The Iowa-Iowa State football series has resembled the Super Bowl.
In one way, anyhow. Six of the last nine editions of each were decided by one score. In the case of Iowa-ISU, five of those last nine were settled by three points or less, the most recent being the Hawkeyes’ 18-17 win at Ames Saturday afternoon/night.
By the way, if a Super Bowl ever has weather delays totaling two hours and 51 minutes, that’s it. We’re done. America would implode.
One of the odd things about Saturday’s odd day is you can pick so many heroes for the Hawkeyes and reasons they won, yet they prevailed by just one point.
Iowa State has a good team. Its previous two seasons suggest it will get better as this one rolls along. In the Big Ten, few teams have defenses as good as ISU’s, and few have a quarterback of Brock Purdy’s quality. The experience of this game should serve both teams well in conference play.
If neither loses another game they’ll both show up in the College Football Playoff. If that happens, that’s it. We’re done. America would implode.
There was a lot to unpack from Saturday’s game. Here are a few observations:
1. Turnovers. Nothing changes in football. If you don’t make turnovers, you’re going to be in business.
Iowa had none Saturday and has just one over three games. It leads the Big Ten in turnover margin.
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This game was decided by turnovers. Iowa State had two. One effectively ended the game when a would-be punt return was botched at the ISU 22 and Iowa’s Devonte Young recovered it. The other was when Hawkeye safety Geno Stone forced a Purdy fumble on Purdy’s 11-yard second-quarter run to the Iowa 19, and Iowa safety Jack Koerner came up with it.
If the Cyclones had proceeded to the end zone and had a 14-3 lead, they would have gone on to win.
2. Kickers. Nothing changes in football. If you don’t have reliable kicking and punting, you have holes you can’t patch.
Keith Duncan has made all eight of his field goal tries this season, and went 4-for-4 at Iowa State. The last three were all at least 39 yards out. If he misses one, his team loses.
Sorry, Iowa special teams coach LeVar Woods. You have to start recruiting Australia now. If the last two weeks are a portrait of what’s to be expected from Michael Sleep-Dalton, Iowa can’t go back to American punters.
Sleep-Dalton averaged 47.2 yards on five punts and the Cyclones had zero yards in punt returns. Does the Big Ten have a Special Teams Player of the Week award waiting for him? His 46.4-yard season average tops the Big Ten.
Stock up on movies, podcasts and books, Coach Woods. It’s a long flight to Australia.
3. Iowa is sixth nationally in time of possession, averaging 36:11 per game. That’s a toll taker on defenses.
Part of the reason the Hawkeyes had the ball for 34:58 Saturday was the two quick-strike touchdown passes of 51 and 73 yards. But the Cyclones scored just three other points.
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Third-down conversions can be a misleading statistic because it doesn’t tell you how many third-and-1s or third-and-10s were involved. Iowa’s 10-of-19 on third-down, however, meant a lot.
On the Hawkeyes’ first possession, which produced a field goal, they converted a third-and-9 and a third-and-5 in their own territory, and a third-and-7 from the ISU 26.
The play of the game was quarterback Nate Stanley firing a perfectly placed 27-yard pass to Ihmir Smith-Marsette on third-and-22 at the Iowa 19 late in the third quarter. It looked like the Cyclones would get the ball back with a 14-6 lead. Instead, that conversion was the key to Iowa’s third field goal.
4. The four seasons in which Kirk Ferentz’s Hawkeyes teams shared a Big Ten title or went to a major bowl game, or both, were 2002, 2004, 2009 and 2015. In each, they won a nonconference game by one score.
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