For the Hawkeyes, they are more than content playing a game like that. A 24-14 win where things felt comfortable is one Iowa will always take.
Iowa’s defense was able to play fundamental football while the offense poured on 10 more points during the second half to seal the victory. It wasn’t exactly a performance that inspired a ton of confidence. But, in Week 1, things can be slow and vanilla so while there are areas to improve, it also isn’t the end of the world.
With their first tally in the win column, the Hawkeyes now go back to the drawing board to game plan and fix any areas of concern. Here is the report card of those areas and how each unit graded out in the first week of the season.
Offensive grade: C+
Slightly above average is what the Hawkeyes’ offense felt like. They were able to get some things going and did show a few explosive plays but the stagnant periods need to be minimized.
The passing game was the much better part of the offensive performance. Cade McNamara was efficient, Luke Lachey proved he could be the next great Iowa tight end, Erick All was steady, Nico Ragaini made plays when called upon, and transfer addition Seth Anderson made noise early.
The ground game left something to be desired. The Hawkeyes couldn’t get much going running the football throughout the entire game and it felt like they were constantly rushing for just two or three yards a pop against a defensive front that was undersized.
Defensive Grade: B+
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Hawkeyes’ starting defense had allowed just a tad over 200 total yards and six points. Overall, they were stifling.
The only reason for the B+ rating and not an A is that Utah State did see some success on the edges by spreading Iowa out. There will be some things on film that teams will see to attack.
Iowa did bend at times, but they never broke and that is what it takes sometimes. How good is it to be a defense that puts up a performance like this and still feels like there is improvement to be made?
Special Teams Grade: B
A shocking occurrence, the Hawkeyes made a special teams mistake. Tory Taylor’s first punt of the year was blocked, although it still traveled 37 yards in a strike of luck.
Aside from that, the special teams unit was solid and steady as expected. The game started with a monster kickoff return by Kaleb Johnson that put the Hawkeyes inside Utah State territory on their first drive. The kicking unit was flawless as Drew Stevens was perfect on all his extra points and converted his one field goal attempt of the game.
The only area that could be a change, which is minor, is potentially letting someone aside from Cooper DeJean return punts. His defensive prowess is much more important to Iowa and they could save him from unnecessary hits.
The coaching by the Hawkeyes didn’t have too many eyebrow-raising decisions as the game was in control early and they were able to keep any tough decisions in their back pocket.
Iowa did attempt a handful of fourth downs, namely their second touchdown of the game, which was good to see as it shows increased aggressiveness from this team.
A win is a win, but sometimes you want to see more. Then again, Iowa isn’t out to prove anything to anyone else but themselves and a win did that.
The offense had things going early but they need to be more consistent. The run game is the most significant question mark moving forward as it simply wasn’t effective enough. The defense and special teams were consistent with a few minor tweaks that can only improve their already solid performances.
Week 1 is exactly that. It is the first game of live action and the first time some situations arise. The Hawkeyes have areas to improve upon but any lapses or areas of concern should be tempered by remembering it is just one sample size.
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