In the preseason, conversations centering around the Iowa Hawkeyes always began with defense. As well they should, given the defense had to carry many of Iowa’s wins last season.
Not to mention Iowa has one of the best defensive ends in the country (Adrian Clayborn), backed by three other guys on the D-Line (Binns, Ballard and Klug) who continually hold opponents to very few points.
Add a backfield that wreaks havoc on opposing passers and receivers, creating turnovers, and you have a one of the most effective defenses in the land.
Preseason concerns for Iowa’s 2010 season focused on the less experienced Offensive Line, and Ricky Stanzi’s infamous pick sixes, after he threw 15 interceptions in the 2009 season.
The game I witnessed today put those concerns to rest, as Iowa outmatched Iowa State in a 35-7 victory. The new O-line is clearly gelling nicely, allowing an improved, cool-headed Stanzi to use multiple weapons at his disposal.
Not only does Stanzi have a deadly receiving corps, but the running game has been phenomenal out of the gate. Against Iowa State, Adam Robinson continued his star-studded performance with 14 carries for a career high 156 yards, an 11.1 yard average, including another TD.
Jewel Hampton made his triumphant return with 20 carries for 84 yards and a TD.
Stanzi put up his own impressive numbers, 11 for 18 on passes for 204 yards, a TD pass to McNutt and his own QB sneak into the end zone for another 6. That’s an 11.3 yard passing average. He also made use of tight end Allen Reisner with a short TD pass in the second quarter.
Today it was the defense’s turn to rest, as the Iowa offense had the ball for over 35 minutes of the game. In fact, Adrian Clayborn said the defense began getting restless, being on the sideline so much.
Yet the defense put on their own impressive show, with three picks off Iowa State QB Arnaud, and not letting the Cyclones past the 50 yard line the entire first quarter.
The only down sides were some miscues on special teams and backup quarterbacks James Vandenberg and John Wienke unable to move the offense in the fourth quarter. This reinforced the fact that Stanzi is the definitive leader of the offense, and still a big key to Iowa’s win record.
Don’t “leave him” yet. Let the doubters eat some crow this week.
Of course Stanzi will humbly concede, with Robinson’s agreement, that the O-line is holding its own thus far and continuing to improve, enabling first downs and scores. Perhaps having an ex-NFL offensive line coach as head coach, and practicing against the stingiest defense in the Big Ten has something to do with that.
Naturally the first big test for this “new and improved” offense is next Saturday’s game in Arizona. If they can continue their stride in the desert, they might finally be considered a team that can beat anyone.
But for this week I say, “Hello Offense… welcome back!”