Iowa’s change in mindset gives it a chance in the West
On its own 34 with a 2-point lead and less than 5 minutes left, Iowa lined up to go for it on fourth down. Surely, they were just trying to draw Minnesota offsides and pick up a free first down, right? Then send the punter out there, back up Minnesota and play good defense. The Iowa way (trademark pending).
Instead, QB Alex Padilla snuck the ball for a yard to pick up the first. Very un-Iowa.
And on the next play, Padilla took a deep shot! Mind you, this is all with just a few minutes left in the game. It was incomplete, but it certainly felt noteworthy that Iowa was going for the jugular rather than trying to run out the clock. Maybe Kirk Ferentz thought the risk was worth it because his defense was so tired, as Minnesota had the ball for over 40 minutes.
And hey, it worked, as Iowa held off Minnesota 27-22 to retain the Floyd of Rosedale for the 7th straight year.
The Hawkeyes got by through the first half of the season with their defense winning games, but now, Ferentz is asking the offense to go win the game. That’s a noteworthy development. Ferentz is changing his mindset after the offense looked lifeless in back-to-back losses to Purdue and Wisconsin.
In previous years, I’ve seen Iowa be so painstakingly conservative on fourth-and-short in plus territory, yet punt. Iowa rarely takes risks. But maybe that’s just what Ferentz believes this Iowa team has to do in order to win. Desperate times — like having a streak of not trailing against Minnesota end at 275 minutes, 28 seconds when the Golden Gophers kicked a field goal at the end of the first half — call for desperate measures.
The Hawkeyes (8-2, 5-2) are a flawed team, no doubt. They had just 71 rushing yards, their 3rd time in the last 4 games under 80. They entered Saturday having allowed the most sacks in the Big Ten. Even with a great defense, this isn’t a typical Iowa team. Thus, the more aggressive mentality.
Luckily, Alex Padilla is up to the task. In his first career start, Padilla already looks like he belongs. He’s an upgrade over Spencer Petras, who had started 17 straight games. Padilla only had 11 completions, but they accounted for 206 yards. The big one was a beautiful deep ball to Charlie Jones for 72 yards. Most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over and he didn’t take any sacks. The latter was a huge issue when Petras was under center; a below-average offensive line is going to have a tough time with a statue at QB.
Let’s put this Iowa performance in perspective. The Hawkeyes scored 27 points, their most in their last 5 games, against a team ranked 7th nationally in total defense. This Minnesota team isn’t the most talented, but it makes you earn everything.
Iowa isn’t a top-2 team, like it once was according to the polls, but at least it has a chance with this aggressive mentality. Padilla can hit big plays. Jones and Keegan Johnson can create big plays. And the pass rush can save the day late.
This version of Iowa won’t get another shot at Wisconsin, which looks like the heavy favorite in the West even though these programs are once again tied atop the division. Iowa needs Wisconsin to lose to either Nebraska or Minnesota.
Either way, though, Saturday’s game showed the Hawkeyes at least have a chance to take advantage of a potential Badgers slip-up. And it looks like they have a QB to build an offense around.