Great, Good & Disappointing
It’s hard to find positives when you’re in the middle of a season spiralling to “worst case scenario” status, but work with me here. There were some morsels of good in yesterday’s game, just not nearly enough. The effort and energy was finally there for the ‘Cats after the first quarter. The defense once again played a stellar game and did everything it needed to do to give the offense a chance to win the game. We simply need to find a way to score points. The ‘Cats are averaging 11 points per game in the past three games. Unfathomable.
James Morris – Yes, I’m giving the highest prop to an opposing player. The Hawkeyes’ LB was the difference maker in this one as he was a one man TFL. You’ve got to tip your cap to him.
‘Cats Rush Defense (after the first drive) – The ‘Cats got bowled over by Iowa on the opening drive of the game giving up a 14-play, five minute plus rushing clinic which ended with a touchdown. The Hawkeyes gashed NU for 65 rushing yards on that drive, and then, they played outstandingy. Iowa would net only 76 rushing yards the rest of the game and they were virtually shut out in the second half as the ‘Cats “D” gained confidence with each passing series.
Chi Chi Ariguzo – The ‘Cats linebackers played very well. Chi Chi was a notch above, swarming to the gaps and creating chaos. Chi Chi ended the day with 14 tackles (9 solo), 2 TFLs, a sack and an interception.
Kain Colter’s grit – You can’t question #2′s heart and effort. Kirk Ferentz made it a point in his postgame interview to specifically cite Kain’s competitive level. It took a long time for Kain and the ‘Cats offense to find its rhythm and when they did, the Mike Trumpy fumble in FG territory thwarted it in the first half. You wonder what would’ve happened had Kain not been knocked out of the game for the four plays that led to a stalled drive and the game-tying FG. It’s hard not to really feel for the dinged up senior who finished the day with 11/14 passing (104 yards), 1 TD and 60 net yards rushing. He was “sacked” five times for -12 off of his 72 gross yards.
Stephen Buckley – The redshirt freshman RB starred in this game. In person his speed to the line and “pop” was very impressive. He had that Venric Mark-like spark he brought to each run and the ‘Cats sideline came alive with each passing carry. Buckley finished the day with a 5.8 ypc mark putting up 99 yards on 17 carries. As the season spirals downward, Buckley is one silver lining for the future. Of course, the unknown storyline of the day is what happened to Treyvon Green, who didn’t get a single carry.
‘Cats effort – The first quarter was once again listless in every way. Kinnick Stadium was dead quiet for most of the first half, despite Iowa’s 10-0 lead, mostly out of the snooze-factor of this one. The “D” was playing with some swagger, having a ton of fun and each time they came on the field for the way too long TV timeouts, you could see them really enjoying the moment. By the third quarter, the ‘Cats sideline was electric and that Wildcat energy we feed on was back. Obviously it would’ve been great for the entire game, but I’m just happy to see it exists in there.
Treyvon Green – I called some friends who were watching the game, but apparently BTN didn’t even comment on Green’s absence. I hope he’s OK and I think he could’ve made a huge difference in the game.
The O-line - Holding calls, missed assignments and yet another half dozen sacks and a slew of TFLs. The O-line continues to struggle as a unit. They did find their rhythm on the ground game midway through the second half, but we’ve got some serious issues still here.
Penalties – No penalty was more crucial then Dan Vitale’s illegal block below the knees which took us out of game-winning FG position. After that Stephen Buckley run I thought we had our mojo back and were going to win the game. I was sure of it. Then, disaster struck on the Trumpy fumble on the questionable pitch. Throughout the day NU had drive killing holding penalties as we averaged 11 yards per penalty (5-55).
OT play calling – The ‘Cats had been shredding Iowa’s defense the previous drives. They weren’t stopping us. Yet, we open the OT by going to a pass play. Not sure I get that.
Finishing drives – We’ve gotta score points. The ‘Cats had two likely scoring drives killed by fumbles and another stall after Kain left the game momentarily with an injury. Mick McCall has to find ways to get us in the endzone.
Seniors – This wasn’t really in the realm of possibility – a winless October (Fitz is now 10 games under .500 in October). This was supposed to be the season that raised the bar and put NU’s perception in to the upper tier of the conference. Now, the ship is starting to take on water and we’ll need some true leadership to bail out this season. I just find myself feeling bad for the seniors, especially the high motor guys who bring it every play. They deserve better.
Special teams – We’ve got to learn to catch the ball on punt returns. Tony Jones continues to let punt after punt roll and it costs us. One punt, which was very catchable, rolled down to the one yard line. Brandon Williams continues to be inconsistent, although he was much improved yesterday. Matt Harris is a shining star on kickoff returns and it is only a matter of time before he busts one this season.
You’ll be sure to add some, including Jeff Budzien, who continues to be perma-great. I’m already clinging to the notion that the last time our season was in toilets-ville, we went to Nebraska and upset the then top ten Huskers. Nebraska’s double-digit loss to Minnesota yesterday has next week as a coin flip game in my mind and our small sample size of incredible games with the Huskers has me excited we can still salvage a bowl game. The ‘Cats simply have to find a way to go bowling at this point.