Grading Iowa after its win over Northern Illinois
There were legitimate concerns for Iowa heading into its season opener with Northern Illinois. The Huskies might be the best team in the Mid-American Conference, with one of America’s best defensive lines, and the Hawkeyes were going without both starting tackles, who were each suspended for a game.
No concern necessary.
The Hawkeyes, thanks to 30 second-half points, won easily 33-7. It could have been a shutout had it not been for a late score. With the win, his 144th, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz became the school’s all-time wins leader.
Here’s what I liked and didn’t like about the opener:
What I liked
1. Ferentz getting so emotional after breaking record: Kirk Ferentz has a ton of respect for Hayden Fry, his old boss. It works both ways. So it was nice to see Ferentz break Fry’s record with the win, with everyone in the Iowa family there to enjoy it. “Most of them haven’t come easy, today included. Coach Fry got the ball rolling and we kept it going. It all comes down to having good people. We’ve had that here, players, coaches, everyone. Our goal over 19-plus years was to try to duplicate what we had here in the 1980s, and we’ve done that. It was nice to have them all year, and it looks like they’ve really enjoyed being here the last two days.”
2. Big second half of offense for the Hawkeyes: With Tristin Wirfs and Alaric Jackson out with suspensions, others had to step up. Dalton Ferguson and Levi Paulsen, both making their first starts, did just fine.
3. Iowa’s defense looked stout all day long: With a collection of new linebackers all across the board, there was concern as to how the group would respond. They did great. Kristian Welch (11 tackles) and Nick Niemann each had great ames. Safety Amani Hooker had an interception and defensive end Parker Hesse had two sacks. To contend in the Big Ten West, this defense will have to be great. So far, so good.
What I didn’t like
1. Slow starts: Only scoring three points by halftime isn’t good, but it’s hard to be too concerned after they reeled off 30 in the second half. This offense will be fine, especially once they are at full strength along the offensive line. Toren Young had 80 yards rushing and the Hawks had 209 on the ground total. They got better as the game went on, but clicking on all cylinders early sure would be better.
2. Dropped passes: Nate Stanley didn’t have very good numbers, but it wasn’t all his fault. He was 11-for-23 passing for 108 yards, but four different receivers dropped passes in the first half. The stagnant offense wasn’t pretty, and the drops had a lot to do with it.
3. Special teams blunders: Bad things happen and they can’t going down the road. Iowa had a punt blocked and it wasn’t an issue here, but it could be later. You can bet there will an increased focus on special teams this week.