Three cool things:
1. If Iowa is going to play an FCS program, it’d better be UNI.
A number of you are cringing. Too bad. Yes, this fits nicely into the “everything to lose, nothing to gain” category. Iowa loses and it’s going to eat whatever collects between cleats these days. Those little rubber shards? Iowa wins and it’s yawn and next week.
But if UNI wins ... One part of our state has slew the great beast. Folk songs will be written. Feasts will be held commemorating the moment.
Quick story: You remember Iowa-UNI 2009. I’m a UNI grad. When those field goals were being lined up, I thought, “Well hey, we beat Iowa. My friend Scott Bonner (Swaledale, Iowa’s finest) is going to feel 5-11.” And then the Iowa beat writer’s thoughts? “Oh my God, this is going to be a miserable season.”
If Iowa plays FCS, it really should be UNI. If Iowa isn’t good enough to defend the flag or is oogy about playing the Panthers, then that will sort of take care of itself.
2. Man, David Johnson is good at football. I hope his NFL career picks up right where it left off.
For the record, Iowa did offer Johnson a grayshirt scholarship out of Clinton. Kirk Ferentz has recently said he’s soured on grayshirts because there is an isolation factor he doesn’t like (I agree).
“Coming out of high school, I didn’t even know what that was,” Johnson said. (By the way, a grayshirt is a promise for a scholarship in the second semester of your freshman year, leaving the prospect on the hook for tuition for a year). “I really didn’t want to take that on. (UNI) offered me a full ride and they had a couple of players who were from Clinton. I talked to them and they said it’s a great place to be and great atmosphere.”
Johnson almost single-handedly won this for the Panthers. You don’t often see players at Kinnick have that much say in a game, especially from an opponent in a non-conference game.
3. Jake Rudock completed 31 passes in this one. Let’s check how Iowa does when its QBs complete 30-plus passes over the last ... let’s say five years: Nate Stanley doesn’t have a game with 30 completions. Close at ISU with 27. The 2016 passing game made everyone’s eyes bleed. C.J. Beathard hit 27 at Pitt in 2015. Rudock did it three times in 2014 — UNI, Ball State and Maryland. Iowa was 2-1 in those games and the two weren’t impressive. In 2013, it was Rudock and there were no 30-completion games.
Conclusion: Iowa doesn’t want 30-plus completions because that is not what Iowa is historically great at.
Quote: “This is pretty much 60 minutes of turmoil in your stomach, and I might as well get used to it because that’s usually how it feels,” Ferentz said.
Note: Johnson was the best player in this game. He averaged 13.2 yards on 18 touches. He caught five passes for 203 yards, including receptions of 53, 60 and 70.
Why No. 125? — Even the wins in 2014 were scarred. Hindsight, this was a red flag and the Ball State game the next week was a Kinnick-sized red flag.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2014
IOWA CITY — Just after the postgame interview time, Carl Davis put his hands on the wall, bent a knee and tried to stretch a calf. It was nearly an hour after the game and the Iowa defensive tackle was still feeling the strain.
Hey, kind of like everyone Iowa.
Northern Iowa (0-1) made the Hawkeyes (1-0) sweat this one out. In the end, Iowa’s 85 scholarships beat UNI’s 63 (the difference between FBS and FCS schools). Iowa’s offense answered some questions, the defense has to answer a few, but, finally, Iowa put the squeeze on UNI, 31-23, before 66,805 Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
Everyone Iowa should be enjoying a nice, cleansing stretch. That was strain.
“This is pretty much 60 minutes of turmoil in your stomach, and I might as well get used to it because that’s usually how it feels,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said.
There was stomach turmoil. The Panthers pulled within one point after Michael Schmadeke’s third field goal made it 24-23 Iowa early in the fourth quarter.
The Hawkeyes peeled another player off the player tree in their answer. Quarterback Jake Rudock connected with freshman wide receiver Derrick Willies for a 46-yard gain to UNI’s 8. Rudock hooked up with wide receiver Damond Powell for a 12-yard TD and the Hawkeyes had their breathing room with 6:50 left.
From there, Iowa ground it out. The defense pressured quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen and the desperation led to cornerback Greg Mabin’s first interception.
“I think the guys amped it up there in that fourth quarter after struggling,” Ferentz said. “It wasn’t much fun there for a while.”
The game was odd on several fronts for the Hawkeyes, who never found a comfort zone in really anything.
Rudock completed 31 of 41 for 250 yards and two TDs — career highs for completions and yards. Rudock was particularly solid in the second quarter after the Panthers took a 10-7 lead. He led a 17-play, 79-yard drive that ended with Mark Weisman’s 1-yard TD plunge. Then he directed a two-minute drill to perfection, setting up Marshall Koehn’s 40-yard field goal with one second left for a 17-13 halftime lead.
“The two-minute drill, I thought we did a good job taking what they gave us,” said Rudock, who became the first Iowa QB to complete 30-plus passes in a game since James Vandenberg’s 31 against Pitt in 2011. “It didn’t all come in one chunk.”
Rudock put up career numbers, but Iowa’s best and most productive offensive player might have been UNI penalties. The Panthers were called for 16 penalties for 128 yards. All five Iowa scoring drives were either nudged along or greatly helped by penalties. There’s no pinpointing the most crushing penalty, but UNI did stop Iowa on a third-and-goal from the 3-yard line before linebacker Max Busher was called for a holding penalty.
“We have to learn from our mistakes because we had all the penalties,” UNI Coach Mark Farley said. “That’s the first thing we need to correct.”
Iowa defenders racked up six sacks and 13 tackles for loss, the most they’ve had in a game since 14 at Iowa State in 2003.
Another sign of discomfort for Iowa’s offense was the fact that wide receiver Tevaun Smith led the team with 35 yards rushing. He did that on a reverse before making a SportsCenter-level one-handed catch for a 6-yard TD and a 24-13 lead in the third quarter.
Weisman finished with 34 yards on 10 carries. Running back by committee found no rhythm.
“Yeah, I didn’t see that coming,” wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said when asked about Smith leading Iowa’s rush attack.
The obvious malfunction with the defense was covering UNI running back David Johnson out of the backfield. He beat linebacker Quinton Alston for two long gains, including a 70-yard TD reception that made it 24-20 Iowa midway through the third quarter.
Johnson had five catches for 203 yards.
“You freak out a little bit,” Alston said. “You’ve got to keep calm and move on to the next play.”
That sounds like the famous T-shirt. “Stomach turmoil” doesn’t sound like a really fun T-shirt.