Iowa took a disappointing loss to North Dakota State on Saturday in Kinnick Stadium to fall to 2-1 on the regular season in 2016. But as we do every week, we point out the standouts and hand out our game balls to all three phases of the game. It may not be what you exactly what to hear right now but we share who did step up for the Hawkeyes.
To be honest, it was kind of difficult to find someone to give a game ball to on the offensive side of the ball as you might imagine. C.J. Beathard was far from sharp. The offensive line got beat up pretty well, especially in the second half. George Kittle played a nice game but his holding call did call back a long play that could have given the Hawkeyes a 21-7 lead in the second quarter. Jerminic Smith dropped a key ball. Akrum Wadley was limited for much of the afternoon and also had a silly drop. Matt VandeBerg caught two touchdowns but only had four catches in the afternoon and was non-existent for much of the game totaling only 39 yards.
The most impressive game likely came from wideout Riley McCarron. It is a bit ironic because he saw the biggest chunk of playing time taken away from him this week as Iowa worked Jay Scheel into the game more on Saturday afternoon along with VandeBerg and Jerminic Smith. However, he caught a touchdown on a fantastic route that left the cornerback on the ground and in the dust, had a few good blocks, and was probably the most consistent player for Iowa on offense. Simply put, he had no glaring mistakes and there's not a whole lot of players on offense you can say that about.
Without having the luxury of looking at the tape, I think there's two players that come to mind here instantly and that would be Josey Jewell and Greg Mabin. Mabin played a clean game, did not give up any chunks in the passing game, was critical in defending a couple passes on third down, and even made a tackle or two on third down that prevented North Dakota State from moving the chains. It was one of his better games I think but I'd want to confirm that by re-watching the game. Nathan Bazata was fantastic in the first half but the way the defensive line played as a whole in the second half really takes him out of contention.
Josey Jewell is the easy pick and he's the choice. He played a full four quarters at a high level and he was actually pretty special. He will not be receiving any greeting cards from Easton Stick as he pummeled him several times throughout the game. Kudos to Stick who stayed tough and kept grinding away, though. That's a pretty good quarterback. But Jewell was spectacular on a relatively disappointing day for the Hawkeyes. The tape is going to be tough to watch and painful but it should indicate just how irreplaceable Josey Jewell is. Enjoy him because when he leaves Iowa, he will be missed.
For the third week in a row this has to go to Ron Coluzzi at punter. His hangtime is incredible. His leg strength is incredible. Coluzzi has also been very valuable at kickoffs, logging a ton of touchbacks early in the season. He's kind of the unsung standout so far of the season. There's quite a few good players for Iowa and special teams won't get the love, but it just alleviates any and all concerns when it comes to the kicking game because he's been so reliable. As Kirk Ferentz stated afterwards, we really don't know how well Iowa can cover punts because Coluzzi hasn't been giving the opponents much of an opportunity for any kind of returns.
The true freshman game ball goes to quarterback Nate Stanley. He only got in for five snaps but he made them count and moved the ball and the offense did not skip a beat for that limited time without C.J. Beathard in the game. It's a small sample size but it showed that the moment was not too big for him. His first play, he connected on a play-action pass to tight end George Kittle for a 37 yard gain. It was a simple throw, both of his throws were, but he showed some maturity and poise by being steady enough to handle the pressure and importance of the moment. The freshmen really weren't able to make a stamp on this game but Stanley took his limited snaps, made them count, and showed some promise.