Was it cleanly played? On defense, yes. Iowa had just three turnovers, and Wisconsin had five. Two of Iowa's three penalties came on a fourth-quarter Wisconsin scoring drive.
But I will say this, and I say this without having visited the message boards after the game; Iowa played their tails off. They gave it all that they had, and probably more than they knew they had.
The defense did as much as you can ask a defense to do, as the offense was just 2 of 16 on third downs in this football game. Iowa's punting game didn't provide it a ton of help, either. Basically, Wisconsin had two impressive drives in this football game, and they scored seven points from them. Iowa forced a fumble on the other one, their first possession of the game.
Iowa's offense struggled quite a bit on Saturday, which wasn't a big shock. Iowa came into this game as a very young and experienced offense, and they left the game younger and less experienced in some ways….but they also might have left the game much wiser for having played a top ten rated team for four quarters.
When Andy Brodell went down to injury in the first quarter, every Iowa receiver that was available to play was a freshman. That is simply an amazing statement, and an amazing reality.
That also meant that a freshman was returning punts.
For those fans that don't want to hear how young and inexperienced the offense is, I've got news for you; please join the rest of us in the real world. That's the reality for this year's Iowa football team. If Brodell and Moeaki can't come back for a while, that's the hand that this team has been dealt.
And yet, the Hawkeyes were in this football game, on the road, against a team rated in the Top Ten, until the final snap of the game. And they were a half step away from perhaps winning this game.
I liked Iowa's offensive game plan for the most part. The first play of the game saw Iowa in a four-wide formation. They used that formation several other times in a game, they also used a bunch formation a few times. In other words, there was imagination in the game plan, and they will need that the rest of the way.
But I think they need to keep things open, as they went back to I-Formation when the zero-back look was moving the football. But it was a big step in the right direction.
Wisconsin smelled blood from the outset, and they blitzed all night. And as is the case with young receivers, the silent audibles that are installed when the blitz's come were not always executed. There will be days like that. And this year, there will be more days like that.
Derrell Johnson-Koulianos almost lived up to the fan-hype that has preceeded him. His one-handed touchdown catch before the half was a thing of beauty, and his kickoff return in the second half was a flash of brilliance. The kid really stepped up.
James Cleveland shook off some drops in this game and made some big plays late. Paul Chaney was introduced to the Iowa offense tonight, and did a decent job, but it was the last offensive play of the game that will stick out.
Iowa made the decision on 4th and long with under two minutes to go to end the football game. They drew up a play that would send Chaney on a deep seam route. Chaney might be the fastest player on the Iowa offense, and he runs track in the spring.
He had the Wisconsin defenders beat, and Jake Christensen threw a strike 50 yards downfield. But as Chaney broke open late on that play, his own feet got tangled up and it caused him to let off the gas for one step. Maybe even a half step. If he doesn't do that, he catches the ball in stride and we are talking about one of the most famous plays in Iowa football history. But on this night, it was not to be. And that's not being critical of Chaney; he is a young player, and was giving his all.
Quarterback Jake Christensen will have better statistical games, but once again, the sophomore showed amazing toughness and fortitude on a night where the defense was pinning their ears back and forcing him to hit his inexperienced targets. Jake didn't execute perfectly, but he once again remained cool under significant pressure, for the most part. His scramble out of his own end zone in the third quarter on 1st and 10 from the Iowa one yard line gave everyone a start, but he turned it into a 15 yard gain and that drive helped keep Iowa in the game with regards to the field position game.
And when Iowa State and Wisconsin have let the dogs out the last two weeks, Christensen has zero turnovers.
Place kicker Daniel Murray also stepped up under pressure. He hit two field goals, coming around a blocked field goal. Again, a freshman.
To repeat myself from earlier, I had not been to the message boards prior to typing this, so I don't know what to expect from my fellow Hawkeye fans.
What I hope to see is the same thing my friends and I that I watched the game with took away from this team; admiration for amazing effort under less than desirable circumstances.
If they can get back up off the mat next week and beat Indiana at home after expending every ounce of emotion and energy they had in their tanks, this season will certainly be interesting and enjoyable in its own right.
Sure, the team is 2-2 and most folks expected 3-1 at this point. The defense is better than I thought it would be, and they too showed imagination in play calling and schemes. The offense is going to be a work in progress all year with so many young faces.
But when you see effort like what we saw on Saturday in Madison, at least I can't help but be proud of such fight.