Iowa Football

Upon Further Review: Another look at Iowa's 21-20 loss to Northwestern

Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette (6) carries a reception against Northwestern Wildcats defensive back JR
Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette (6) carries a reception against Northwestern Wildcats defensive back JR Pace (5) and defensive back Cameron Ruiz (18) in the first quarter of their football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa dropped to 0-2 Saturday with another excruciating loss.

A 21-20 defeat to Northwestern in the home opener at Kinnick Stadium looked a lot like the season-opening, 24-20 loss at Purdue. The Hawkeyes had a lead and couldn’t hold it.

They did some good things but not enough of them. That’s the bottom line.

After coming home from the stadium and watching a TV replay of the game, here are some things that were noticed.

Doink

Iowa drove to the Northwestern 34 in the closing seconds of the first half and brought out Caleb Shudak to attempt a 52-yard field goal.

Fans may have wondered why Shudak instead of All-America kicker Keith Duncan, who made a 47-yarder into the wind earlier in the quarter. Duncan’s kick was a low line drive that barely made it over the crossbar, which kind of showed you that was about his maximum range.

Shudak has a stronger leg and was making 60-yard field-goal attempts with the wind in warmups. Shudak’s kick to end the half had plenty of leg but clanked off the right upright and was no good.

“Caleb made a great effort there at the end of the half to give us a chance on that one, and that one kick is probably representative of our game today: close but not close enough,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Defensive changes

Iowa changed up its starting defense against Northwestern.

Sophomore Seth Benson, who missed the Purdue game, got the start at middle linebacker and led Iowa with 13 tackles. Kaevon Merriweather, who didn’t play much against Purdue, started at strong safety, with Dane Belton, last week’s starting strong safety, shifting over to the “cash” or “Leo” position.

The odd man out was Barrington Wade, who started at cash against Purdue but saw few defensive snaps here. He had just one assisted tackle.

Offensive line changes

Indiana grad transfer Coy Cronk started at right tackle for Iowa but had uneven playing time there, with Mark Kallenberger spelling him a lot.

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Ferentz said it was more a coach’s decision than a new injury. Cronk had ankle surgery last season and is still trying to get up to full speed, so to speak, because of it.

“Coy just didn’t look quite comfortable enough, so we’ll go back to work Monday,” Ferentz said. “He missed a lot of time, as I said, in the past, and he’s still working through some things. But Coy is a tremendous guy. He’s going to be a good player for us. I thought he was struggling a little bit.”

Ihmir Smith-Marsette more involved, now won’t be

After a zero-catch opener, receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette was more involved in the passing game, catching a team-high seven passes for 84 yards. But he’ll miss at least one game after being arrested early Sunday morning for OWI in Iowa City.

Smith-Marsette’s vehicle was pulled over at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Myrtle Avenue after an officer spotted it going 74 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone. Smith-Marsette’s blood-alcohol level registered at .13 percent, above the .08 legal limit.

The senior was asked postgame Saturday what he could do to help his team climb out of its 0-2 hole.

“As a senior, just continue to lead,” he said. “Pick players up if they’re down. Continue to push people to come in and put in their best work, their best effort. Then go out there on Saturday and continue to put our best foot forward and contribute as much as I can. It starts early in the week ... Take an honest evaluation about yourself and this film, starting tomorrow. Then go out there Monday and the rest of the week with your head held high, pushing through these tough last two weeks.”

The guess is Tyrone Tracy Jr. will step in at Smith-Marsette’s starting spot, with Buffalo transfer Charlie Jones likely to see more time at receiver. He has been Iowa’s punt returner thus far.

Michigan State comes to town

Iowa will seek to get into the win column Saturday when it hosts Michigan State (1-1). Kickoff is 11 a.m., with the game televised by ESPN.

The Spartans got a huge win Saturday, upsetting 13th-ranked Michigan, 27-24. Junior quarterback Rocky Lombardi threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns.

He is the son of former Cedar Rapids Washington football coach Tony Lombardi, starting for the Washington baseball team as an eighth-grader. The family moved to West Des Moines late that summer, with Rocky Lombardi becoming an all-stater at Valley High School.

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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