IOWA CITY, Iowa — Justifying Iowa’s 23-21 loss to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State would be easy, if only the Bison weren’t in a lower division.
North Dakota State played like a big-boy program. The Bison certainly hit like one. If you trade their yellow helmets for white with a running “W” they wouldn’t look that different from a typical Wisconsin squad.
Only it wasn’t. This wasn’t a Big Ten school. North Dakota State generates a fraction of revenue when compared to Iowa, yet the Bison turned Kinnick Stadium into their own private range. It’s a game Iowa’s fans won’t soon forget.
Here’s a look at Iowa’s report card, grading on a scale from one star to five, or worse when necessary (And yes, it’s necessary):
Offense (2 stars)
After Iowa’s first two games, we wondered if C.J. Beathard was a Heisman Trophy candidate (OK, I wondered) and if the running tandem of Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels were the best since Sedrick Shaw and Tavian Banks. After 34 total rushing yards and an 11-of-22 passing performance by Beathard, we can let those comparisons float away as if they were a rumor.
Defense (1 star)
Giving up 103 rushing yards in the fourth quarter to an FCS program is unacceptable, regardless of that program’s prowess. Iowa’s style of play starts with toughness up front. The Hawkeyes couldn’t get off the field or make enough plays on defense. North Dakota State held the ball for nearly 18 minutes in the second half. That’s a failure.
Special teams (4 stars)
Ron Coluzzi continues to be a revelation at punter for the Hawkeyes with six punts at 45.5 yards per boot and only one touchback. Freshman kicker Keith Duncan converted all of his extra points. Returner Desmond King bobbled a punt, but the ball went out of bounds for no harm.
Coaching (2 stars)
Iowa had a great play called to open the game. Backed up on his 2, Beathard play faked to Daniels, then had a wide-open George Kittle all alone down the left side of the field. Beathard overthrew him. It was like that all day on offense. The play calls and execution rarely matched up. Iowa’s defensive staff changed from base personnel only in goal-line packages. It obviously didn’t work.
Overall (no stars)
When a team loses to a lower-division squad, all the justifications go out the exhaust pipe. Iowa couldn’t get a first down in the fourth quarter on offense or get a stop on defense. A bad snap killed one drive. That play served as a microcosm for the entire game.