It wasn’t pretty, but Iowa football rarely is. And at the end of the day, a win is a win.
Iowa’s 31-23 win over Northern Iowa was probably too close for comfort for a lot of fans, but it did teach us a lot about this year’s football squad — things the Hawkeyes need to work on, things that are established, and things that just don’t make any sense.
Here are five takeaways from Iowa’s opening week victory.
1) Linebackers are a work in progress
This isn’t a surprise. When a team replaces its three starting linebackers, there will be growing pains. Those were put on display Aug.30.
Iowa’s linebackers struggled in pass coverage, particularly over the middle of the field. And most of these holes were made apparent by Northern Iowa running back David Johnson, who torched Iowa for 5 catches for 203 yards. Three of those catches were for 50-plus yards.
There were good moments for the unit, though. Redshirt freshman Bo Bower stole the show in his first game as a Hawkeye; his day included a third-quarter interception and a big fourth-quarter sack when Northern Iowa was in the red zone.
People on Twitter also had a field day with saying Bower’s name:
Bo Bower is a ridiculously fun name to say out loud.
— Black Heart (@BHGP) Aug. 30, 2014
2 — Iowa has options at receiver
Jake Rudock completed 31-of-41 passes. More impressively, he completed at least one pass to 13 different receivers, which highlights Rudock’s ability to spread the ball around. But more than that, it shows that Iowa has a lot of receiving threats.
Iowa has three tight ends who will all see significant playing time. In terms of receivers, Kirk Ferentz can pretty much consistently sub receivers in and out. There will be constants, mainly Kevonte Martin-Manley and Tevaun Smith, but other than those two, expect to see this form of diversity for the remainder of the season.
3 — Running back may be a 4-man position, not 3
Everyone knew that Iowa had depth at running back coming into the season. But not everyone knew that LeShun Daniels Jr. would be such a prominent figure at the position.
Other than Mark Weisman, who led the team with 10 carries, Daniels had the second-most on the team with 8. Whether this will hold remains to be seen. After his 13-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, Daniels ran the ball 7 times for 2 yards.
Game statistics aside, Ferentz had nothing but good things to say about Daniels, saying that he has impressed coaches this year and entered the competition among runners who should see consistent playing time.
4 — Tevaun Smith is a playmaker
Last season, Smith was a solid receiver for Iowa, but there wasn’t anything too special about his year. On Aug. 30, Smith was a highlight reel. In the third quarter, Smith took an end-around handoff that looked doomed and turned it into a 35-yard gain (he probably ran approximately 90 yards (or 130, according to Hawkeye legend Eddie Podolak on the Hawkeye radio broadcast) to get that 35 yards). Later that drive, Smith made a one-handed catch to put Iowa up 24-13 (Podolak, who started as a quarterback at Iowa, could not stop raving about the catch on the radio.)
5 — The Hawkeyes, unlike Northern Iowa, did not beat themselves
As close as the game was, imagine how much closer it would have been if the Panthers hadn’t repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with penalties.
In the end, the Panthers committed 16 penalties for 128 yards. Iowa committed just four penalties — all of which occurred in the fourth quarter — for 35 yards. Northern Iowa also turned the ball over 2 times compared with Iowa’s 1. It’s not something you normally take that much pride in, but Iowa’s experience and discipline paid dividends in this game.
Did Jacob Sheyko miss anything? Probably. Email him at email@example.com to tell him what he missed.
(Gif from gif.mocksession.com; video from ESPN)