PISCATAWAY, N.J. — In April 2017 when the football coaches traverse the state of Iowa to speak with fans at intimate gatherings, the Hawkeyes’ 2016 highlight video might have a few plays from its 14-7 win against Rutgers.
If the video showcases more than about three, then 2016 will become a major disappointment.
Running back Akrum Wadley’s 26-yard touchdown run was the game-winning play. Iowa’s 99-yard drive in the first half was memorable, as was its goal-line stand that preceded it. As for the rest, well, vegetables help you grow.
As for the Hawkeyes’ report card, here’s a look:
Offense (2 stars)
The offense was just a little off. Wadley and LeShun Daniels spearheaded an attack that rushed for 193 yards. Quarterback C.J. Beathard engineered a 99-yard drive for a score. But the consistency and rhythm isn’t quite there. Is it the offensive line? The receivers not getting open? The penalties? All the above? Yes. Most importantly, is it fixable? I think most of it is. But not all of it.
Defense (3 stars)
Iowa’s run defense was again gashed repeatedly, giving up 193 yards on the ground – almost the same performance as against Miami of Ohio and North Dakota State. That’s scary because the good teams are coming up. But … the defense allowed just seven points, too. It’s a bend-but-don’t-break scheme, and that’s always been the case. Safety Brandon Snyder’s forced fumble and recovery in the fourth quarter were critical. Iowa needs a few more plays like that in every game.
Special teams (4 stars)
Through the season’s first four games, punter Ron Coluzzi might be the MVP. He punted seven times for a 42.0-yard average and parked four punts inside the 20-yard line. All three of his kickoffs went for touchbacks, which kept Rutgers star Janarion Grant away from the ball. There were no breakdowns in coverage and freshman Keith Duncan hit both extra-point attempts and all 17 this season.
Coaching (3 stars)
Consistency isn’t there on either side of the ball. Coaching and overall talent takes up the majority of blame. Coach Kirk Ferentz’s decision to attempt a fourth-and-5 conversion from the Rutgers’ 10 was unwise in a 0-0 game. Take the points and assume your team will get back in the red zone eventually.
Overall (3 stars)
The only thing keeping this game at three stars is the win. In the big picture, this has “meh” in full display. There were highlights, but Iowa needs to grow in a hurry. Although this was a Big Ten opener, it felt more like a non-conference game. There’s no such feelings next week with longtime rival Northwestern or the following week at Minnesota. I hear they’re too not fond of Iowa.