Following last year's Week One miracle against UNI, Iowa was looking to start off the 2010 season without any drama. And for the most part, the Hawkeyes got what they wanted. See how each position group graded in college football's first week of 2010.
Coming into the season, quarterback Ricky Stanzi's number one goal was to minimize mistakes after an interception-prone 2009. On that front, Stanzi certainly succeeded, throwing no interceptions. He was extremely accurate, completing 18 of 23 passes for 221 yards. There were a few ill-advised throws that good secondaries could have taken advantage of, but overall it was a good performance.
Stanzi scared a few hundred thousand fans—at Kinnick and at home—when he limped off the field after slipping on a scramble, just like his injury against Northwestern. He ended up being fine, but James Vandenberg came in and did an impressive job on a drive that eventually ended in a touchdown.
Running Backs: A
The Iowa running backs had a scare last month when it became clear that sophomore Brandon Wegher likely wouldn't play this season because of personal reasons. But Saturday proved that Hawkeye fans have little to worry about in 2010.
Adam Robinson was a force against the Panthers, totaling 109 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Next week, he'll get even more help as Jewel Hampton returns to the field for the first time since 2008. Hampton rushed for 469 yards behind Shonn Greene in 2008, and after suffering a torn ACL in 2009's fall camp, he will be hungry for carries this season.
Robinson is physical, while Hampton is a hybrid between a physical back and a pure speed runner. Because of the split carries, neither will lead the Big Ten in rushing, but they should complement each other to make up one of the best backfields in the league.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B
Statistically, it was a solid day for Iowa's receivers and tight ends. Brad Herman and Colin Sandeman led the way with 57 and 51 yards, respectively, and there didn't look to be too much miscommunication with Stanzi.
However, there were a couple a drops, including a catchable ball on fourth and short that would need to be completed against the Big Ten's elite teams.
Sandeman also had a fumble after a decent gain, and ball security needs to be a priority for Iowa's receivers, just as it is for Stanzi. But overall, not a bad day from the Hawkeye receivers.
Offensive Line: B+
This was the big question mark for the Hawkeyes coming into the season, and the big men certainly passed their first test.
Stanzi was given adequate time in the pocket for most of the day, and the run blocking was particularly impressive, as the line was part of the reason Robinson has such a good day.
Iowa gave up two sacks on the day, but neither was the line's fault. The first was Stanzi's slip-up on a scramble, and the second was a corner blitz that Stanzi failed to pick up.
So while it's hard to learn a lot from a game against Eastern Illinois, the first game is always the toughest, and the Iowa O-line looks like it will be just fine this season, much like the typical Kirk Ferentz-coached offensive line.
Defensive Line: A
As expected, the Iowa defensive line dominated the Eastern Illinois offensive front all afternoon. And this was without one starter—Broderick Binns will return this week—and with Christian Ballard starting at end instead of his typical spot at tackle.
Adrian Clayborn broke through his frequent double or triple teams, and the Panther passing game was under constant pressure. DT Karl Klug tied for a team-high six tackles and back-up Mike Daniels—Binns' replacement—recorded a sack.
The run defense could have been better, but that's just nitpicking
Look for an even better game against Iowa State, as Binns will be back, and Ballard will move back to the middle. Plus, Clayborn called the Iowa State game his unit's worst last year—keep in mind the Hawkeyes gave up three points—and the line will be hungry to avenge that performance.
Even without starting middle linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, the linebackers turned in a solid performance in Week One.
Bruce Davis started in Tarpinian's spot and didn't give up any big plays. Returning starter Jeremiah Hunter also was solid in the passing game.
Tyler Nielsen was the most notable on the day. He took over for A.J. Edds on the outside and was all over the field—much like Edds always was—and recorded six tackles. With Tarpinian back next week, expect another solid performance out of an impressive and seasoned group, despite the loss of Angerer and Edds.
Save for one drive, the Iowa secondary was lights out. The Hawkeyes gave up only 92 yards passing and were very good in converage.
Corner Micah Hyde is a star in waiting and looks like he will fill in quite well for Amari Spievey. Brett Greenwood was all over the field and even helped out in the run game on a few occasions.
Eastern Illinois' one scoring drive, which included a couple of big plays, is a bit worrisome, and the lack of interceptions is odd after last year. But the secondary was definitely up to form.
And if Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud continues his streak of ill-advised throws, look for Tyler Sash and company to have a huge game next week, just like last year.
Special Teams: A-
If it weren't for an Eastern Illinois fake punt that revived an eventual touchdown drive, Iowa's special teams would have received an A-plus.
True freshman Mike Meyers was outstanding on kickoffs, with his first kick soaring eight yards into the endzone and resulting in a touchback. The field goal situation wasn't exactly resolved, as Daniel Murray was hurt, and sophomore Trent Mossbrucker made all five extra points, but didn't attempt a field goal.
Ryan Donahue was excellent in his one punt attempt, pinning the Panthers at their own five yard line on a 43-yarder.
The return game was solid, too. Colin Sandeman averaged 7.5 yards per return on two punt returns, and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos averaged 29 yards on his two kickoff returns.
Paki O'Meara also blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown, earning him Big Ten Special Teams Player-of-the-Week honors.
Special teams was a strength for Iowa last season, and if Saturday was any indication of the future, it should be in 2010 as well.