Late rally keeps Hawkeyes unbeaten

Iowa sputtered on offense but rallied late to beat Ball State. 

NCAA Football: Ball State at Iowa

Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley (11) catches a pass in pregame activities against the Ball State Cardinals at Kinnick Stadium. (Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports)

(C+P) — While it is still early in the season, it may be time to start getting worried about this Iowa team after its 17-13 win over Ball State on Saturday.

That win over Ball State left a very sour taste in fans’ mouths as Iowa was lucky to win this one. Down 13-3 for most of the game, Iowa finally got its first lead of the game with one minute left when quarterback Jake Rudock found tight end Jake Duzey in the end zone.

Yet, despite being lucky to win this one, Iowa should have won this game handily. Iowa had plenty of chances to put this game away and each time it shot itself in the foot.

In the first quarter, backup quarterback C.J. Beathard threw the best pass of the game to wideout Damond Powell. Powell grabbed what looked like a touchdown but after review he appeared to juggle the ball on his way out of bounds.

On top of that overturned touchdown, Iowa also missed a total of three field goals, two by Marshall Koehn and one by Michael Ellis. It’s not like they were incredibly difficult ones as they were from 35, 37, and 29 yards.

Adding onto the mistakes are two fumbles by redshirt freshman Jonathan Parker. One was returned for a touchdown while the other led to a field goal by Ball State. If you add up the potential points Iowa could have had and the ones that Ball State received directly from turnovers it adds up to 26 points. So the score could have been 33-3 with Iowa winning handily.

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Jake Rudock (15) runs in open space against the Ball State Cardinals at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa defeated Ball State 17-13. (Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Jake Rudock (15) runs in open space against the Ball State Cardinals at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa defeated Ball State 17-13. (Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports)

But that’s not what happened and we are instead talking about how Iowa hasn’t really looked that good in the past two games. The kicking game has been downright awful, leaving fans wondering if Iowa should just go for it on fourth down every time Iowa is in the opponent’s territory. There needs to be immense improvement in this area.

Iowa’s offense also needs work. Rudock looked awful for 55 minutes of the game. He was inaccurate on a lot of his throws. His ball placement was terrible and he really left a lot of his wide receivers vulnerable to big hits.

It seems as if Rudock is afraid of passing to the middle as the majority of the game it was check downs to the outside. If this offense is going to be competent in the Big Ten, it needs to start showing that it can pass the ball deep. So far though, Rudock has shown that his accuracy goes haywire on any throw longer than 30 yards.

Now it wasn’t all bad as on Rudock’s second-to-last drive he actually looked like a competent quarterback. He made some nice throws and had some great runs. He really took ownership of the offense and looked confident with his throws. He engineered two quick drives to put the Hawkeyes up and he looked great on them. Now he has to translate that play to the whole game.

Rudock ended up with 322 yards, his first-career game over 300 yards, and two touchdowns. He threw 52 passes which accounts for a pedestrian 6.19 yards per attempt. His quarterback efficiency rating is at 60th in the NCAA and eighth among Big Ten quarterbacks. For being rated that badly and having not thrown a single interception with 93 attempts is pretty worrying. He really needs to improve on his mid-to-deep passing attack for him to be effective.

Now not all the blame of the offense is on Rudock. One thing that didn’t help Rudock was the lack of a running game. Now against a FCS and a MAC team, Iowa hasn’t had a running back lead the team in rushing. This game it was Rudock who actually led the team in rushing. That’s not good when a primarily pocket passer leads your team in rushing yards. The offensive line needs to live up to its billing as one of the top lines in the nation and start to blast open some holes for the tailback.

With all that negativity said about the offense, I have nothing but positive things to say about the defense. The linebackers had a huge bounce back game after playing horrible last game. The defense was so stout that Ball State only averaged 3.3 yards per play. I will say that again, Ball State as an offense only averaged 3.3 yards per play. When the opposing offense puts up those numbers it means that your defense absolutely dominated.

Leading the way was defensive end Drew Ott who picked up Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. Ott led the team in tackles (13) and tackles for loss (2.5) and added on a sack and the game clinching forced fumble. The trio of Ott and defensive tackles Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat has looked unstoppable in the two games so far. Iowa will rely heavily on these three, especially if the offense struggles like it did this game.

Overall, this game was intensely frustrating but there were a few bright spots. If Iowa can fix a lot of its problems on the offensive side of the ball and find a reliable kicker, this team could go far. If it doesn’t fix those things, then Iowa may be looking at a long season.



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