My brother texted me at halftime and said that Iowa looked like a completely different team than last week. So very true. How Iowa can go out one week and lose to a bottom half MAC team, then come back and beat an undefeated (though not really that good) Minnesota, I'll never know. I suspect it has a lot to do with Kirk Ferentz.
The team was ready to play on Saturday and came out fast and furious. The offense pounded the ball with Weisman and even used a little trickery. The defense was stifling and forced the inexperience Max Shortell into a lot of mistakes. The game was over by half and now Iowa goes into the off week with a "W" and a pig.
Four factors in review
Get early pressure - Really the team didn't make any major changes from last week. It was one minor change that made all the difference: the defensive line played a lot better.
You don't really see it show up on the stat sheet from the D-linemen, but they were very disruptive and really allowed the back 7 to make plays. The pressure they were able to put on Shortell forced him into a lot of mistakes. As a result, Iowa had 3 interceptions including one on Minnesota's opening drive and one by Kirksey that he return for a TD.
The D-line pressure also allowed the linebackers to get free shots on the running backs or on Shortell. Hitchens and Morris both finished with double-digit tackles and each had a sack.
Keep doing what works - It looked like Iowa had game planned for Minnesota's stout defensive line and was worried that Vandenberg would be under a lot of pressure. The passing attack was back to the more horizontal offense stuff we saw the first two weeks of the season. And it was frustrating at time. There was a 3rd-and-long that Iowa read blitz (and it wasn't a blitz) where Vandenberg threw a quick pass to the sideline that went for negative yards.
But, for the most part, Greg Davis did stick with what works: Mark Weisman. He was once again dominant running behind a once again dominant offensive line. The left side really got things going with Sherff and Tobin. They were absolutely destroying guys in the first half. Weisman had over 150 yards in the first half and finished with 177.
Play smart - Iowa still had too many penalties for comfort: 8. But they weren't so much of the stupid variety. At least 4 of those were on players that were seeing their first extended action of the year. Jake Duzey (who looks like he's surpassed Derby as the "B" tight end) and Andrew Donnal (filling in for Austin Blythe) both had false starts. Donnal also was called for holding. Greg Castillo (filling in for Lowery) had a pass interference called on him. (Side note on Castillo...he's been kind of a punching bag because of his performance against ISU last year, but he played really pretty well. Minnesota tried going after him and he for the most part held his own. He even had a nice interception in the second half on a poorly thrown ball by Shortell.)
So you can kind of takes those penalties on those guys. They also didn't have much, if any, impact on the game like last week's.
Bounce back - Iowa must have gotten out any of the feeling sorry for ourselves stuff early in the week, because they looked sharp from the beginning of the game. The next step is to break this W-L-W-L pattern that has been going on since last year and string together a couple of victories.
Of the games
Player of the game - This is getting redundant. It's Mark Weisman once again. He has been an absolute beast. He's 26th in the country in rushing, but would be even high if you consider he did it in just 2 and a half games.
Play of the game - No question the flea flicker. Perfectly executed and called at the perfect time. It was a nail in the coffin type of play and it was in the first half. With the way Weisman was running the ball, Minnesota's defense crashed hard when he took the handoff, so when he flicked it back to Vandenberg, Cotton was as wide open as I've seen an Iowa receiver in a long time.
Good coaching decision of the game - I'd like to say the flea flicker, but what I liked even more was Iowa's drive to end the first half. It was an unspectacular drive...it only went 45 yards and Iowa didn't score. But it started at Iowa's own 5 yard line and there was 6:31 left in the first half. Iowa faced a 3rd-and-9 from the 6 at the beginning of the drive. They ran a draw out of shotgun to Weisman and he took it 32 yards for a first down. From there Iowa was able to run out the clock in the half. So when it looked like Minnesota might get the ball back at the end of the half in good field position, instead Iowa held on and preserved its big lead.
It was all doom and gloom after last week. That was probably a little premature and an overreaction. But now we shouldn't overreact in the opposite way either. This was a good win and an important win for this season. The momentum taken into the off week should help, and we finally have a trophy in the trophy case. But Iowa still has a lot of work to do. Looking at the schedule there aren't 3 obvious wins. Iowa needs to beat Indiana, then 2 of Purdue, Northwestern, and Penn State. So that's doable, but Iowa needs to take this bye week and improve.