The Good: The Replacements
Iowa suffered a multitude of injuries on Saturday, starting with Arkum Wadley heading to the locker room with an ankle injury. Anthony Nelson, Matt VandeBerg, and Noah Fant also got dinged up. James Butler suffered a gruesome elbow injury that appeared to be a hyperextension (hi, I’m a doctor). With Iowa’s starting two running backs out and the passing game appearing nothing short of anemic, sorrow and pain seemed imminent.
Enter Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin, the saviors of the day. This was an unexpected development as Toks Akinribade was the presumed next man up. Instead, it was the bruising redshirt freshman Young and speedy true freshman Kelly-Martin who took the field. Young carried the ball 19 times for 78 yards, good for 4.1 YPC. He probably could’ve had more but he was actually out there LOOKING for someone to hit. Young is what you’d call a “one cut back”. He’s looking for that single cut back before running straight up the field. Actually, at times, Young wasn’t even looking for a cutback. He was just looking to hurt a linebacker.
Kelly-Martin served as an excellent change of pace back. He exploded through the line of scrimmage, carrying the ball 11 times for 74 yards and two touchdowns. IKM also showed some toughness by powering through a defender to seal the deal for the Hawkeyes.
It’s strange that Wadley and Butler would be replaced by two running backs who share so many of their same strengths. Iowa is fortunate to have that young talent on the roster and it’s a sign of hope if Wadley needs to take some time off.
The Bad: Base Defense
I’m fairly comfortable saying that the Iowa coaching staff didn’t feel it necessary to open up the playbook on offense or defense against the Mean Green. That decision made the game a lot more difficult, especially on defense as the Hawkeyes were in 4-3 approximately 98% of the time. North Texas did their homework and exploited Iowa’s oldest weakness of the Ferentz era: speed on the edge. With the exception of very few players, Iowa’s outside linebackers have never been equipped to cover slot receivers. Nor are they particularly adept to containing the outside edge on a speed option.
North Texas also exploited this particular team’s greatest weakness: safety play. Here, Bower made a poor move at the line of scrimmage, getting sucked into the center/tackle. Jewell, who had been split out wide to cover the slot receiver, found himself on an island and never had an angle to make a tackle. The player in the best position to make a tackle was Jake Gervase and Jake Gervase whiffed. Miles Taylor took a bad angle because that’s what Miles Taylor does and the rest is history.
You can ask “Well what did North Texas do in the second half?” and I guess I’d ask “Did Iowa’s defense suddenly become competent, or did the Mean Green start piling up penalties to stall their drives?” I’ll hang up and listen.
The Ugly: Discipline, Again
If this sounds familiar, it’s because we were just here last week. I’ll readily admit that this was the worst officiated game I have seen since the 2006 Outback Bowl. Hands down. This was Big Ten Basketball refereeing bad. As Marc Morehouse pointed out, this was the same officiating crew responsible for the atrocious call that gave Central Michigan the opportunity to beat Oklahoma State on a hail mary (they did).
That being said, Iowa was still sloppy. The six penalties for 63 yards were bad enough. Keegan Render staring at the ball because he thought it was batted down is just awful discipline. Always fall on it, just to be sure. Iowa’s tackling was also shitty for a second straight week. Attention defensive players: you cannot simply hit another guy really hard to tackle him (you know who I’m talking about). You must actually try to take him down using your appendages.
Say what you will about the unsportsmanlike penalty by Akrum Wadley: this one has been coming for a while. Is unsportsmanlike conduct a stupid penalty? Yes. Is the NCAA stupid? Yes. Was Akrum Wadley appropriately flagged? Yes. He’s gotten away with stuff like this before.
Now get off my lawn, you fun-having kids.