Opinion | Iowa overcomes self-inflicted adversity to remain undefeated

The Hawkeyes trailed Colorado State at half but overcame the deficit in the second half for a 24-14 win.


Casey Stone

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras throws the ball during a football game between Iowa and Colorado State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Rams 24-14.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz made a presentation of sorts to his team a couple weeks ago ahead of a two-game stretch against Kent State and Colorado State.

Ferentz cited some of the “all-time disappointing games” in his 23 years leading the Hawkeyes — games where Iowa lost as heavy favorites, often to teams from outside the Power Five conferences. Through two quarters on Saturday, it looked like Ferentz was about to have another bullet point to add to that painful list of memories.

The No. 5 Hawkeyes (23-point favorites) trailed the Rams by seven at halftime but outscored them by 17 in the second half to win, 24-14, and improve to 4-0 on the season.

“A little adversity, and we fought through it,” said quarterback Spencer Petras, who went 15-for-23 for 224 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. “That’s what good teams do. When something doesn’t go right, you just right the ship and keep chopping. I thought we did that today.”

Iowa overcame adversity in the second half of its win — unnecessary adversity.

There’s no reason that the 1-3 Rams should’ve kept things close with the Hawkeyes. But Iowa’s worst half of football of the season ensured that was exactly what happened.

Colorado State scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the second quarter. The first came after a 22-yard punt from Tory Taylor set the Rams up in prime field position.

The second was a result of Petras trying to force the ball to wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. on a busted screen pass. The football went right into the hands of Colorado State defensive back Robert Floyd, who ran 62 yards down to Iowa’s 23-yard line. The Rams scored five plays later.

The boos from the Hawkeye fans filling the Kinnick Stadium bleachers were very apparent as Iowa went into the tunnel down 14-7 at halftime.

RELATED: Iowa remains No. 5 in Week 5 AP poll, Penn State now top-ranked Big Ten team

It took defensive end Zach VanValkenburg about two seconds postgame to say “yes” when he was asked if defensive coordinator Phil Parker was angry in the locker room at halftime (on a mad scale, VanValkenburg said Parker was at a 6.5). Rightfully so.

But Ferentz isn’t one to rip into his team at halftime. He said postgame he hasn’t done that in over 20 years. Instead, rather than crafting some sort of inspirational speech, he just put things plainly to his team.

“There’s no magic here. We’ve just got to go out and play better,” Ferentz recalled saying to his team at halftime. “We’ve got to quit helping the opponent.”

Iowa responded to its disastrous first half by shutting the Rams out in the second half (97 yards allowed), forcing a turnover (a fumble recovered by Jack Campbell, who had 18 tackles), and scoring three times (Petras looked good aside from the pick).

“We just felt like we had to go out and do something about it,” said tight end Sam LaPorta, whose 27-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter gave Iowa the lead. “We felt like we should have been winning the game, and it kind of pissed us off a little bit.”

No, the Hawkeyes never should’ve been down to begin with. But they responded how they needed to in order to still pick up the win. That’s more than some other teams can say.

Talk about a wild college football Saturday. Minnesota lost to Bowling Green at home. Clemson suffered its second loss of the season, and it isn’t even October yet. Oh, and an Ohio State player quit at halftime of the team’s Week 4 win.

The point is, college football is weird. Don’t overreact to Iowa only beating Colorado State by 10 points instead of 30.

All things considered, the result of Saturday’s game wasn’t all that bad for Iowa.

Yes, the running game only gained 54 yards a week after running back Tyler Goodson went for 153 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Iowa’s sharp defense couldn’t get off the field on third downs and was picked apart on dink-and-dunk throws. Did I mention how bad that interception was yet (Petras did look good other than the pick, though)? There’s some level of concern.

And back-to-back shaky games heading into the Big Ten portion of the schedule probably isn’t ideal. Iowa faces two 4-0 teams — Maryland and Penn State — within the first nine days of October.

Iowa players seemed a little frustrated after the win. They know what they’re capable of, and that what they showed didn’t live up to their standard. They shouldn’t have been trailing against a bad team. But they were, and they overcame the challenge they made for themselves.

It wasn’t a pretty win, but it was a win. The Hawkeyes are 4-0. And to them, that’s what matters right now.

“Every win’s a good win,” linebacker Seth Benson said. “No matter how it happens.”

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.

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