I have to admit, at half time I said that it was not time to panic yet, but in that third quarter, I was starting to worry a little (and by a little, I mean a whole lot). But the Hawkeyes got it done once again and are sitting pretty at 9-0. Those 28 4th quarter points were more points that Iowa has put up in 6 different games this year and the most scored in a quarter since the 28 points scored first quarter in a 56-0 win against Ball State the first week of the 2005 season.
What was really remarkable to me (besides those long TD passes) was the defense in the 3rd quarter. With 4 Stanzi interceptions, Indiana had drives starting at their own 5, Iowa's 4, their 34, Iowa's 24, and their 46. That averages to a starting position on Iowa's 48 yard line. Indiana also got to the red zone 3 times that quarter. But the Hawkeye defense stood strong and actually outscored Indiana 7-3 in the 3rd quarter. Tyler Sash returned an interception 86 yards for a TD when Indiana was 3rd and goal. The defense also held Indiana to field goal attempts on the other 2 red zone trips (though the refs may have helped a little...both calls were very close). Indiana's kicker only converted on one of those field goals.
Stars of the Game:
Offense - Brandon Wegher
Wegher was probably the coaches 4th choice (maybe even 5th) at running back coming into the season. But with a slew of injuries he came out as a starter for the first time in his short career and had a very good day. He ran the ball 25 times for 118 yards. He had 3 touchdowns, including 2 in the 4th quarter that helped seal the win. He also had 1 catch for 8 yards.
Offense Honorable Mention - DJK
Though McNutt had more receiving yards and one more reception, I thought DJK was the best receiver in the game. He made a great cut on his long touchdown catch running through 3 or 4 defenders in route to the endzone. He also consistently broke free from his defender finding space in the defense. On 2 of Stanzi's interceptions, DJK was wide open, but the ball was just under-thrown (or caught up in the wind). He finished the day with 3 catches for 117 yards. vHe also did a nice job on kickoff returns averaging 27 yards per return.
Defense - Shaun Prater
Prater missed the first two games of the year under suspension. He also missed some time with a minor injury. When he has played he has been very good, but has been overshadowed by Amari Spievey. This week though, he had a chance to shine as Indiana wasvthrowing in his direction all day long (I would avoid Spievey's side too). And, for the most part he handled it well. He was 3rd on the team with 8 tackles (7 solo) and had an interception and 3 pass break ups. That's not to say he had a perfect game...Indiana's 2nd TD came against Prater in coverage (it was actually double coverage, but the pass and catch were very well executed). He also gave up a 45 yard pass where he was called for pass interference (great catch though by Belcher). Still, he had a very good game yesterday.
Keys of the Game:
The Red Zone
I wrote before the game that red zone play would bea key in the game and it definitely was. Indiana drove into the red zone 6 times. In the first half they came away with 3 TDs and a 21-7 lead. In the second half, however, their 3 red zone trips resulted in a missed field goal, an interception returned for a TD, and a made field goal.
Iowa was only in the red zone twice against Indiana's 11th-best-in-the-country red zone defense. The Hawkeyes came away both times with Brandon Wegher TD runs.
The Big Play
Coming into the game I was worried that the big plays would go in Indiana's favor. The Hawkeye defense and coverage teams did an excellent job holding the Hoosiers in check. Ray Fisher, who averaged almost 40 yards per kick return had just one return for 25 yards. Also, Darrius Willis, who has broken off several long TD runs this year, was held to 54 yards on 21 carries. His long of the day was just 11 yards. The defense really only gave up one big play, the 45 pass to Belcher. The good news, though, is that after the long pass, the defense held and the drive ended with a missed field goal.
Iowa obviously had some huge plays yesterday when coming back from behind. It started with the quintuple-ricocheted interception by Sash that he ran back for a TD. Then came the 92-yard McNutt touchdown and the 66-yard DJK touchdown.
Final Thought of the Morning:
This season has been a lot of fun and great to blog about. Iowa hasn't lost since I started this blog (knock on wood). Now there are only 3 more weeks to go...and that game at Ohio State in a couple of weeks looks like it might be one of the biggest games in Hawkeye history as there will be a lot on the line.