The Rosster: Iowa football is two-thirds of the way to competency

BY BEN ROSS | SEPTEMBER 30, 2013 5:00 AM

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MINNEAPOLIS — The score read 23-7 in Iowa’s favor at the conclusion of the latest installment in the battle for Floyd of Rosedale saga between Iowa and Minnesota, but it was never that close.

Iowa dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Minnesota’s best defensive player — nose guard Ra’Shede Hageman — was held to just four tackles all day. Iowa’s center Austin Blythe and guards Conor Boffeli, Jordan Walsh, and Andrew Donnal blew him off the line just about every play, and propelled Iowa to gain 253 yards on the ground.

Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock was given all day to make his reads and find the open man downfield. Sept. 28 was far and away the sophomore’s best performance of the year, completing 15 of 25 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown. He continued to show his wheels, rushing for 35 yards on 5 carries, including a 4-yard scamper for a touchdown in the middle of the second quarter.

The lone hiccup in his performance came in the form of an interception in the end zone near the beginning of the third quarter. Rudock had a wide-open Kevonte Martin-Manley for about three seconds. Then the window closed. Minnesota safety Brock Vereen came over the middle of the Minnesota end zone and grabbed the floating pig skin out of the air. Easy pickings.

Other than that, there are few warts to pick from this Iowa offense. Sure, it only came away with 10 points in four trips to the red zone, but when you can make plays like the 74-yard screen pass that went for a score to speed demon Damond Powell, you can afford to be imperfect in the red zone.

The biggest problem for this Iowa team will be how it handles itself on kick coverage. It has already given up an onside kick to Iowa State, and damn-near allowed Minnesota to let itself back into the game after allowing kick returns of 66 and 53 yards in the second half.

Everything on this Iowa football team seems to be improving, while the special teams unit is digressing. Sept. 28 featured the closest thing we’ve seen to a perfectly executed Iowa football since 2011 probably. And you know what? I think we’ll see Iowa click on all cylinders against a competent team before the season is in the books. It could be this weekend against Michigan State. It won’t be against Ohio State in its following game. But this Iowa team is doing something over the course of a season we definitely haven’t seen since 2009. And that’ll improve as the season wears on.

Improving as more games are played each year is generally a staple of Kirk Ferentz-coached Iowa teams. He preaches it every week at his press conference. And that was the biggest problem with the 2012 squad. It never got better. James Vandenberg couldn’t convert a third down, the defensive line showcased mind-boggling ineptitude, and offensive coordinator Greg Davis’ play calling was more predictable than a Saw movie.

But all that was an afterthought on Saturday. And it was refreshing. Iowa dominated two-thirds of a football game against Minnesota. I can almost taste that extra one-third.

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