I think we'd all agree that Iowa's offense wouldn't be described as explosive most days of the week. Well, Friday afternoon and into the evening, that's exactly what they were. It started with Akrum Wadley's TD run of 70+ yards and continued on Iowa's very next play from scrimmage when C.J. Beathard found Riley McCarron for another 70+ yard TD.
It continued in the middle of the second quarter when LeShun Daniels broke off a 56 yard run to get Iowa inside the Husker 10. The Hawkeyes wound up punching it in two plays later.
We're so used to seeing Iowa grind out 8-10 play drives that span six minutes to punch it into the end zone. So, seeing plays go for 70 or more yards was a fun surprise. Everybody likes excitement.
Obviously, we aren't going to see this every time out for the Hawkeyes and likely won't see it in the bowl game, but that was a big reason why Iowa thumped Nebraska. Along with their relentless defense.
Defense Playing at Unreal Level
Ever since allowing 41 to Penn State in Happy Valley on November 5th, the Hawkeyes have rattled off three straight victories. And they're doing it with a defense that is playing at an elite level. Over the last 3 games the Hawkeyes are allowing 9 points per game to teams like Michigan, Illinois, and Nebraska. Two of those teams were ranked, one inside the top 5.
They aren't letting opposing teams running games get going and their secondary has picked up the slack as well. They did get burnt a few times last night, but the Huskers were unable to take advantage.
What is interesting is they are doing it with some backups. Miles Taylor had to leave that game against Michigan back on November 12th and Anthony Gair has stepped in and played extremely well. That same game true freshman Manny Rugamba made his first start and played the best game of his young Hawkeye career. Mix in the young guys finding their groove and some of the elite upperclassmen and Iowa's defense is playing their best football of the year.
Josh Jackson even filled in nicely when Rugamba left the game last night against Nebraska. It truly is a next-man-in attitude.
Iowa has two special runners back there in Daniels and Wadley. Derek alluded to this in his takeaways, but it simply can't be ignored in mine. Daniels is the first 1,000 yard rusher at Iowa since 2011 when Marcus Coker nearly eclipsed the 1,400 yard mark. What's more impressive about Daniels' 1,000 yards is that he's been splitting carries with the talented Wadley. And Wadley too nearly went over 1,000 yards in Iowa's regular season. Although he should get there in the bowl game. Coker received 281 carries in 2011 when he went over 1,000 yards. Daniels has only carried it 198 times this season with Wadley's 146.
LeShun will leave, but the Hawkeyes will bring back Wadley, who could be one of the best backs in the Big Ten next season. He's averaging 6.6 yards per carry and has rushed for 10 touchdowns. Wadley could make a lot of noise getting the bulk of the carries.
And of course we can't forget about Iowa's offensive line. They've been great paving the way for these two guys. And Wadley will get the same guys back to run behind next season.
C.J. on Senior Day
Beathard has took some heat this season. Iowa's pass game had been virtually non-existent over the course of the last two games as the Hawkeyes threw for less than 100 yards in both. But Beathard turned things around on his senior day yesterday. He was 10-15 for 144 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to fellow senior, TE George Kittle.
Was it overly impressive? No, not really. But it's exactly what Iowa needs from Beathard to win games. He was efficient, he didn't turn the ball over, and he found guys for scores. What more do you really need when your defense has been as good as it's been and you have two excellent runners?
If you would've looked at me after the Penn State loss and told me Iowa was going to win their final three games, I probably wouldn't have responded to such a remark. The Hawkeyes looked bad on offense, bad on defense, and just uninterested. Well, they rallied together and rattled off three straight victories.
They did what tough-minded teams do. They blocked everything else out and focused on themselves. It's exactly how I expected them to play the entire season. It was awesome to watch and now the Hawkeyes will have a chance to finish this season 9-4 with a bowl game victory. Sounding like it could be either the Holiday or Music City Bowl.