Lightning brought a screeching halt to Iowa’s best performance this year, so let’s try to make sense of it before it has even ended.
Full disclosure: I’m not actually writing this “the morning after”.
Shortly into the third quarter, with Iowa leading the Nevada Wolf Pack 17-0, thunderstorms ventured a little too close to Kinnick Stadium for comfort and the game went into a lightning delay. At this moment I’m tuned into the Miami @ Texas A&M game as there’s no telling when the Iowa game will resume. With each lightning strike, the 30 minute countdown gets reset, and a glance at the current radar shows a gigantic blob of green, yellow, and red stretching back to Des Moines, so there’s no telling when (or if) this game will resume.
So, while we wait and wonder when this game might restart I decided to get a bit of a head start on this article to make sure you, dear reader, had fresh Hawkeye content to go with your Sunday coffee tomorrow morning.
This is why you evacuate. Missed focus but you get the idea. pic.twitter.com/vdXd39HfR5
After last week’s debacle against Iowa State plenty of slings and arrows were hurled at anyone remotely involved in the Hawkeye offense. Nothing less than a good old fashioned shellacking of Nevada would silence the critics and reassure fans that this team was on the right track. With Kirk sticking with Petras as the starter the pressure was going to be enormous if the offense continued to stagnate against one of the worst defenses in college football.
Did Iowa’s offense do enough to silence their critics?
It took a bit of time, a couple of stalled drives, but Iowa’s offense started showing signs of life deep in to the first quarter. RB Kaleb Johnson had a beautiful 40-yard scamper for his first career touchdown, in which he showed some great agility, toughness, and balance to hit pay dirt.
KALEB JOHNSON 40 YARDS TO THE HOUSE pic.twitter.com/APj84QBPhv
Touchdown, Iowa. Iowa, touchdown.Kaleb Johnson’s first career TD. @HawkeyeFootball leads 7-0 on a beauty of a run. pic.twitter.com/54LW1cXeyI
It was Iowa’s longest longest play from scrimmage this year and just what the team needed to keep the soaked crowd energized. It was important for the offense to show early that they could score on lesser competition, and while it took a few minutes to really get going, a big play like that from the young running back sparked a fire that the offense hadn’t seen prior to then.
The return of receivers Keagan Johnson and Nico Ragaini has been another big story this year. Both starters missed the SDSU and Iowa State games, leaving Arland Bruce IV, Brody Brecht, and a handful of walk-ons to fill the void. With the veterans back on the field, it seemed to breathe a bit of new life into a stagnant passing attack, taking pressure off Bruce, who before now was the biggest receiver threat the Hawks possessed.
With these additional weapons on the field, Brian dialed up a fantastic call on Iowa’s subsequent drive. With Iowa pushing towards the Nevada end zone via a steady dose of Gavin Williams and Kaleb Johnson, Iowa lined up on 3rd and 1 with everyone west of the Mississippi expecting another run. LaPorta and Ragaini split out wide and both took off up the middle at the snap. With the entire defense either keying on them or keeping their eyes on Williams, they completely forgot about Bruce, who was wide open in the end zone for Spencer’s first passing touchdown of the year.
SPENCER PETRAS TO ARLAND BRUCE FOR THE IOWA TOUCHDOWN pic.twitter.com/L6vrDmTjv7
Credit to both Brian Ferentz for the great play call and Petras for delivering the ball on target. Both have taken plenty of heat so far this season, but at least in the pre-delay half of this game things were looking better for the beleaguered duo.
After a brief glimmer of hope as the game resumed, we’re once again in a lightning delay. Nevada gained one first down after a converted 4th and 2 before the Iowa defense decided they’d had enough of that nonsense and backed the Pack into 3rd and 22. Then God once again decided ten more minutes of football was just too much and sent the teams back to their locker rooms for the second time in one night.
Lightning delays are no fun for anyone. They’re no fun for the players who are taken completely out of their game mindset, they’re no fun for the officials and school representatives who have to manage the situation, and they’re no fun for the fans who must sullenly take refuge indoors and wait. We’re faced with the very real prospect that this game may never finish.
The NCAA rules governing a delay state that if a game cannot be finished due to weather the teams may, by agreement of ADs and coaches, postpone the contest to a later date, end the game by the current score, or declare a no contest. Right now, I have no idea what will happen. It’s almost impossible to imagine either team agreeing to a solution not in their best interest; so let’s rule out a forfeit, no contest, or ending by the current score. That means either postponement or a very…VERY late night.
So, as of 11:33 Saturday night, what can we glean from this most bizarre of games. The offense really showed some signs of life in Spencer’s performance, Brian’s playcalling, and execution. Petras looked better than he has in the last couple of games and the return of Ragaini and Johnson most definitely helped in the passing game. It’s not where it needs to be for Big Ten play, but we saw flashes of what it could do and that is encouraging.
I’m hanging on as long as I can in the hope this game resumes. But with three kids every bit of sleep is precious and that bed is looking pretty inviting right now.
I didn’t make it. Throwing in the towel at midnight I got what sleep I could and finished up the game this morning. When Kirk is on the recruiting trail and tells kids they could play on Sundays I doubt this is what he had in mind.
The offense continued its good but not great night, hitting a big play to Ragaini right out of the final delay, and another huge run by Kaleb Johnson for his second touchdown of the night.
KALEB JOHNSON RUNS IT HOME cc: @HawkeyeFootball pic.twitter.com/sC5JtzpRfc
That run was every Hawkeye’s dream. It was so much fun to see big plays out of the offense and huge runs by young backs.
The defense looked fantastic again, shutting out Nevada and recording one turnover in a Cooper DeJean interception. Terry Roberts also had a pick six but it was negated on an offside call. After Terry’s frustration last week after missing out on a defensive score it would’ve been fantastic for him to get one here.
Iowa heads into Big Ten play 2-1 with some momentum following its best performance of the year. With key starters back and building experience on the offensive line, this team has some opportunities to make strides. It remains to be seen if this was not a one-hit wonder by BF, Petras, and company, but it’s the first ray of hope through the storm clouds in a long time.