Hawkeyes find some fourth quarter magic

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The biggest story of this game is Marcus Coker, who ran for an Iowa bowl game record 219 yards on 33 carries. He has answered Iowa's running back question, and answered it in a big way. Wegher, Hampton, Robinson...I think the Hawkeyes will be just fine with Coker.

However, it is pretty hard to ignore that Iowa actually had a fourth quarter go its way after the struggles earlier this year. There were really three key plays that made the difference in crunch time. The first was Micah Hyde's pick six. Gabbert's throw was a terrible, terrible decision and Hyde made him pay with a crazy interceptions return.

Next was the 4th down incompletion with just over 2 minutes left. Initially it was ruled a catch on the field, but replayed showed that the receiver let the ball hit the ground as he was bouncing out of bounds. Iowa ball. (This play was set up by a perfectly dialed up blitz by James Morris that rushed Gabbert into a bad throw on 3rd down).

The final play that made the difference is why Ken O'Keefe is Iowa's offensive coordinator. On a 3rd-and-3, which had been a running down all game long, and less than a minute left in the game, everyone--me, you, the whole state of Arizona, and most importantly Missouri's defense--knew it was going to be a run by Coker... Play-action to Reisner, wide open with blockers in front of him, 39 yards and down at the 1. I which he would have been able to punch it in for the exclamation point, but that play was enough for Iowa to take a knee and run out the clock.

The future looks bright

One thing I noticed tonight was all of the young guys stepping up and making big plays. It was actually the seniors that looked a little rusty. Stanzi didn't have a great game and looked more like 2009 Stanzi with a couple of picks. Reisner dropped a few balls, and the seniors on the defensive were pretty quite. The underclassmen really stepped up though.

Freshmen
  • Coker is the obvious one, but definitely not the only.
  • James Morris looked like the best linebacker out there for Iowa. He was good in run support and decent against the pass (better than Johnson for sure).
  • Tanner Miller stepped in a safety and played well.
  • Mike Meyer nearly missed a PAT, but made both of his FGs, which were very important to the game's outcome.
Sophomores
  • I thought James Ferentz played well and had a huge block on Coker's long TD.
  • Hyde had the pick-six and at least had less balls thrown his directions than Prater.

The offensive line showed up

Coming into the game, Missouri's one weakness this year had been against the run. Iowa was able to exploit it with a dominating effort by the offensive line. Coker had big holes and cutback lanes to run through all night. The O-line was often getting to the second level and getting blocks on guys down field when Missouri was loading the box with 8 or 9 men consistently.

The blitz pick up was also tremendous. I had read a lot of the Tiger's aggressive defense that likes to blitz and bring pressure from all over the field. How they average over 3 sacks per game and would surely test Stanzi. Well, Iowa's offensive line didn't allow a single sack. The one time Stanzi was pressured he skirted one tackled and was able to turn it into a 7-yard gain.

The offensive line loses Vandervelde and Koeppel next year, but stepping right up will be Gettis and MacMillan who both have about half of a season's worth of starting experience. The offensive line should be very solid next year and it'll be fun to see what Coker can do behind it.

Keys to the game revisited

The Fourth Quarter - Success! Iowa was able to overcome a bad interception thrown by Stanzi with a couple of huge plays. The fourth quarter was wild and crazy and one to remember.

The First Quarter - More success. All the so-called distractions didn't seem to be bother Iowa at the beginning of the game. They came out sharp and move right down the field to go up 7.

Running the Ball - You get the idea.

Final thoughts for tonight

  • Hopefully this is a game that Iowa can leverage to start a streak of close games that are wins, a la Penn State in 2008.
  • This win definitely eases some of the pains from the 5-loss, disappointing season. It sends the seniors, which have done some great things in their 4/5 years here, off on a nice note.
  • I cannot say enough about Coker. He looked like Shonn Greene v2.0 out there at times. It may have taken a couple of transfers, a couple of injuries, and a suspension, but the Hawkeyes have found their running back.
  • The defense and the offense were frustrating at times tonight, but seriously, Norm Parker and Ken O'Keefe are doing a great job. I think KOK called a game to Iowa's strengths and did a great job sticking with the true freshman running back instead of trying to rely on a senior quarterback when it was obvious the run game was working. The call at the end of the game was perfect too. The defense definitely struggled at times to stop Gabbert, but the bend-but-don't-break worked. Blitzes were called at the right times and big plays were made when they were needed.
  • I vote to give Micah Hyde a shot as a kick/punt returner. Sandemann and Chaney (and DJK) are all gone and Hyde has been dynamic the couple of times he has had the ball in his hands.
  • Final thought...does Iowa end up ranked in the final polls? I could see some voters sneaking the Hawks back in at #25. A record of 8-5 is a pretty tough sell, but wins over Michigan State and Missouri are impressive and the losses were all by less than a score.
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