Iowa vs. Northern Illinois: 1-0 Is 1-0
Well, it wasn't pretty.
That may be underselling it. It was downright ugly.
But somehow, the Iowa Hawkeyes are 1-0.
A late 23-yard touchdown run by Damon Bullock gave the Hawkeyes an 18-17 lead. Following an unsuccessful two-point attempt, that was the final score at Soldier Field on Saturday.
Bullock was the hero for the Hawkeyes on Saturday. The supposed one-dimensional Iowa offense was just that, except that they were supposed to have a potent passing game and no running game.
Bullock rushed 30 times for 150 yards and was an absolute workhorse for the Hawkeyes. The Iowa offensive line, which was supposed to be a strength, failed to give quarterback James Vandenberg much time in the pocket. They did, however, contribute to Bullock's 150-yard day.
Vandenberg was 21-for-33 for only 123 yards. Vandenberg did not even attempt many long passes, as many Hawk fans expected him to do under new offensive coordinator Greg Davis.
Leading the receiving core was Keenan Davis with five catches for 41 yards and Kevonte Martin-Manley with six catches for 31 yards. Bullock and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz also pulled in three catches a piece.
The Iowa offense stalled out in Northern Illinois territory most of the day. Kicker Mike Meyer kept them in the game until Bullock's game-winning burst.
A win is a win, but this particular win is worrisome for Iowa.
Some specific worries include the failure to get six points after defensive lineman Carl Davis recovered a fumble on the NIU 13-yard line, Kevonte Martin-Manley dropping a potential touchdown pass, the consistent attacking of Micah Hyde by NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch, the offensive line's inability to deal with a four-man rush in the third quarter, the lack of targets for Fiedorowicz and Vandenberg's reluctance to look for the deep ball, among others.
Nitpicking? Possibly. But it does get tougher from here.
Iowa hosts in-state rival Iowa State next week, followed by an extremely confident Northern Iowa team coming off a very impressive 26-21 loss at Wisconsin.
Iowa needs to get the passing game working. It was expected to be a strength of the Hawkeyes, but now that Bullock has shown his potential, the passing game could be even more lethal, if effective.
The offensive line needs to protect Vandenberg and continue to open holes for Bullock.
Keenan Davis needs to be Iowa's number one receiver. Every football-savy Hawkeye fan could see how much Vandenberg missed Marvin McNutt today. And while we are on receivers, Kevonte Martin-Manley cannot be dropping touchdown passes on an already struggling offense.
The huge advantage in the form of C.J. Fiedorowicz needs to be utilized.
The defense was fine today, but it resembled the 2011 defense a lot more than the 2009 or 2010 defense that many were wishing for.
The saying is that teams improve the most between weeks one and two. The Hawkeyes need to hope that this is true.
Nevertheless, they are undefeated, with an opportunity to start 5-0 without playing a top-25 team or traveling away from Kinnick Stadium.
1-0 is 1-0.
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