IOWA CITY, Ia. – It’s a school of thought that’s been part of football since they started putting facemasks on helmets. And probably before that.
You’ve probably heard it hundreds of times: A team makes the most improvement from Game 1 to Game 2. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz subscribes to that axiom. Now it’s up to his team to turn words into action.
Iowa opened the 2014 season with a hard-fought 31-23 victory over Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes left plenty of correctable moments on the field.
“Clearly we need to make strides, and that’s part of the deal,” Ferentz said. “That’s what the challenge for the whole season is. We need a good week of practice, certainly, and we’ll be playing a tough opponent again.”
That’s Ball State of the Mid-American Conference, at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. MAC schools Central Michigan in 2012 and Northern Illinois last season have won at Kinnick . Ball State, a 30-10 winner over Colgate in its opener, is coming off a 10-win season and a bowl appearance in 2013.
While Iowa’s coaches dissect Ball State, the key to this game – and the season – will be taking place in the film room and practice field at Iowa. The Hawkeyes will only improve if they look in the mirror, see what they did wrong against Northern Iowa and spruce themselves up.
Correct those teachable moments, and the jump from Week 1 to Week 2 will be a step in the right direction.
It’s no guarantee.
“You have to make it happen,” Ferentz said.
That didn’t happen in 2013. There were plenty of encouraging signs in a season-opening 30-27 loss to a Northern Illinois team coming off an Orange Bowl appearance. But Week 2′s 28-14 victory over Missouri State was a step back.
The Iowa team gathered Sunday to watch film of the Northern Iowa game. But one player got an early start. Jordan Lomax, who started his first game at free safety after moving from cornerback, was planning to review the game Saturday afternoon on his iPad.
He wanted to see how Northern Iowa running back David Johnson had gotten so open coming out of the backfield, and what the safeties should have done to not let him run free.
Quarterback Jake Rudock, who completed a career-best 31 passes in 41 attempts, will look to see how he could have made the offense run better. An offense that needs to stretch the field and strike downfield more than it did against the Panthers.
“You learn from wins and losses,” Rudock said. “Sometimes you learn more from a loss. But the important thing is to always learn from what you did. That’s why we have film with two angles on every single play, so that we can see what we need to do better as a team.”
Although the Iowa defense was generous against the pass – Northern Iowa quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen passed for 380 yards – it was as stubborn as advertised against the run. With tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat playing a monster game, the interior line accounted for six of the nine tackles for a loss, and three of the five sacks. The Panthers managed just 25 rushing yards – the fewest for an Iowa opponent since 2008 – on 25 attempts.
Now comes Ball State with a run-first attack – backs Jahwan Edwards and Horactio Banks both cracked the 100-yard mark against Colgate.
Iowa’s own ground game wasn’t very effective in Week 1. Thirty-six carries accounted for 151 yards. Five different backs carried the ball in the first two possessions, but wide receiver Tevaun Smith was the leading ground gainer with 35 yards on an end around. That is another area that needs to be cleaned up.
“Get better next week,” running back Mark Weisman said. That’s all that matters.”
And the kicking game remains a work in progress. Placekicker Marshall Koehn made a 40-yard field goal but missed one from 37. Punter Dillon Kidd, who beat out incumbent Connor Kornbrath, averaged just 36.2 yards on four punts and didn’t get much elevation on those kicks.
Against Ball State, we’ll find out if the Hawkeyes are a better team on Sept. 6 than they were on August 30.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football