Hensley: Hawkeye offense needs to help defense out

A win is a win, but for Iowa to maintain its winning ways, it will need more than a standout defensive performance.


Nick Rohlman

Iowa running back Torren Young during Iowa’s game against Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cyclones 13-3.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

I’m a big fan of offense. So, through two games, I’m not very impressed with Iowa’s offense.

But guess what? Iowa’s defense has sure made up for its lack of points. If the Hawkeyes play at the same level defensively as they did on Sept. 8 all season long, they’ll have a shot to beat every team on the schedule.

I can confidently say that the performance against Iowa State was the best outing I’ve seen from Iowa’s defense in recent memory.

On paper, Iowa State has one of the best offenses Iowa will face all season. Kyle Kempt is an above-average quarterback — he’s got plenty of weapons such as Hakeem Butler to spread the ball — and running back David Montgomery is the best back the Hawkeyes will clash against in 2018.

Taking all that into consideration, Iowa allowed 19 rushing yards, the fifth-fewest since Kirk Ferentz took over in 1999. Iowa allowed just 122 yards after giving up 66 on Iowa State’s initial drive.

That initial drive, where Iowa’s defense looked out of sorts at first, set the tone for the remainder of the game.

The middle of the field on the first drive was wide open. Hawkeyes Jack Hockaday and Djimon Colbert made their first starts of the season, and when the Cyclones gained 31 yards on a receiver streaking across the linebackers’ area untouched, it appeared as though it would be a long day.

But Iowa’s bend-and-don’t-break defense did just that — it held Iowa State to a field goal when it seemed a touchdown was inevitable. And from there, the defense never bent again.

Defensive coordinator Phil Parker dialed up a variety of blitzes, keeping Kempt and Iowa State’s offensive line confused. And when he wasn’t sending extra defenders, the front four had its way with the Cyclone linemen.

But, just like after the first weekend of the season, the offense is the main question heading into a matchup with Northern Iowa. Consistency is a major issue, as the Hawkeyes weren’t able to string together a legitimate drive until the fourth quarter, when they scored their only touchdown of the game.

I’m not saying Iowa is due for a breakout performance this weekend. I’m saying Iowa could use a high-scoring outing to get things back on track, specifically in the passing game.

The running game has been fine; the main issue is that Nate Stanley has yet to show any consistent rhythm with any receiver other than tight end T.J. Hockenson, and while his development is promising, it’s Stanley’s inability to find even Noah Fant that has me concerned.

If Iowa’s offense wants to start putting up points, it starts with the tight ends and the passing game. Fant has 7 receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown through two games.

Twice, the Hawkeyes started out inside Iowa State’s 30-yard line, and they came away with 3 points.

As I said earlier, if Iowa’s defense comes out just as well as it did against Iowa State, it’ll keep the team in the game, regardless of the opponent. Realistically, who knows if the success will continue. But at some point, the offense needs to step up, because after Northern Iowa, Wisconsin comes to Kinnick, and that game will likely have major implications for which team wins the Big Ten West.

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