Three cool things:
1. You know what? It wasn’t a magic carpet ride to the stars in 2017 for first-year offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. He’s admitted to missing a few things. But really, Iowa’s offense was runny Jell-O at too many positions last year. I think inexperience affected both ends of the equation.
This game kinda shows my point.
I really think Ihmir Smith-Marsette is going to be great. I think the fact that Kirk Ferentz said the thing about his phone this spring was because he sees it. Brian Ferentz called the play. Nate Stanley made the pass. And the ball hit off Smith-Marsette’s face mask and was picked off (bang, bang call on the pick, probably could’ve gone either way).
That kind of thing. Iowa had a lot of that last season. It’s reasonable to think a certain percentage of that will go away. And I don’t think Kirk Ferentz says that about a player unless he knows the player 1) can take it and 2) is close to break through.
Think of the things that Smith-Marsette did do last year. I’ve written before and will write again, his first TD catch at ISU deserves a mural in downtown Iowa City.
Smith-Marsette is the centerpiece, but if you polled a lot of Iowa’s offensive holdovers from that game, they’d probably tell you about all of the opportunity they left out there that night against a not-great Minnesota team.
Should be encouraging, but they still have to show it.
2. Oh hey, the Brian Ferentz press box thing.
Brian belongs on the field. For all of you passion huffers, yeah, that’s great, but you also need to be calculated. I think Brian is both. You can be both. He’s also, what, 34? I’m 51 and not fully formed, I think there’s plenty of evidence.
Anger sucks. Take your cue from Kirk Ferentz on this, which, basically, was “We’re not going down that road.” Brian is a really smart guy and knows this.
3. Hey, Noah Fant did the “row the boat” after his 45-yard TD grab. Stanley missed a few of those last year, you might’ve noticed. He put so much air under this the ball came back frozen. Fant caught it and celebrated.
And Kirk Ferentz didn’t shoot him into space. He also didn’t shoot Akrum Wadley into space after the high-stepping thing against North Texas.
I just don’t think he wants a TD celebration leaving any chance for an official to ruin the party. I can grok that.
Quote: I love comeback stories and I know you do, too. I’m not saying safety Jake Gervase is a “made” player, but he lost his job in a definitive manner and when the opportunity hit, he was ready and he was improved. With Iowa, you have to be really careful about closing the book.
“I think one thing I’ve been pretty consistent about, we’re not the greatest team right now, but we’ve got a team that has a good attitude. I think that’s really representative of it. He never dropped his chin.” — Kirk Ferentz
Note: Nah, let’s go bonus quote. Yeah, I thought the TD pass Stanley threw to Fant was high. So did KF.
“I think we got a call from the FAA on that one. We didn’t have clearance.”
Why No. 119? — Kind of a sloppy, “gut-it-out” deal. The Gophers are going to show up here a few more times.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2017
IOWA CITY — On the field, it once again was a staring contest for Iowa’s offense. Credit where credit is due, though, the Hawkeyes picked things up in the second half and took care of business.
Iowa (5-3, 2-3 Big Ten) drove magnificently on its first drive and it almost stood the entire way in the Hawkeyes’ 17-10 victory over Minnesota before 66,292 fans Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium.
Five plays, 80 yards and around 2 1/2 minutes off the clock. After that, though, it was back to a painfully familiar trudge Iowa’s offense has become. It was five consecutive three-and-outs and none were particularly pretty.
Compounding things was James Butler’s fumble late in the first half. He caught a pass and gained 19 yards to Minnesota’s 21. Butler, seeing his first action since suffering a dislocated elbow on Sept. 16, was caught up in the pile and had the ball pulled out of his arms late.
Iowa coaches disagreed with this call. Vehemently. You saw head coach Kirk Ferentz register displeasure when an FS1 camera caught a bleeper.
As coaches in the press box made their way to the locker room for halftime, Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz cussed out the Big Ten officials replay booth. He did it again on his way to the coaches suite for the second half.
The Big Ten likely will have a reprimand early this week for Iowa’s 34-year-old first-year offensive coordinator.
The words kind of hung in the air of a generally quiet press box. Process this as you will.
There was more to the game than that. Not a lot more, but more.
The Hawkeyes loved their game plan. They won the toss and instead of deferring, they choose to receive.
First down was a 22-yard Nate Stanley-to-T. J. Hockenson pass. Second play was a 25-yard pass to Nick Easley. Third play was just a 5-yarder to tight end Noah Fant. Running back Akrum Wadley for 4 and then for 12 and the TD.
Just that easy. Five plays, 80 yards and just 2:23 off the clock. Suddenly, the 10 whole points Iowa scored in a game and an overtime period last week at Northwestern seemed like a year ago.
But no, it was just last week.
Iowa’s next seven possessions went five punts, interception and the fumble. This would drive even the most mild-mannered offensive coordinator to blue language.
It’s a good thing the Hawkeyes’ defense punched in for another night of putting out fires and, really, holding the line.
As Iowa was making it rain three-and-outs, Minnesota (4-4, 1-4) built a three-and-out factory, had a very successful IPO and might look to expand its three-and-out franchise in Iowa City.
Before Minnesota scored to make it a 14-7 game with 14:37 left in the fourth quarter, Iowa’s defense held Minnesota to eight punts, a series stopped on downs and an interception (safety Jake Gervase off a tip by cornerback Josh Jackson in Iowa’s end zone).
A little poetic justice shined down on the Hawkeyes. Fant ended last week in a world of hurt after dropping a pass that ended Iowa’s overtime possession and the game at Northwestern.
With 11 minutes left in the third quarter. Stanley threw a moon ball to Fant, who was so wide open he could’ve sent a text waiting for that ball to come down. As you know, Stanley has missed on these all season. This time, he lofted the ball nearly press box high and Fant ran under it for 45 yards and a 14-0 lead.
Fant did a little bit of a “row the boat” impression after the score, obviously referencing Minnesota and head coach P.J. Fleck and that “row the boat” thingie the Gophers do.
Iowa’s defense played well enough to make that stand. Minnesota got a 33-yard field goal to make it 17-10 with 4:28 left, this set up by 63-yard pass from QB Demry Croft to wide receiver Tyler Johnson.
17-10 didn’t work great last week. It probably didn’t feel a whole lot better this week, especially with Ohio State (7-1, 5-0) steering the charter to Iowa City after an amazing comeback against Penn State.
But those were the Hawkeyes’ 17 points and it was their victory and their walk with the Floyd of Rosedale bronze pig traveling trophy on a beautiful night for football.
And, you know what? That’ll do pig, that’ll do.