Iowa offense finally gives us reason to celebrate, and now dream big
Making a first down on Iowa’s first offensive possession isn’t as emotional as waving to the kids at the hospital at the end of the first quarter, but these days in Iowa City, it ranks right up there.
Time and place, and all that.
And then scoring a touchdown in the first quarter, well that’s really something. Even the kids at the hospital probably figured it was about time the Hawkeyes offense did its part.
Iowa is undefeated, and its winning streak grew to three on Saturday with a 38-14 win over Northern Iowa. They did it with a complete team win this time, with the offense finally stepping up to do some things.
Because the offense struggled so much — especially early — in wins against Northern Illinois and Iowa State, it has tempered the enthusiasm you would normally see after back-to-back victories to start a season. But after quarterback Nate Stanley threw for 309 yards Saturday and the Hawkeyes rushed for another 207, all’s well now. The Hawkeyes are 3-0 and feeling really good about themselves.
Now they can start dreaming big, too. And with good reason.
Dreaming big had a little bit to do with what happened in Iowa City on Saturday and a lot to do with what happened up the road in Madison, where No. 6-ranked Wisconsin — the untouchable prohibitive favorite in the Big Ten West — lost 24-21 to unranked BYU, a team that went 4-9 last year.
If BYU can beat the Badgers, can’t the Hawkeyes beat them next week under the lights in Iowa City? Well, of course they can. Suddenly, thoughts of winning the Big Ten West can be considered reasonable for the Hawkeyes now that Wisconsin seems vulnerable.
But let’s not jump ahead to next Saturday too quickly. There’s a few things from this Saturday that simply need to be pointed out, mostly because we’ve waiting three long weeks to see it happen. These things we liked, such as:
- Getting off to a good start, finally: For the first time all year, there was no three-and-out on their first possession, and for the first time all year, there was a touchdown in the first quarter when Stanley capped the second drive with a 5-yard TD pass to tight end Noah Fant.
- Finding a great rhythm in the passing game. Stanley threw for 309 yards and 10 different Hawkeyes caught a pass, with Nick Easley leading the way with 10 receptions for 103 yards. We’ve been waiting for this for a while. Stanley threw for only 274 yards combined in the first two games. This was the 20th game he’s played in at Iowa, and it was only the second time he’s thrown for over 300. (He had 333 in an overtime win against Iowa State last year.)
- The defense continues to dominate: Iowa’s defense allowed only 10 points in those first two wins, but even more importantly, there was no finger-pointing across the ball to the struggling offense. Nope, they were all in it together. And while the offense finally did its part, the defense was still out there doing its thing, holding Northern Iowa scoreless through three quarters. Two late garbage touchdowns against the backups spoiled what was a great effort.
What it all means is that Iowa ends the nonconference portion of its schedule feeling as good as it possibly could. This defense in nasty, probably the best in the conference. The offense is finding its way and was very balanced — and very impressive — on Saturday. Suddenly, it now seems like Iowa can be considered in the mix for a Big Ten West title.
Dreams might be ready to become reality now. What a difference a week makes.
Bring on the Badgers.