Some Thoughts on That Vaunted Iowa Hawkeyes Offense

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The Cy-Hawk rivalry has a certain reputation among outsiders; one that isn’t necessarily derisive, but I also don’t anticipate ESPN devoting a 30 For 30 to the series’ history.

Assumptions — with an emphasis on three particular letters, based on a certain nickname given the Cy-Hawk game — align with the general reputation saddled on the Iowa Hawkeyes: defensive minded, offensively offensive, perfectly boring.

Both the Cy-Hawk game and Iowa’s performance Saturday defied the reputation. Recent installments have been competitive; Iowa’s 44-41, overtime win in Ames marked the fifth single-digit decision 2011. With the exception of a mirroring score in 2011, however, the scores in the last decade — 20-17, 15-13, 17-5, 9-6 — have perpetuated prevailing sentiment on the Iowa offense.

The 2017 Iowa Hawkeyes may be an exception, if Saturday’s Cy-Hawk is any indication.

Coming into the season, I tabbed Iowa as a dark-horse contender in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes were my preseason pick to win the West division — and early-season performances from their divisional brethren have made me increasingly confident in that choice — and I included Akrum Wadley as a name to remember for Heisman Trophy discussions.

Wadley delivered on Saturday with 118 yards rushing, with another 72 receiving, and two combined touchdowns. His second score came on a 46-yard reception from Nate Stanley with just a minute remaining, forcing overtime.

Wadley’s play comes as no surprise to me, obviously. Stanley’s does.

Stanley completed just eight passes for 125 yards in Week 1 against Wyoming, but really didn’t need to do any more than that in a Hawkeyes’ rout predicated on dominant defensive play. Called upon to make plays against Iowa State, Stanley looked the best an Iowa quarterback has since arguably Ricky Stanzi. Considering Stanley’s successor, C.J. Beathard, wowed for the San Francisco 49ers in preseason play, that’s not faint praise.

Overreaction? You bet, considering it’s Week 2, but I’ll promise no college football pundit in America had an Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback with more touchdown passes through two games (8) than Oklahoma State Heisman contender Mason Rudolph’s thrown (6).

As impressive is how Stanley distributed the ball among a diverse corps of targets: Wadley, Nick Easley, Matt Vandeberg all had touchdowns; Ihmir Smith-Marsette scored two, including the game-winner.

Smith-Marsette called the winning play, “Something we have been practicing hard in practice,” via Cyclones.com.

“They played the perfect coverage to go against it, and we executed.”

If Iowa can continue to execute offensively, the defense should improve enough to turn the Hawkeyes into a dangerous bunch.