It wasn’t perfect, but the Iowa Hawkeyes played their most complete game of the season and avoided back-to-back losses at home to in-state rivals by defeating Northern Iowa 27-16.
Last week, the Iowa offense had fans hitting WebMD to identify the strongest, most obtainable over-the-counter antidepressants. After watching “little brother” walk off the field with the Cy-Hawk trophy, the Hawkeyes faced the very real possibility that without drastic improvement, their “undersized cousin” might finish them off two weeks before the beginning of conference play.
It is a unique challenge playing a dangerous FCS team, and Northern Iowa certainly fits that description. The Panthers went into Camp Randall Stadium, one of the conference’s toughest venues, and gave the defending Big Ten champions all they could handle in the first week of the season.
While the win will do little to change the national perception of the Hawkeyes, they answered the challenge in a big way. Here are some winners and losers from Saturday.
In an era when recruiting is just as much a sport as football itself, we are treated to fewer and fewer surprises. Scouting reports are so prevalent by the time a college skill player makes his first start, he has been on the national radar for years.
But every once in a while a player comes out of nowhere and tugs at the “Rudy” string in our heart.
Saturday, that player was walk-on fullback Mark Weisman.
After two more injuries at the running back position, bringing the 10-year total to 129,342 such injuries, Weisman moved from fullback to running back and went on to run for 113 yards and three touchdowns. That’s three red-zone touchdowns for an offense that punched in a grand total of zero through the first two weeks of the season.
Weisman is not the long-term answer, but on this day he was the embodiment of every dreamer whose strongest attributes aren’t measured on a stopwatch.
James Vandenberg has taken his share of criticism through the first two weeks, as the offensive unit he leads has been entirely underwhelming.
Vandenberg and his teammates seem to have gotten back on track Saturday against UNI, but try telling that to the stubborn zero in the TD column of his stat sheet.
The senior quarterback read the UNI defense like a book, got everyone involved, and put his teammates in positions to make plays after the catch by hitting them in stride. All the while, the goose-egg in question pulled the dead-weight act of a petulant child who refuses to go to their room.
The offense looked as good as it has all year, and sooner or later they will find the end zone through the air, but for the time being, Vandenberg’s performance has been much better than his stats reflect.
If you received an annual allowance of $202,400, you would want to be absolutely certain your chores were done to your father’s specifications.
Offensive linemen and their position coaches operate under a thankless existence in which they are most recognizable in the spotlight of failure. This is especially true of Brian Ferentz, whose hiring and starting salary became national news upon him joining his father’s coaching staff.
Ferentz preaches daily improvement. After a tumultuous two weeks to begin the season, the group lead by his brother, offensive captain James Ferentz, turned in their most complete performance to date in Saturday’s victory.
Unless you are a police officer or soldier, there is nothing natural about showing up for work in a flak jacket.
Rib protectors can be a necessary evil for quarterbacks. While bulky and restrictive, they are a welcome defense for those under constant pressure from defensive linemen and targeted by linebacker and safety blitzes.
The good news for quarterbacks facing Iowa is that no such pressure exists.
Unless the Hawkeyes' defensive line increases their penetration of opposing backfields exponentially in the coming weeks, quarterbacks can leave the jackets in the locker room.
Many Iowa fans may have wondered what happened to wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley after a promising freshman season in 2011.
Following the 2010 arrest and subsequent dismissal of Darrell Johnson-Koulianos from the team, Martin-Manley looked poised to inherit the throne of multiple-last-name-bearing Hawkeye playmaker.
After catching five passes for 101 yards against UNI, Martin-Manley re-emerged as a big-play threat for a Hawkeye offense in dire need of a spark after being held out of the end zone one week earlier.
Lost in the excitement provided by Mark Weisman’s huge day was the irrefutable fact that the Iowa running back position is in the thralls of an omnipotent force operating with unabashed cruelty.
After a tremendous start to the game, starting running back Damon Bullock was knocked out of the game by a knee to the helmet.
Shortly after replacing Bullock, true freshman Greg Garmon, who picked up the slack admirably, suffered an elbow injury that ended his day as well.
People fear what they cannot control. At this point, any attempt to marginalize the Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God is simply a fear-based act of denial.
AIRBHG is real.