Everything was sunshine and lollipops at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday as the Hawkeyes whipped Buffalo, 56-7. For the record, this game wasn't as close as the final score indicated.
So many things went well for Iowa (2-0) against the Bulls (0-2) that it's impossible to remember them all. But, here are some of my thoughts about the only easy game on the Hawkeyes' schedule...
It was nice to see Ed Hinkel get re-introduced to the offense on Iowa's first series. The sophomore didn't have a ball thrown his way last week, but he caught a five-yard TD from Nathan Chandler on the Hawkeyes' first drive. I think Iowa is going to need a good year from Hinkel to make some noise in the Big Ten.
Is Fred Russell actually getting shorter? How in the world can any defensive linemen ever SEE him? Plus, his balance and ability to change direction seem to get better all the time. Russell had 98 yards on 12 carries—all in the first half—and looks as good as ever. Thank goodness he's healthy. (I hope I didn't just jinx him.)
A couple of my neighbor kids were outside playing catch this morning and Sean Considine came from out of nowhere to intercept a pass and return it for a TD. The kids were stunned. Seriously, how many Sean Considines are there? It seems like Iowa must have three on the field at once. Is there any other program in the country that has more walk-ons who turn into outstanding players?
Mo Brown is the man. Big. Strong. Fast. Great hands. I keep hoping that Iowa will find another consistent threat at receiver to go with him, but think about it…if you were the QB, wouldn't you look for Brown on 80% of the passing plays? I hate to say it (because it's no fun to think about), but he might be the one guy Iowa's offense could least afford to lose.
Chandler had a short day, but it was productive. In two games, the Hawkeye quarterback is now 20-of-30 for 243 yards with four TDs and no interceptions. He's also run for a score. Very good numbers from a guy most Iowa fans were pretty nervous about a couple of weeks ago.
It was great to see Marcus Schnoor and A.J. Johnson get plenty of action against Buffalo. If Russell gets dinged up, these guys will have some huge shoes to fill (figuratively), so it's a big plus for them to gain as much confidence as possible. In two games, Schnoor has 16 carries for 89 yards (5.6-yard average) and one TD, while Johnson has 11 rushes for 40 yards (3.6-yard average) and a score.
The "new" offensive line has passed its first two tests with flying colors. Against Buffalo, the Hawkeyes ran 45 times for 292 yards…a 6.5-yard average. Regardless of the opponent, that's tremendous. In two games, Iowa has rushed 85 times for 519 yards, a 6.1-yard average per carry. Obviously, those numbers won't continue at that pace throughout the season, but it's clear that the Hawks wanted to establish a strong running attack and they've been able to do that so far. Plus, Iowa has NOT run behind everyone's All-American left tackle/monster Robert Gallery very much yet, either.
The Hawkeyes are taking good care of the football. In two games, Iowa has only committed one turnover (a fumble). Its opponents have made SEVEN turnovers (five interceptions and two fumbles). This would be an excellent trend for the Hawks to continue.
Drew Tate was fun to watch. He may not be very big, but the freshman quarterback sure looked confident and comfortable in his first big-time college football game. (Of course, Buffalo might have that effect on several quarterbacks this season.) Tate finished the day 4-of-7 for 37 yards and he gained 21 yards on 3 carries. He has quick feet, good mobility and throws a very nice ball.
Wait a minute ... Sean Considine just returned another fumble for a TD.
Champ Davis could be a terrific weapon for Iowa. A fullback who can play tailback or tight end -- not exactly a combination you see every day. But, it gives you an idea what kind of athlete this young man is. He does a good job of picking up the blitz when he's the lone running back, he runs good routes, he has good hands and he is elusive for his size. A few more pounds on this kid and Iowa might have another Nick Bell on its hands.
I don't think the Hawks suffered any major injuries during this game, which is always a concern during a blowout.
David Bradley was named the Big Ten's special teams player of the week last week. He booted a 55-yard punt with his only effort on Saturday. The Hawkeyes will need a strong year from Bradley the rest of the way, as field position will loom large in all the close games that may be in store. Iowa's punter is now averaging 49.7 yards per punt.
It was good to see all of the inexperienced defensive players get plenty of action…and play well. Redshirt freshman Miguel Merrick led Iowa with nine tackles. Tyler Luebke, a junior, had eight stops. There were some also some big hits from guys like redshirt freshmen Edmond Miles, Marcus Paschal and Ma'Quan Dawkins.
Dawkins is likely to become the greatest Hawkeye ever with the first name "Ma'Quan." I don't even have to research this one.
The school-record for TDs in a single season is 19 by Tavian Banks in 1997. Sean Considine is only 17 away.
All of these things are great, but the reality is that we expected the Hawkeyes to be 2-0 at this point. Now, the fun REALLY begins. Just check the on-deck circle and you'll find an opponent that has beaten Iowa five times in a row.
Who could THAT be? As if you didn't know.
The last time that the Hawkeyes defeated Iowa State on the football field, the following statements were true:
Zach Bromert was Iowa's kicker.
The song "Ironic" by Alanis Morissette was nominated for a Grammy.
Hayden Fry was the Hawkeye coach.
Billy Bob Thornton was nominated for Best Actor for his role in "Sling Blade."
Tim Dwight was the greatest "decoy" in the country.
Yes, it's really been that long ago, my friends.
During the last five seasons, there probably wasn't a more painful defeat for Iowa fans than the loss to the Cyclones a year ago. After all, how in the WORLD can you lose a game at HOME when you have a 17-point halftime lead?
Here's a recipe that proved effective: Fumble. Fumble. Safety. Punt. Punt. Fumble. Those were Iowa's first six possessions of the second half of the 36-31 loss to ISU.
Throw in the fact that Fred Russell — who ripped through the ISU defense for over 130 yards in the first half — was out for the rest of the night with a shoulder injury and you start to understand how things snowballed so badly for the Hawks.
How badly? In the first 11 minutes of the second half, the Cyclones went on a 23-0 run. And that was the ballgame, as it turned out.
Clearly, the Hawkeyes will revisit the details of the ISU comeback this week. More times than they would probably like. But, once again, a big key in this game will be which team makes the fewest mistakes. With a couple of strong defensive teams, field position will be critical.
After Iowa State's 48-20 victory over Ohio on Saturday, expect Cyclone fans to be as fired up as ever heading into the in-state showdown in Ames this week.
Both teams are 2-0. Both teams have answered some questions in the first two games. Both teams are getting big contributions from young players. And both teams need to win this game pretty badly. It should be a terrific game with a few key plays telling the story.
Like I said, now is when the fun REALLY begins.
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular Web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)