This was a hard fought game, to be sure. It was ugly at times, but it was also very entertaining, if you are a defensive purist. I tend to enjoy more offense, but under Kirk Ferentz, I have begun to appreciate the nuances of the KISS formula: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
It was simple defense, simple offense and a not so simple win.
Here are some things that I saw on tape.
JERMELLE LEWIS: Right off the bat, you could see what four years in this offense can do for a running back. Lewis was more patient than Albert Young was on Iowa's bread and butter zone plays. Not that there was much room to run, as Iowa State was just bringing the house.
There were a few times where I would have liked to have seen Lewis hit the hold hard, because there were a few holes here and there. But for much of the day, he probably didn't see much green at the LOS…just a lot of red.
But when it counted, Lewis helped the Hawks. The obvious was on his 34 yard run near the end of the game that forced Iowa State to use its final timeout. It came on 2nd and 12 and Iowa had the ball on their own 42 yard line.
The call was up the middle, but it was piled up, and Lewis bounced out left and got outside of the end/OLB for one of the few times that happened all day. Dan McCarney has probably already gotten sick in watching that play, as ISU did such a phenomenal job of closing down the backside on Iowa's running plays all day, stopping any cutbacks that Iowa tried to run. This time, ISU got too greedy and crashed down into the middle and formed a mass of humanity. Lewis bounced out, and he turned on the jets for the big gain.
Just as impressive was that it was Lewis' 30th carry of the game, and he showed a great burst of speed.
In fact, Lewis gained 58 yards on his final seven carries. He ended the day with 102 yards on 30 carries. That is what you call finishing strong, and it makes me feel very good about Iowa's chances if they can sort out the play of the offensive line.
One final note that has not received a lot of attention was how good Lewis looked catching passes out of the backfield. He had two catches for 44 yards and it's nice to see Iowa's backs involved in the passing game again. In hindsight, and after watching the tape, throwing to the backs might have been a great way to slow down Iowa State's blitzes, because Jermelle had gains of 24 and 20 on his receptions.
For the year, Iowa's backs have caught 10 passes for 99 yards. Last year through two games, they had five receptions for 47 yards. For the 2003 season, Iowa's backs caught 31 passes for 206 yards, or an average of 6.6 yards per catch.
If Iowa plays in a bowl game this year, Iowa's backs are on pace to catch 60 passes, more than doubling last year's total. Iowa's backs caught 40 passes in 2001, with Jeremy Allen grabbing 20 for 264 and Ladell Betts catching 15 for 137.
Champ Davis took a few reps at FB v ISU, and if that move is permanent, that will only add to this dimension.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Let's just say that it was not the best game of Pete McMahon's career. I don't want to get too down on the OL, as it was just their second game together and as we have talked about, they did not get to work together for all of fall camp due to nagging injuries here and there.
But one bright spot came out of a rain cloud. When LG Todd Plagman went down early in the 4th quarter, Ben Gates came in to replace him.
Maybe it was because he had fresh legs, but Gates really looked solid out there on several plays. I don't think I saw any where he got beat, and on more than a few occasions, he took his man out of the play.
On Iowa's third to last possession of the game, which came after Iowa State's third missed field goal, they started at their own 20. They had not been doing a great job of moving the football at that point, and Iowa State had the momentum.
The Hawks had already picked up a first down through the air, something I will touch on in a bit, and on two consecutive plays after that 3rd and six conversion, Gates totally blew his man up. The 3rd down conversion and the subsequent first down on the back-to-back run plays helped Iowa take 2:48 off of the clock, when the clock was their ally.
On the first play of Iowa's second to last drive, Lewis had an 11-yard run, thanks in large part to Gates getting out and cut blocking a linebacker.
DREW TATE/WIDE RECEIVERS: This kid is getting his fair share of accolades as of late, and I think they are all deserved.
Chuck Hartlieb hit on this today, and it's hard for me to add anything on top of Chuck's opinion on the QB, but what the heck? It's 1:00am and I feel like writing.
We all saw the pretty sideline fade routes to Clinton Solomon and Warren Holloway. Great throws as well as great catches.
But what impresses me most about Tate is how he feels heat in the pocket, and how he stands up under that heat when he knows its coming. He has already shown an uncanny ability for feeling his blind side, plus he just seems to know exactly where to step up into a collapsing pocket to buy him another second or so to get rid of the football.
Tate was also a cool customer for most of the game, when a man with a lesser heart could have had a disastrous affair. He threw into the face of several blitzes and, as Hartlieb pointed out today, went down his progressions and found the release valves.
The aforementioned 3rd and 6 play on the third to last drive of the game was huge. Iowa's line did a nice job of opening a passing lane for Tate, and he hit ‘Silk' Solomon for a 12-yard slant.
Solomon is quite the angular one…though not quite Harold Carmichael just yet. He just looks the part out there and is catching passes with his hands, not his body. I really think that Iowa has a playmaker on their hands as the season goes along.
