The Good: Special Teams
In these dark times of Iowa football, special teams play is our sole beacon of light. Desmond King was nothing short of outstanding on Saturday, returning three kickoffs for 85 yards, an average of 28.3 yards per return and a long of 37-yards. He was also excellent on punt returns, totaling 77 yards on four returns, an average of 19.3 yards per return. Credit to special teams coach Chris White for also realizing that Northwestern was putting their focus entirely on Desmond King, which allowed Riley McCarron to sneak in and rip off a 54-yard punt return.
Ron Coluzzi also punted for nearly 300 yards (which isn’t a good thing) but did have a 41-yard average, so that’s neat. Keith Duncan also went 4/4 on PATs and knocked down a 24-yard field goal.
In all, Iowa amassed an impressive 254 yards on special teams and had an average starting position of their 41-yard line. Despite this, they were only able to score 31 points. There were either two or three returns where Desmond King was one play away from taking one to the house. If only.
The Bad: Iowa’s Offense
Where to start? Admittedly, I didn’t see the first quarter and I’m sure as hell not going to go back and watch it but this was one of the worst games I’ve seen from a playcalling standpoint. Specifically: I don’t remember Iowa running the I-formation until they were down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. I mean... what? Why does Greg Davis insist on using the single back formation when this offensive line is suspect? “We’re a zone blocking team,” says Kirk Ferentz. No, Kirk, we’re a “no blocking team.” Put the fullback in and RUN. THE. BALL.
Speaking of running the ball, C.J. Beathard is not the cigarette smoking gunslinging quarterback we used to know and love. He’s changed. He’s either not scrambling because he’s scared of getting injured, which is totally understandable, or he’s not scrambling because an ultra-conservative coaching staff has conditioned him not to, which is not understandable. C.J. Beathard is taking a high number of sacks this season for two reasons. First, he’s forcing himself to stay in the pocket and nothing is opening up. Second, his offensive line and in particular, his left tackle, are traffic cones. This is not sophomore C.J. Beathard. It is not the first half of junior year C.J. Beathard. This is dreaded senior-season-Iowa-quarterback-who-is-statistically-regressing C.J. Beathard.
Finally, my kingdom for a left tackle. Aside from Daniels, we have an entire offensive line made up of guards and it’s showing.
The Ugly: Iowa’s Response to Poor Officiating
Look, I’m with you. I’m not a conspiracy theorist and I’m not going to say that the referees cost us a game because frankly, I’m not an Iowa State fan. But let’s cut to the thick of it: the officiating that we’ve seen in the Big Ten has been atrocious this season. North Dakota State had 19 penalties through two games. They had THIRTEEN (13!) a week prior to playing Iowa. Against Iowa? One. ONE. And I’ll give them the hold on Kittle to bring back that Daniels run. That’s probably a hold. Fine.
But that chop block call against Boettger during the Rutgers game was bullshit. The new rule isn’t clear, hasn’t been consistently enforced, and I don’t even think he broke the rule anyway. And Ferentz made it clear after the game that he wasn’t happy about it.
Fast forward to the Northwestern game, when the refs refuse to throw the flag on blatant pass interference:
This was the same kind of play that Brandon Snyder was flagged for later in the game. And yes, it was PI on Snyder. They were BOTH pass interference.
Or how about when C.J. Beathard was sacked at the end of the third quarter and Odenigbo grabbed his facemask? And then on the very next drive, Jewell is flagged for grabbing Justin Jackson’s facemask? They were BOTH facemask penalties.
It’s one thing for us, as fans, to complain about the officiating. It’s another for a player to lose his cool and hurt his team even more. As Ross pointed out, Jaleel Johnson’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was arguably the turning point of the game. Because Northwestern went from their own 20 to approximately the 50-yard line in about five seconds. I sympathize with Jaleel. I feel like holding has been non-existent this season (unless it’s on Iowa, of course) and he was undoubtedly frustrated. But you can’t mouth off to the referee because he’s terrible at his job. The fans can lose their cool. Internet Man can lose his cool. The coaches and the players cannot.
In all, Iowa finished the day with six penalties for 70 yards. Northwestern finished the day with one…for five yards. Wouldn’t be the first time that referee Jerry McGinn pissed someone off.