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Goodwin: Iowa is fortunate to be unbeaten

BY CODY GOODWIN | SEPTEMBER 08, 2014 5:00 AM

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This should be the beginning of a column about a winless football team. These words should go into detail about how a season once full of promise is all but over. This should be the beginning of a countdown to the start of the Iowa basketball season.

It should be, at least. Maybe that’s too harsh. Then again, that’s how it’s been watching this Iowa football team these last two weeks.

The Sept. 6 17-13 win over Ball State pushed the Hawkeyes to 2-0, not 0-2. The dream season is still alive for another week, the possibilities endless, the opportunities still within grasp.

If Iowa keeps playing the way it has the last two weeks, though, this season will end with a late-December bowl instead of one on New Year’s Day.

What you and I have seen in this still-young season from the Iowa football team has been nothing short of ugly. These wins have been more sighs of relief than the triumphant beatings they probably should have been. And the problems stem mostly from the offense, which has struggled far too often.

The red-zone offense has been shoddy, scoring just 58.3 percent of the time. Iowa has had only 30 plays that spanned 10-plus yards (which ranks 58th of 126 teams), four of 20-plus (110th of 126), and has made just 2-of-6 field goals this season (103rd of 126).

In short: What we’ve seen hasn’t really been “Iowa football,” in the traditional sense.

“Iowa football,” if you will, is a smash-mouth, run-first, physical type of football. The Hawkeyes win games in the trenches and run it down their opponent’s throats. There are always a few playmakers on offense, and the defense is consistently tough as nails.

Instead, we’ve seen starting quarterback Jake Rudock throw 93 passes in two weeks while the running game has been in flux, partly because head coach Kirk Ferentz won’t allow any one of the tailbacks to establish himself.

For context on Rudock’s insane amount of attempts, consider: Just four other quarterbacks in the country have thrown more passes so far this year.

Even more, Rudock is believed to be the only Iowa quarterback ever to complete 60-plus passes on more than 90 attempts for more than 570 yards in the season’s first two games.

That’s crazy. Not impressive. Crazy. Absurd. Not good. At all.

Without an efficient running game, the Hawkeyes have become a one-dimensional team on offense. And that’s going to hurt them badly later in the season.

Iowa was able to win its first two games because, to put it simply, Northern Iowa and Ball State aren’t that good. The former is hardly a D1-AA powerhouse, and while the Cardinals have won 17 of their last 20 regular-season games, those 17 wins have come over programs that went a combined 46-98 in 2013.

Later down the road, against tougher teams with more competent offenses and Heisman-worthy running backs and quarterbacks who can make big plays, this style of play Iowa’s been employing isn’t going to cut it.

You can sigh your sighs of relief all you want and be happy about Iowa being undefeated, but the team is incredibly fortunate to be in the position it’s in right now.

And you can put money on this, too: if the Hawkeyes play Iowa State the same way they played Ball State, the Cyclones will leave Iowa City with their third Cy-Hawk Series win in the last four years.

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.


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