ESPN's Prime Time crew used to say that all Chris Carter did was catch touchdowns.
I am convinced that all Ed Hinkel does is make first down catches or diving touchdown grabs. It seems like when Hinkel makes a catch, it means something. He is a heady player and his dive on Tate's 29-yard TD toss was fantastic.
When I watched the game live, and Tate set up to make that throw, I was sitting next to our friend 0044 at Pal Joey's in Des Moines and I said ‘touchdown' just as he released the ball. Though the camera had not yet moved away from Tate to Hinkel, Tate's body language just had that look that he had a receiver wide open.
He put just enough air under it, but Hinkel still had to make a phenomenal play on that ball. A good play all around.
After further review, not that I needed any, I counted at least five holding penalties that were blatantly obvious. Roth and Luebke were tackled on a few plays, Babineaux's jersey actually came untucked from an ISU OL hanging onto it after Jonathon got by him.
There was one play that was especially humorous, now that Iowa won the game.
It came with 11:40 to go in the second quarter. Roth was first being held, then after he got away from that, he was tackled from behind by the lineman. You could actually hear the crowd say in unison, ‘holding!' Of course, there was no flag, and the crowd booed.
THIS AND THAT
I need to preface this next remark by saying that once upon a time, I might have been a bit chauvinistic. Back when I was in college training to be a sports broadcaster, having to watch and listen to women try and break down a football game drove me through the roof.
However, I am a good decade removed from college and I no longer have such insecurities. (My wife told me to write that).
I think there are some fine female sportscasters and sports reporters; fine as in qualified, not fine as in Joe Namath's fine.
However, the recent trend for networks to just throw some ‘eye candy' down on the sidelines is starting to irritate me. I want some insight. I want football.
I don't want to hear Kirk FAIR-ENTS called Kirk FUR-ENZ, which is what latest ESPN sideline reporter Jeanie Edwards called Kirk during their interview at halftime on Saturday.
Another hard hitting interjection was when she informed us that Jovon Johnson was at one time a verbal commit to Kent State. Umm…Iowa played them last week. Don't you think that might have been touched upon?
And then to top it off, her first post game question to Kirk was as follows:
"Kirk, at halftime, there was one little thing you said that you needed to work on; your offense." Notice that I placed no emphasis on the word little, because Edwards didn't, either.
To her credit, she got Kirk's last name right in the second half.
I must add that there are crappy male sideline reporters as well. The dude from TBS that did the Iowa-ISU game last year heads the list, right next to Adrian Karsten. Is Adrian still around, by the way? The last I heard or saw of him was Iowa v Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl, 2001.
THIS AND THAT, PART II
Iowa State senior punter and place kicker Tony Yelk was on the sidelines wearing a baseball cap on Saturday, out with a pulled muscle.
I wonder what muscle was bothering him, because on Iowa State's kick off return after Iowa's opening drive touchdown, Yelk was jumping up and down as ISU return man Tyease Thompson was knocked out of bounds by Iowa's Walner Belleus (pronounced, BELL-US, by the way). Then Yelk proceeded to run down to congratulate Thompson, but not before throwing a cheap shoulder into Belleus.
If I was an Iowa State fan, and though I was born in Perry, Iowa and lived in Guthrie Center until I was in 2nd grade, when my folks got me out of Clone country at an early age, I would be hacked off at seeing that.
It's not a guarantee that Yelk would have fared any better than RS Frosh walk on place kicker Brian Jansen, as Yelk missed some field goals against Alabama in a bowl game a few years back, but at least don't jump up and down on the sidelines.
Charles Godfrey helped to make a touchdown saving tackle on one of ISU's long kick off returns…is it me, or does Chad Greenway look shot out of a cannon when he makes tackles…Abdul Hodge's helmet to helmet tackle on ISU QB Austin Flynn late in the game was a very big play, as it knocked Flynn out of the game…that is two QB's knocked out of games and counting this year…if Derreck Robinson had not batted down a Bret Meyer pass in the first half, Marcus Paschal might have had a pick six for 85 yards…Jermelle Lewis picked up a blitzer on Calvin Davis' 18-yard out-route catch in the first half…I want to see more passes to Scott Chandler out of the ‘H', as I think Iowa has a new weapon and wrinkle in their offense this year…was it just me, or did ISU's QB's & RB's look a bit confused in the first half on what plays were called and where the handoffs should have been made…Matt Roth didn't have any sacks, but he was pushing one and sometimes two ISU blockers into the pocket, disrupting their passing game…Edmond Miles made a nice open field tackle on an option play, getting rid of the would be blocker Todd Blythe and making the stop…Antwan Allen was improved over last week…Iowa ran the waggle just once or twice, a new record low. ISU was bringing too many edge blitzes for that play to work, and when Iowa ran it, they got sacked. Look for more of that this week from ASU…