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Digital Rewind: How Iowa’s late play cast some early worries aside

[ 0 ] August 30, 2014 |

As the fourth quarter of Iowa’s 2014 opener dawned Saturday afternoon, you’d have thought the angst was ratcheting up faster than David Johnson’s receiving yards total for Northern Iowa against the Hawkeyes’ green linebacking corps.

Too worrisome, too soon from Hawk Central’s first live game chat? Indeed, as Quinton Alston, Bo Bower and Reggie Spearman each provided promising moments late in Iowa’s take-it-and-run 31-23 victory over the Panthers at Kinnick Stadium.

That doesn’t mean the game was devoid of low-lights — either on the field or in the Big Ten Network’s broadcast booth – but there should have been just enough cheering to assuage anxious fans before an expected improvement at 2:30 p.m. next week against Ball State.

Check out a few notable moments from our first online odyssey:

PILING ON THE LBs: No, not the pounds. Merely a recognition of the drop-off in experience at the linebacker spot with the departures of Anthony Hitchens, James Morris and Christian Kirksey to graduation this past summer.

Johnson torched the seams and sidelines for 203 yards on just five catches, most of which came in matchups against Hawkeye middle men.

“52 froze, didn’t even make contact with Johnson…” commented HeneryHawk on Quinton Alston’s early struggles, and he wasn’t alone. By the time Bower made a sack and interception, and Alston and Spearman teamed up for a couple of late stops, however, there was enough positive mojo to hold the blasting over until next week.

PILING ON THE MISTAKES: Saturday’s game wasn’t free of first-game flubs in the broadcast booth, either. Play-by-play man Eric Collins is no stranger to the conference, but he had a poor 10-minute sequence in the fourth quarter. He misidentified John Lowdermilk as Jordan Lomax on a third-down pass breakup, causing analyst and former Iowa quarterback Chuck Long to repeat the error.

Just before Iowa scored its final touchdown on the ensuing possession, Collins couldn’t wait to give Northern Iowa a 17th penalty – one that was immediately called on Hawkeyes’ star offensive tackle Brandon Scherff.

“How about that?” Collins said. “Spoke too soon.”

He then stumbled over Scherff’s name with a pronunciation resembling “Sharff” before making a quick correction.

Nobody’s perfect.

TEVAUN’S TRAVELS: Tevaun Smith probably covered closer to 75 yards than the 35 that will show up on the stat sheet during his electric, field-reversing end-around in the third quarter.  The play covered 17 game seconds, and Smith was dodging tacklers for 15. He’d gained 8 yards and was within a couple of steps of the Northern Iowa sideline before he switched directions and traversed the final 27 yards gained near the Iowa boundary. The visual highlight of the game, for sure, and it brought out the excitement in fans and ex-players alike.

“That my folks is a PLAYMAKER !!!” uttered one chat guest.

“I’m glad I wrote about Tevaun Smith this week,” tweeted our Rick Brown.

McNUTT ISN’T SHY: “All I’m saying is give the wr a chance u see what we do with it even on a reverse” tweeted the former Iowa receiving great after Smith’s highlight-reel run. That comment followed a bit of a miffed riff in the first half, where he said: “Take a chance ruddock [sic]” and “I feel like he has no trust in our receivers.”

McNutt was more pleased after Derrick Willies’ 46-yard reception that set up Damond Powell’s breathing-room score. “See what happens when the ball is thrown downfield,” was the reply.

POSITIVE, BUT PREDICTABLE? There was a fair amount of criticism thrown Jake Rudock’s way in spite of a turnover-free, 31-for-41 passing performance and 250 yards in the air. In addition to fans and ex-players clamoring for more aggressive downfield looks, former Iowa quarterback Long found a tell in the junior’s audible calls.

“The audiblization has been 100 percent run,” said Long before a mid-third-quarter play. “All he’s doing there, for the audience at home, is they have a run called to one side. In that case it was to the right side, and he did not like it because of numbers, so he just went to the other side.”

The play resulted in a 2-yard gain for Damon Bullock.

Another check-down run to the left was less successful early in the fourth quarter.

“He should have checked the run the other way. Again, it gets back to all of his audibles, now, have been to runs,” Long said bluntly. “And Northern Iowa knows that.”

WHAT TO WORK ON: Saturday’s chat left most commenters relatively pleased with the second-half freedom on offense – to a degree. It looks like a decade-plus of perceived conservative attitudes from head coach Kirk Ferentz on the sidelines are tough to shrug off, even though offensive coordinator Greg Davis dialed up a couple of late downfield shots.

“Ferentz showed the same tendencies for almost his entire career at Iowa, which worked until the game itself morphed into the wide-open frenzy it’s become — which puts a premium on players making plays in space,” surmised user Blitz!. “I think the transition of the coaching staff was the first step in Ferentz’s own evolution, and now he’s continuing. I give him credit for that, as long as it continues.”

Check out the full chat replay here, and join in the fun at 2 p.m. next Saturday before kickoff against Ball State.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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