• Travis Thornburgh

Game Recap: Iowa State

Initial Takeaways:

- The Iowa defensive line continued to get pressure on the quarterback, but Iowa State got the ball out quick to avoid sacks.

- Iowa's offense ran an inordinate number of plays out of the I formation. Upon rewatching the game, the most surprising part was the number of times they went play-action pass out of those formations.

- Iowa's defensive performance would have been spectacular if you remove the two blown coverages that resulted in Iowa State touchdowns.

- Nate Stanley is in complete control of this offense and looks the most poised he ever has at the line of scrimmage.

- For the first time in his career, teams need to plan for Nate Stanley being able to run the football on 3rd and long, which could be a huge boost to the offense.

- Despite two rain delays, this was an exciting game and one that people will remember for a long time.

- The secondary is extremely young behind the starters and it showed, but the secondary showed a ton of mental toughness, which speaks so much louder than the mistakes they made.


Views From the Corner of Kinnick


What. A. Game. This was one of the most anticipated editions of the Cy-Hawk game in history, and the game didn't disappoint. It was a back and forth contest dominated by the defenses, broken up by two separate rain delays totaling nearly three hours, and topped off with a little bit of classic Iowa special teams execution.


The game started innocently enough. Nate Stanley led the offense down the field on and impressive 7-minute drive that ended with a field goal. Iowa State then ran one play prior to the game entering its first lightning delay. Following the lightning delay, Iowa State ran a few plays, hitting short passes and converting on short runs, before taking a shot downfield on a double pass to wide receiver La'Michael Pettway streaking down the sideline. Following the touchdown, both teams would take a turn punting the football before a second lightning delay. After over two hours of delay, the half would end with the teams exchanging punts before Iowa marched down the field off a Brock Purdy fumble, with a 12 play, 5-minute drive that ended with another Keith Duncan field goal, making it a 7-6 halftime score.


After halftime, Iowa State scored quickly, with Brock Purdy finding Tarique Milton on just the second offensive play out of the break for a 73 yard touchdown pass that pushed the Cyclone advantage to 14-6. The Iowa defense seemed to settle in after that touchdown, forcing two punts and a turnover on downs on the remaining four Iowa State possessions, while only surrendering a field goal. The Iowa offense also picked it up, scoring a touchdown and a pair of field goals on 3 of their 5 second half possessions (not including the final possession following the muffed punt). All told, the game ended with a hard fought Hawkeye victory by the score of 18-17.


This was a strange game, but I was overall impressed with not only Iowa, but Iowa State as well. It is extremely tough to stay locked in for a full football game, let alone a full football game that spans nearly 7 hours. Both teams showed a ton of fortitude and really showed that they could be among the best in their respective conferences.


The best place to start with breaking down Iowa's performance in this one would be with the defense. With the exception of two plays, the defense was outstanding. The first half was the essence of what a "bend, don't break" defense looks like. Iowa was consistently sitting in a zone, giving Iowa State short gains and making sure everything stayed in front of them until the ball crossed the 50 yard line. Then the defense would bow and hold Iowa State just outside field goal range. As the game wore on, defensive coordinator Phil Parker dialed up more blitzes, forcing Brock Purdy to start getting rid of the ball more quickly and upsetting the timing of the Cyclone offense. Watching the game live, I didn't realize the extent that Iowa was bending but not breaking. Iowa State had 6 drives end on Iowa's side of the 50 yard line, and only once was Iowa State close enough to attempt a field goal. The defensive line was disruptive all day/night, despite the sack numbers and tackle for loss numbers not really demonstrating that.


As I mentioned, Iowa's defense really only had two plays that were blemishes on an otherwise spot-free night, and both resulted in long Iowa State touchdowns. The first came on the fourth play out of the first lightning delay when Iowa State ran a double pass to the right side of the field. Redshirt Freshman D.J. Johnson, who started in place of 3 injured Iowa cornerbacks, bit on the first pass and let the Iowa State wide receiver run wide open past him. The second play came on the second play out of halftime. Iowa was in a zone, and there was a miscommunication. D.J. Johnson seemed to believe that he had safety help from Sophomore Jack Koerner on the deep route and appeared to pass the receiver to where he believed Koerner was going to be, instead passing him to a wide open touchdown.


