Oct. 24, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- From a spectator's point of view, last Saturday's game was probably one of the most entertaining contests ever played at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa and Wisconsin scored a total of 61 points. The lead changed hands nine times, and the margin was never more than four points.
Each team scored four touchdowns.
Each team kicked one field goal. Wisconsin kicked four extra points, Iowa kicked three.
And Wisconsin won 31-30 by scoring a touchdown and kicking the extra point with 66 seconds remaining.
Wisconsin blocked the extra point attempt following Iowa's first touchdown. Did the blocked kick decide the game? Not necessarily. There were other coulda, woulda, shoulda moments.
But before gnashing our teeth and wringing our hands -- there's been enough of that elsewhere -- let's look at the good things the Hawkeyes did in this game.
It starts with the offense, which for the second straight game had no turnovers and scored at least 30 points. Ricky Stanzi showed why he leads the Big Ten in pass efficiency, throwing for 258 yards and three touchdowns.
Stanzi's three leading receivers -- Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Marvin McNutt and Allen Reisner -- each had a TD reception. The 45-yard scoring strike to DJK was beautifully executed and the longest play of the game.
Going into the season, the great unknown was Iowa's new offensive line. At midseason it has jelled and is giving Stanzi solid pass protection. He was sacked only once Saturday, and that was in the final, frantic seconds. Julian Vandervelde is the only o-line senior.
For Iowa to finish the season strong, it has to fix its mistakes, not fret about them. The schedule gets no easier this week with Michigan State visiting Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes have an opportunity to hand the Big Ten's only unbeaten team its first defeat.
Ryan Donahue's punting was a positive factor.
One of his kicks traveled 71 yards, and his average was 60.5.
Early in the season Coach Kirk Ferentz said Iowa's special teams were a work in progress, and he has not changed his assessment in late October. Against Wisconsin, they had four serious breakdowns.
Besides the blocked extra point, there was a botched field goal attempt because of a bad snap, an offside penalty on a kickoff that wound up giving the Badgers a 31-yard advantage in field position (and led to a TD), and a fake punt on which Iowa was badly fooled.
Iowa has now lost two games -- one by seven points and another by one point -- and special teams breakdowns were big factors in the outcome of each contest. More close games are surely ahead, and if the Hawkeyes keep making mistakes on special teams, they'll likely lose some.
It's also disturbing that Iowa's defense has given up 59 points in the last two games. Wisconsin had no big plays, but it won the battle in the trenches by grinding out five scoring drives. When the defense needed to protect an Iowa lead in the final minutes, it failed to do so.
For Iowa to finish the season strong, it has to fix its mistakes, not fret about them. The schedule gets no easier this week with Michigan State visiting Kinnick Stadium.
The Hawkeyes have an opportunity to hand the Big Ten's only unbeaten team its first defeat.