving their mark and setting the tone this year. They are one of the best in the country at limiting the opposing run game. They entered the game giving up just 1.7 yards per carry. That's a sensational stat. They carried that trend into the contest against Pittsburgh, only allowing 55 yards on the ground throughout the night, which was good for just over 2 yards a carry.
Iowa put up those numbers against the Panthers without their best defensive lineman, Drew Ott.
What has been the catalyst for this success? An improved linebacker core and incredible performances from their defensive tackles, especially Jaleel Johnson. Teams are going to have to begin to game plan against Johnson as he's had a direct impact on each of the three games so far and is becoming a nuisance for opposing teams. The linebacking unit might be the most improved unit on the team. They're taking proper pursuit angles and are more athletic with Ben Niemann and Cole Fisher on the field. Not to be lost in the shuffle is Josey Jewell, who brings the physicality to the group.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Their record is perfect but Iowa hasn't played perfect. Quarterback C.J. Beathard threw an interception early in the game that was an obvious mistake and he was fortunate to have a fumble overturned after review. Had that call not been reversed, the outlook of this game could have been a lot different. In any game, limiting turnovers is key.
However, I think the most concern still lies on special teams. That portion of the game has been a big emphasis this year after the gaffes of last season. Though it has yet to hurt them, the miscues are still occurring.
Dillon Kidd had a rough first game punting the ball, as his net average was pretty poor. He has rebounded nicely ever since.
Against Iowa State, Desmond King had some errors in judgment as a returner. He fielded a kickoff that he did not pick cleanly and the offense began backed up deep inside their own territory after the ball rolled out of bounds.
The most recent slip-up on special teams came against Pittsburgh when they allowed a blocked punt that was picked up and returned for a touchdown. Iowa has played well, but the margin of error is still slim, and it will be even more so when the Big Ten slate begins. These are areas that will have to be cleaned up to enjoy even more success this season.