The Rosster: Two steps forward, one step back

BY BEN ROSS | SEPTEMBER 09, 2013 5:00 AM

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Two steps forward, one step back.

That’s how I would describe the Iowa football team through its two games of this season. The Hawkeyes looked like a different team, competitively and competently, much of the time in a 30-27 loss to Northern Illinois on Aug. 31. Iowa showed it had playmakers at skill positions, the play calling was solid for an entire half, and the front seven on the defense looked like it had a pulse.

Although Iowa appeared to have turned the page in 2012 and left that 4-8 season in the dust against the Huskies, the Sept. 7 28-14 win over Football Championship Subdivision opponent Missouri State reopened some old wounds.

Iowa receivers had four drops in the first half alone, stalling drives and forfeiting opportunities for big plays. Iowa lived and died by the run, recording 58 carries for 296 yards — which is fine when you have an offensive line that can manhandle an undersized defense such as Missouri State’s — but Iowa won’t play a Championship Subdivision school every week, and one can only ride the coattails of Mark Weisman (30 rushes, 180 yards, and 2 touchdowns) so far.

And then there were the errors. Iowa committed 11 penalties for 100 yards against the Bears, allowing Missouri State to hang around for the entire game, making it tough to gain any type of rhythm. It was the most penalties Iowa committed since 2007 against Western Illinois. Iowa went on to shoot itself in the foot throughout the entire contest, committing false starts, holding penalties, and a couple of ghost personal fouls.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said that only really gifted teams are able to overcome such miscues, and this Hawkeye squad is far from that. Gifted teams generally don’t commit 11 penalties in a game to begin with. It’s hard to imagine Iowa giving up 100 penalty yards and coming away with a win against any other remaining team on its schedule.

Also, Iowa seemed to stray a bit away from its up-tempo format it employed against Northern Illinois, continually lining up under center and getting fancy with the cadence. (See three false-start penalties. At Kinnick.)  Iowa beat the Bears in the trenches with smash-mouth football, but they’re likely the only squad Iowa will face this season that the Hawkeyes will be able to control the ball in such a way that it has the luxury of attempting 58 running plays and keep the tempo at a slower pace.

I saw the Missouri State game as a way for Iowa to work out any kinks it had before playing its first really meaningful game of the season against Iowa State this weekend. Instead, the Hawkeyes made things harder for themselves before heading to Ames.

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