I bring up these two breakdowns because, in a weird way, they may have been two of the best things to happen to this young and banged up Iowa secondary on Saturday. I am a huge believer in trial by fire, and I don't think that Jack Koerner and D.J. Johnson could have been tested by any fire hotter than the Iowa State game. Both guys responded extremely well, with Koerner making an extremely heady play late in the game to swat an easy interception down to the turf and essentially save Iowa around 30 yards of field position. D.J. Johnson also responded well, leading Iowa in tackles and coming up with two huge pass deflections, one of which forced the 4th and 13 on which Koerner swatted the ball to the turf. I feel much better now than I did a week ago about Iowa's defensive backfield after seeing both of those young guys fight through immense adversity and show positive growth in doing so.


Despite the low scoring output, I was really happy with Iowa's offenseive performance. Iowa came out firing on all cylinders with the 7 minute drive to open the game. and had a number of 3rd down conversions on that drive. Third down conversions were really the stat of the day for the offense, as Iowa went 10 for 19 on converting 3rd downs.


Nate Stanley had a couple of shining moments on the evening, with the highlight of the night being a 27 yard completion to Ihmir Smith-Marsette on 3rd and 22, where he rifled the ball through an extremely tight window. He also continued to show that he can be dangerous running the football when he converted a two different third downs with his legs. The only real weakness for Stanley in this game was he did have a couple of overthrows that could have really helped open up the Iowa State defense. Overall, Nate Stanley had a really solid night and continues to be a steady, dependable asset for Brian Ferentz.


Saturday also marked another step forward for the Iowa running game. Iowa continued to show that they are comfortably four guys deep in the backfield and it appears that they will ride the hot hand on any given day. Tyler Goodson had the highlight of the night for the running backs, when he ran for 14 yards on a counter with late in the 3rd quarter. On that play, he showed his speed by beating an Iowa State defender to the edge, then finished the play by leveling a second Iowa State defender before stepping out of bounds. The future is bright for this running back room and they showed that on Saturday.


Entering Saturday, the Iowa special teams really hadn't had an impact that altered the outcome of a game. That changed in a big way against the Cyclones. Michael Sleep-Dalton was outstanding, averaging over 47 yards per punt on his 5 punts. He also had a hand in sealing the game, with his low line drive punt helping lead to the muffed punt that Devonte Young recovered to effectively end the game. I have been impressed with the punting unit for Iowa to date, and I don't think this will be the last time that they positively impact the outcome of the game.


Despite the solid performance by the punt team, the star of special teams, and really the whole game, was Keith Duncan. The junior, walk-on kicker was outstanding, adding another chapter to his Hawkeye folklore that started as time expired against Michigan in 2016. Duncan converted on all four of his field goal attempts and accounted for 12 of Iowa's 18 points. The thing that makes his performance the most impressive were the conditions that he was kicking in. On one of the first warmup kicks he attempted after the second lightning delay, Duncan had his plant foot slip out from under him and he slid nearly five yards on his backside. As it would turn out, the spot he slipped on that kick was almost the exact same spot where he took the final field goal attempt from. The mental toughness that Duncan showed in putting that out of his mind and driving that winning kick home was nothing short of impressive.


Overall, I would chalk this one up as a complete team win that should springboard Iowa moving forward. Iowa showed a ton of toughness, fighting through multiple weather delays, a couple big plays by Iowa State, and poor conditions throughout the game. Their gameplan was executed by all three phases and the team that made fewer mistakes won the game. The bye week comes at a great time for Iowa, as this should give them time to get healthy in the defensive backfield and along the offensive line prior to the start of full-time Big Ten play. Regardless, another great chapter in the Cy-Hawk Series was written on Saturday and I was impressed by what I saw out of Iowa.


Travis's Player of the Game: Keith Duncan - 4 for 4 with kicks of 25, 40, 42, and 39 yards


Honorable Mention: D.J. Johnson - 8 Total Tackles, 6 Solo Tackles, 2 Pass Deflections

The most impressive part of Johnson's game on Saturday doesn't show up in his stats. He showed a ton of growth throughout the game and he posseses impressive mental toughness after recovering from the mishap on the first Iowa State touchdown.g


Up Next: The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders 1-2 (0-0 C-USA) in beautiful and historic Kinnick Stadium following a Week 4 Bye

As always, On Iowa! and Go Hawks!


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About Travis

A lifelong Hawkeye fan and a 2017 graduate of the University of Iowa in Civil Engineering, Travis now calls Des Moines, Iowa home and continues to passionately follow University of Iowa athletics

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