Dienhart: 'Iowa isn't going away, America. Deal with it'
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – First it was quarterback C.J. Beathard flying through the air to score a touchdown in the second quarter. Then, it was tight end George Kittle in the fourth quarter, sailing across the goal line. Neither was going to be denied, which epitomized Iowa on this day.
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It wasn’t always fancy, it wasn’t always pretty … but in the end, it was effectively spectacular for the Hawkeyes. Welcome to Iowa football, 2015, which moved to 9-0 with a 35-27 win at Indiana on Saturday afternoon. The undefeated record, Big Ten title and playoff dreams burn on!
“I am proud of our guys, they played hard and did a lot of great things and responded,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “There was a lot of great effort by a lot of individuals and a lot of good responses when things started swinging one way; we brought it back the other way.”
Indiana may have been the scariest game left on Iowa’s schedule. And, the Hawkeyes took care of business, keeping the perfect record intact and the march to 12-0 on course. The 9-0 start ties the 2009 team for the best in school annals. Who left on the schedule is gonna beat this Hawkeyes squad?
“Iowa was good today,” Indiana’s Kevin Wilson said.
Wilson has that right. And Iowa isn’t going away, America. Deal with it. The Hawkeyes continue to dance among the nation’s elite behind the velvet rope in college football’s penthouse. Last week, Iowa was No. 9 in the initial College Football Playoff poll. What will it be this week? It doesn’t really matter. If Iowa can win the Big Ten with an unbeaten record, it seems certain to claim one of the four playoff spots.
Those who like to rip Iowa’s resume have not looked at it closely. This program has a quality non-conference win over Pitt. And it has dumped Wisconsin and No. 21 Northwestern teams on the road, too. All Iowa can do is play the games on its schedule. And win. So far, so good.
On this day, Indiana pounded Iowa like it hadn’t been pounded all season, rushing for 227 yards and two touchdowns. The previous rushing high in 2015 vs. Iowa was 183 by North Texas. The only other team to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark has been Maryland (167). But the Hawkeyes didn’t flinch.
And Iowa entered the game having allowed just one rushing touchdown, the fewest in the nation. But Indiana’s Jordan Howard punched two in. This is a tough, physical Hoosier offense led by one of the most underrated lines in the Big Ten. Howard finished the day with 174 yards on the ground with the two aforementioned TDs.
But Iowa wasn’t going to be derailed.
Is this a team of destiny? That’s too trite of a way to sum up what has been a magical ride. This is just a good, well-coached team that is playing vintage Iowa football. What’s vintage Iowa football? It’s smart football. It’s tough, physical running … play-action passing … rugged defense. And it’s all sprinkled with good special teams play. This is the formula that Hayden Fry used to make Iowa a national brand from 1979-1998. And Ferentz has mimicked his mentor, as he continues to author a storybook season.
The star of this fairy tale has been Beathard. The decision in January to tab him the starting quarterback over Jake Rudock looks more brilliant with each passing victory. Beathard stepped up and made some big throws in the fourth quarter after Indiana had cut Iowa’s lead to 21-20. Soon thereafter, Beathard engineered touchdown drives to push the Hawkeyes’ lead to 35-20. Game over. IU scored a late TD, but it was too little, too late.
Fighting through pain, Beathard gritted his teeth and finished the night 19-of-31 for 233 yards with a touchdown, adding five carries for 38 yards with that high-flying touchdown that caused his pain. Beathard clearly out played counterpart Nate Sudfeld, who looked ragged in completing only 15-of-34 passes for 169 yards with no touchdowns and a pick for an offense that needed to do more on this day—but didn’t. This was Beathard’s day in what is turning out to be Iowa’s season.
“In a perfect world I love to play balanced,” said Ferentz, who got 120 yards rushing from Akrum Wadley and 234 as a team. “We had some key third-down conversions — C.J. throwing the ball well, Matt, Henry. When you can play balanced football it gives you a shot. You can say that about the way the defense is playing as well.”
And the defense did its part, too. Linebacker Josey Jewell had a career-high 15 tackles, as the Hawkeyes held the Hoosiers scoreless in the third quarter and held IU eight points below its season scoring average.
“Isn’t that something,” Ferentz said of Jewell. “He missed a couple (of tackles), too. He has been playing well, is a tremendous leader and is tough-nosed. That’s a tremendous combination.”
And it’s a combination that helped Iowa remain perfect for one more week.
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