Iowa football: Reassessing the Hawkeyes after a 3-0 start
Many questioned whether Iowa, riding a 6-game winning streak into 2021, would be able to maintain the momentum, especially facing ranked teams in the first 2 games.
Asked and answered. The Hawkeyes are 3-0 and that streak has now reached 9 with their 300th career win at Kinnick Stadium, a methodical 30-7 dismantling of Kent State.
Iowa’s averaging more than 30 points per game, with the defense contributing its share to the total. Of course, the Hawkeyes have now played 25 consecutive games without surrendering 25 points. While that’s a rare feat and leads the nation, Iowa also has scored 25 points or more in 9 straight games — for the first time in school history.
So what will all of this numerology add up to? Let’s look back before focusing forward.
What have we learned?
The Hawkeyes’ defense is even better than we thought. If the opponents aren’t outscoring the defense and the offense keeps doing enough to turn turnovers into points, there’s no reason the Hawkeyes shouldn’t stay perched near the top of the rankings. People keep wanting more from Iowa’s offense — and if they get it, look out — but that defense will decide how high these Hawkeyes fly.
Riley Moss raised his profile with 2 pick sixes in the first game and a huge fumble recovery in the third. Tyler Goodson has gotten loose for 3 long scores despite all efforts to contain him. A flashy day against the Golden Flashes is exactly what you want to see.
“Kent State had a good defense, but the guys up front did a good job with their assignments and the running backs had a split second to get upfield,” Goodson said. “From there it was the running back’s job to take it to the house.”
He did Saturday, with touchdown runs of 46, 35 and 2 yards contributing to a career-high 153 yards.
“I thought there were some good efforts,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Good to see Goodson get going here a little bit and get him on track.”
Receivers. Nico Ragaini had a big gain against Kent State and Tyrone Tracy had plenty of air time because of a call that was (incomprehensibly) reversed by replay, but the receivers as a corps have been relatively quiet all season.
Charlie Jones had a moment against Iowa State, but mostly has starred on special teams. Of course, like the offense as a whole, they haven’t been required to do much, since all three games eventually fell under the control of the Iowa defense.
Revising preseason expectations?
Slightly. With the two Top 25 games off the top out of the way, it’s Big Ten Championship Game or bust now. There was a sense of that already, but a 2-0 start in those 2 games solidifies it. Playoff talk comes into play when you are No. 5, but earning a berth isn’t in even the most optimistic expectations yet.
That will build with each passing week — if they’re wins.
There will be a temptation to look past Colorado State or the road trip to Maryland, because Penn State will be waiting at Kinnick for a potential top 10 showdown if they both remain unscathed.
“Week to week we’re just trying to win the games in front of us and we got that done,” Ferentz said Saturday.
They will enter November with a 7-1 record
That said, the Hawks probably don’t make it past both Penn State and Wisconsin unless they are a truly special team. It’s hard to declare it such with questions remaining on offense. Spencer Petras is the top concern, yet he’s 9-0 as a starter since that 0-2 start in 2020. The 20-play, 95-yard touchdown drive to end the half Saturday is the type of performance we need to see more of — even if it was the longest under Ferentz.
“From this day we have to take the momentum and get better and better throughout the season,” Goodson said.
If they do, and the defense stays healthy and dominant, matching 2015’s undefeated regular season is on the table. Averaging 33.9 points per game while allowing only 12.6, like the Hawkeyes have in their 9-game winning streak, makes the lofty seem attainable.
Ferentz, as he often does, put it in incredibly simple terms:
“The bottom line is that we came here to get the win. That’s the best you can do.”