Rob's Report Card: Buffalo

HTO senior beat writer Rob Howe covered the Hawkeyes for six years for the Iowa City Press-Citizen. After each game, he will provide a position-by-position breakdown of the team's performance compiled from his view from the press box. In this installment, he provides some expected high grades for the 56-7 drubbing of Buffalo.

QUARTERBACK: Nathan Chandler has won me over. I know the senior has not played against anything resembling the '85 Bears' defense, but he has been solid if unspectacular. Coach Ferentz likes to compare Chandler to Kyle McCann, but Nathan does a much better job of throwing the ball away before getting sacked. He threw a dart on the touchdown pass to Mo Brown and showed good awareness on his TD run. Iowa's offense also increased its fluidness and tempo over Week 1. He completed 8 of 11 passes against Buffalo and had one dropped. In two games, the tall right-hander is connecting on passes at a 66.7 percent rate with four touchdowns and no interceptions. That's a 178.43 efficiency rating kids. Brad Banks finished last season at 157.1. True frosh Drew Tate received the loudest applause of the day and performed admireably by completing 4 of 7 passes for 37 yards. He clearly has major college arm strength. He had trouble reading some of the defenses and a Buffalo lineman batted down a pass to a wide open receiver. His height will require him to have passing lanes. Jason Manson displayed his escapability during his short time on the field. His only pass was incomplete - (A)

RUNNING BACK/FULLBACK: Fred Russell enjoyed another outstanding day. When healthy, his ability to juke and stop on a dime is Barry Sanders-like. He ran inside and outside equally well against the Bulls and averaged a whopping 8.2 YPG. He would have enjoyed a 300-yard rushing day if he played past the second quarter. Marcus Schnoor continued to prove his worth as a solid backup and accelerates through holes deceivingly fast. True frosh A.J. Johnson got his first real taste of college football. He showed a nice combination of power and speed and reached the end zone. Edgar Cervantes returned to his starting FB spot and blocked well in limited duty. Backup Champ Davis displayed excellent hands and proved to be mismatch for linebackers. Aaron Mickens looked strong for a second consecutive week with 26 yards on two carries - (A)

WIDE RECEIVERS: With all due respect to Kevin Kasper, Tim Dwight and Kahlil Hill, Mo Brown is the best Iowa WR that I've seen since arriving in '97. Wait. I used that line last week. Well, I'm using it again. Brown is nothing short of spectacular. His circus catch while being double covered on a deep ball was amazing. It's also a joy to isolate on him and admire his crisp routes. Big play Ed Hinkel caught his first pass, and of course it was a TD. Matt Melloy got his feet wet with two receptions, and Calvin Davis got the butterflies out before heading to Iowa State - (A).

TIGHT ENDS: The group blocked well and Tony Jackson caught his first pass of the season. Mike Follett dropped a perfect ball inside the Buffalo 10. These guys will need to pick it up the next two weeks - (B-).

OFFENSIVE LINE: The unit looked much better than it did in Week 1. Miami sat over top of the Hawkeye left side with Robert Gallery and David Walker, and forced Iowa to go right. Some problems occured for the Hawkeyes. Buffalo attempted the same thing. The Iowa right side really showed growth. Eric Rothwell, Pete McMahon and Sam Aiello protected the quarterback and opened holes for the running backs. Russell used them on his big run to the Buffalo one. The whole line looked much more fluid and the pace of the offense increased over the opener. Backups like Kory Borchers, Lee Gray and Chris Felder also performed well as Iowa rolled up 292 rushing yards on 45 attempts (6.5 ypc) - (B+).

DEFENSIVE LINE: The first-teamers headed to the sidelines midway through the second quarter. Iowa coaches had seen enough of them terrorizing the Buffalo offense. They managed just one sack, but that was deceiving because Iowa had the ball on long drives during their time. The Bulls ran 26 plays in the first half for a total of 74 yards. They rushed 21 times for 52 yards before the break. Jonathan Babineaux recorded his first sack of the season. Reserve Matt Neubauer showed he wasn't a one-week wonder with six tackles. Reserve end Tyler Luebke posted eight tackles with a cast on his right wrist - (A).

LINEBACKERS: MLB Abdul Hodge picked up a sack before heading to the sideline in the second quarter with the rest of Iowa's starting linebackers. It was his first of the season and second of his career. Chad Greenway also delivered a few nasty hits before hitting the sideline. Reserve Ed Miles enjoyed his best day as a Hawkeye with seven tackles. He is a physical player. It also was nice to see George Lewis receive extended playing time after missing most of last season following ACL surgery. He made five tackles. (A).

DEFENSIVE BACKS: No where to run to, Buffalo, no where to pass. Junior FS Sean Considine showed fans his big play ability with an 18-yard fumble recovery for a TD and a 20-yard interception return. Antwan Allen provided an impressive pass breakup. The visitors completed 7 of 19 passes for 58 yards. Not good. Backups Miguel Merrick, Richie Williams, Marcus Paschal and Ma'Quan Dawkins combined for 28 tackles and showed that the Hawkeyes' future is in good hands. Chris Smith filled in well for the injured Bob Sanders. We should see how much the Hawkeyes miss their big-hitting captain during the next two weeks against Iowa State and Arizona State - (A).

SPECIAL TEAMS: This phase might be Iowa's most reliable. Ramon Ochoa returned a punt for a TD, David Bradley's only punt traveled 55 yards and Nate Kaeding reached the end zone on every kickoff. The Hawkeyes' backup kicker (Kyle Schlicher) and punter (John Gallery) also looked impressive. Buffalo received no gifts in the return game but took some big hits. Iowa returned five punts 105 yards and a kick 26 yards. Hawkeyes win by first-round knockout - (A+).

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