116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — It’s too early to be concerned and too early to be too excited.
Following its 2-0 start, Iowa’s ranking has skyrocketed from No. 18 to No. 5 in the Associated Press poll, and is the highest-ranked Big Ten team this week. Saturday’s 27-17 win over Iowa State marked the Hawkeyes’ fifth straight ranked win and highest-ranked road win since defeating No. 5 Penn State 21-10 in 2009. It’s the highest ranking Iowa has achieved since 2015.
But the one thing that the Hawkeyes are not atop the rankings in is offense — and they haven’t had to be yet. Through week 2, Iowa is last in the Big Ten in passing offense, No. 7 in rushing offense and No. 11 in scoring after facing some of the nation’s highest-ranked defenses.
“'Concern is not the right word, but certainly interest,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “What I would be concerned about is if we don't see continual growth. That's kind of what we're banking on here as we move forward.”
And in regard to the rankings, for better or for worse, Ferentz brushed it off as speculation.
“This time of year, there's probably a small handful of teams that are worthy of being ranked high,” Ferentz said. “It's a jump ball for a lot of teams. We're thrilled to death to be 2-0. It's the best you can be. But it means nothing.”
The offensive line, which has been a trial by fire up against Indiana and ISU, is the youngest its been since 2017, when true freshman Tristan Wirfs and redshirt freshman Alaric Jackson were in the starting lineup after seniors Ike Boettger and Boone Meyers got injured.
Redshirt freshman left tackle Mason Richman, sophomore right guard Justin Britt and sophomore right tackle Nick DeJong made their first starts during the Indiana game. True freshman Connor Colby has seen a combined 34 snaps at right guard, one at left guard and three snaps at right tackle through the past two games. Redshirt freshman Tyler Elsbury played three snaps at left guard against Indiana, while true freshman Michael Myslinski saw three snaps at guard against Indiana.
Iowa running back Tyler Goodson has gained most of his rushing yards on the right side through both games, but saw improvement on the left during the Iowa State game, rushing for 12 yards at left center and eight between the left guard and left end. He still averaged a best of 7.3 yards per carry around the right end for 22 yards.
Schematically, Richman said that sometimes they can prepare and still get the unexpected, which is something he’s learning to grapple with at the left tackle position.
“I think our mentality can affect our poise after bad plays,” Richman said. “I think we take it personally, we want to get the running game going each game and in the second half especially, when you know even when we're up and want to keep that running game going.”
The rotation of youth on the offensive line has been due to senior Kyler Schott’s absence from a foot injury sustained in the preseason, but Schott has been practicing and is expected to see some game time on Saturday.
“Kyler brings an attitude to some of the plays each and every week,” Richman said. “I also think he brings leadership.”
Iowa on Saturday faces a Kent State defense known for turning the ball over, collecting four interceptions against both Texas A&M and VMI, but its weakness is in yards allowed in the rushing game (222.5), which is tied for No. 7 out of 12 teams in the Mid-American Conference.
With Goodson in tow, this might be a good confidence boost for Iowa’s ground game. The pass game could be tested, but what Ferentz likes about Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras is that he has yet to turn over the ball this year.
Petras has played a conservative game of keeping the ball rather than throwing a possible interception. He had 145 yards passing against Indiana and 106 against Iowa State, the Big 12’s best secondary.
“Being a former line coach, I'm a little sensitive to that at times,” Ferentz said. “Protecting the ball is really important. You don't get a lot of points for that, but there's a lot to be said for that if you're smart with the football.”
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