IOWA 13, IOWA STATE 3: BLESS THIS MESS

By Adam Jacobi on September 8, 2018 at 9:25 pm
David Montgomery tackled by Iowa

© Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

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It's not one for the banners. It doesn't have to be. All it has to do is count.

Iowa's defensive line dominated for the second straight week, holding a previously potent Iowa State offense to just a field goal en route to a 13-3 victory at Kinnick Stadium. This marks four straight wins for the Hawkeyes in the rivalry, a new high in the Kirk Ferentz era. Toren Young rushed for 68 difficult yards on 21 carries, and Mekhi Sargent added 25 yards and the clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter.

16 total points and one touchdown that came late in the game sounds like it's not great football, and true to form, both teams' execution on offense and special teams was rough at times. There are plenty of levels below Power 5 football where you should expect to see catches made, blocking assignments met, and punts and field goals going in the intended direction. We can acknowledge that.

Let's also keep in mind, though, that both teams came into the game determined to beat the hell out of each other, and that's exactly what ensued. The teams combined to rush for a hair over 2 yards per carry, and nearly every stop on the ground was courtesy of a slew of tacklers. 

But just because both teams want to do something doesn't mean they each do it as well, and Iowa's defense absolutely erased the Cyclone rushing game. David Montgomery, whom Fox Sports hyped in pregame features as a "darkhorse Heisman candidate"—their words, hand to God—was eaten alive* by the Hawkeyes' front seven, who held him to just 44 yards on 17 carries and 59 total yards of offense. Yes, the same Montgomery who ran over Josey Jewell and his gang of outlaws for 112 yards rushing and 53 yards receiving last year. That guy.

*Metaphorically. Cannibalism is a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.

In fact, here's a look at Iowa State's offensive line trying to handle the Hawkeye attack:

That was not an unusual sight.

Indeed, Saturday made it two out of two games where the Iowa defensive line was the most impactful unit in the game for either team. But this wasn't the same type of performance as last week's obliteration. Here, the Cyclones took their opening drive 66 yards, bit-by-bit, cruising inside the 10-yard line before Iowa's defense finally stiffened up and forced a field goal, a stop that helped change the complexion of the game and let the front four open up shop from there on out. The drives that ensued:

  • 3 plays, -8 yards, punt
  • 4 plays, 14 yards, punt
  • 3 plays, 7 yards, punt
  • 6 plays, 11 yards, punt
  • 3 plays, 6 yards, punt
  • 9 plays, 32 yards, downs
  • 7 plays, 15 yards, punt
  • 3 plays, 0 yards, punt
  • 3 plays, 20 yards, fumble

Does that sound familiar? A big stop inside the 10 that feels enough like a victory that the defensive front turns into chainsaw-wielding murderbirds for the rest of the game? Something like this?

  • 3 plays, -6 yards, safety
  • 3 plays, -3 yards, punt
  • 3 plays, -5 yards, punt
  • 1 play, -2 yards, end of half
  • 9 plays, 36 yards, interception
  • 7 plays, 40 yards, missed FG
  • 9 plays, 29 yards, punt*
  • 6 plays, 28 yards, interception
  • 1 play, 18 yards, fumble
  • 3 plays, 0 yards, interception
  • 1 play, 10 yards, end of game

If that looks familiar, yes, it's Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard ruining 100,000 wills to live in Beaver Stadium in 2009 as Iowa rallied from down 10-0 to devour the Nittany Lions. That was one of the most iconic performances by a front seven in the Kirk Ferentz era, all things considered; this win against Iowa State should be right up there with it. 

*If you listen closely, you can hear the air sucked out of the stadium right as Clayborn closes in on the punter.

Of course, Iowa experienced its own share of frustrations. Nate Stanley struggled again, going 16-for-28 for 166 yards and no touchdowns, and several of his throws were well off the mark. Whether his receivers were in the right place remains to be seen—remember that Iowa's awful 2007 passing game wasn't all Jake Christensen's fault—but a pass is either on the money or it's not, and Stanley missed too many of those opportunities, whether with incompletions or on catches that didn't allow the receiver to advance the ball. 

Still, a 57% completion rate and no turnovers is not a catastrophe, and Stanley did throw two game-changing passes: a 45-yard bomb to Ihmir Smith-Marsette that put Iowa in position to take the lead, and this beauty of a fade to Brandon Smith that'll be showing up on Stanley's highlight reel for the rest of the season:

Those are the plays that separate winners from losers in close games. Iowa State used to be the team that could more reliably make them in this rivalry. Sure, and I used to have hair.

With that, for the 1456th-straight day, this remains a Hawkeye State. Celebrate as you see fit, whether it's playtime with your family, partying with a group of friends or getting absolutely sideways in your new luxury bathtub with what appears to be a pilsner glass of $10 champanyah:

Hey, whatever it takes.

GO IOWA AWESOME.

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