The Good: The Defensive Line, Josey Jewell, and Geno Stone
Listen, there’s a lot of GOOD to go around after another dominating victory over Nebraska but I wanted to give credit to some truly unsung heroes. First off, it seems like Parker Hesse lives to beat Nebraska. Back in 2015 he intercepted Tommy Armstrong and ran it back for a touchdown. The very first play of this game, Anthony Nelson stripped Tanner Lee and Hesse recovered, returning it for a touchdown. Or not. The officials overturned the play, calling it a forward pass. We all know this is BS, as it was originally called a fumble and there wasn’t indisputable video evidence to overturn it. Ultimately, it didn’t influence the outcome of the game but still, Big Ten refs need to be better.
Hesse finished the day with two total tackles, one TFL, one sack and one pass breakup. Anthony Nelson recorded two total tackles, two pass breakups, and two hurries. Nathan Bazata had three total tackles and one TFL. Matt Nelson recorded a TFL and a pass breakup. AJ Epenesa also recorded a TFL. None of these individual stat lines are outstanding but when combined, you’ll see that Iowa’s line amassed four pass breakups, three TFL, two hurries and a sack. They stagnated the Cornhusker run game and kept Tanner Lee under pressure for most of the game, which led to…
Josey Jewell doing Josey Jewell things. The non-Butkus Award Finalist tied for total tackles at 8, led the team in pass breakups with 3, recorded a tackle for loss and an interception. The interception was particularly impressive, considering it came in the middle of a scrum:
Jewell wasn’t Iowa’s leading tackler because he tied Geno Stone with eight. Stone was thrust into action when Miles Taylor went down with an injury and immediately stepped his game up. Tanner Lee tested Stone across the middle and while he didn’t deflect or intercept any passes, he never missed a tackle either. In addition, he didn’t make any glaring mistakes in coverage. With Taylor graduating, the emergence of Amani Hooker and the injury to Brandon Snyder, Stone and Hooker might be the future at safety. No complaints there.
The Bad: Punting
Oh look, another bad day from the punt team. Yes, I know it’s nitpicking when you have such a dominating win over Nebraska. OK, that’s fine. Also, consider that: just because Iowa’s offense actually worked doesn’t mean there cannot be some complaints lodged against something as crucial as the punter. Because as we all know, Iowa’s offense frequently doesn’t work this well and if it isn’t clicking, they need to play the field position game.
Colten Rastetter punted the ball twice for 54 yards. His long was 34. That’s a 27-yard average. The other punt went 20 yards. Was there wind? Yes. Was that rugby punt so bad that it hit a Hawkeye special teams player in the back of the head and only went 20 yards? Also yes. I’m not sure what’s going on with Ryan Gersdone but there’s no logical reason why he hasn’t seen the field. Someone said he was hurt. Well:
I've not heard that.— Marc Morehouse (@marcmorehouse) November 24, 2017
If Marc Morehouse says he hasn’t heard anything about Gersonde being hurt then Gersonde isn’t hurt. Iowa already burned his redshirt. What is going on? Punting is supposedly winning but right now this punting unit isn’t getting it done.
As is typical in the Ferentz era, linebackers coach LeVar Woods also serves as special teams coordinator. Darrell Wilson did the same from 2002-2011. I’m not just singling out Rastetter here because Iowa’s special teams have been very spotty in general. Maybe we should start looking for answers from Woods.
The Ugly: The End of Mike Riley
I’m all for LOL Nebraska but let’s take a second to talk about Mike Riley, who was dismissed on Sunday. We all made dismissive jokes about Mike Riley being a “nice guy” but in reality, he actually was. On social media you haven’t seen one person say anything bad about his character and he even sat down to meet with the press following his dismissal and said: “I’m just sorry we didn’t do better.” Whenever I think of Riley, I think of this Tweet:
How does Mike Riley wrap up a satellite camp? By helping the local high school staff pick up trash, of course. pic.twitter.com/E8idtdnFCS— Robin Washut (@RobinWashut) June 5, 2016
Unfortunately, being a nice guy and running a clean program doesn’t cut it if you can't win football games. Mike Riley is a decent man in an indecent time of college athletics. Maybe he’ll hang up the headset. Maybe he’ll take some time off and return to the coaching ranks. Hell, maybe he’ll go back to Corvallis where he found so much success over the years. Whatever happens, Godspeed, Coach Riley.