AMES, Ia. – The buzz around the Iowa football program during the offseason told a tale of hard work, dedication and hunger. This season was a chance to take a bite of redemption after a disappointing 2012.
The results, so far, have been an encouraging loss and a discouraging victory.
Today would be a good time for the Hawkeyes to show up with an appetite against an Iowa State team in search of a third straight win in the rivalry series.
The loser’s bowl hopes will be put on life support. The winner will move forward with some confidence. Iowa hasn’t missed a bowl game in back-to-back seasons since a three-year stretch from 1998 to 2000.
Does Iowa State have an advantage, coming off a bye week that allowed it to correct the mistakes it made in a 28-20 loss to Northern Iowa?
Or do the scales tip to Iowa, looking to prove itself after a less-than-impressive 28-14 victory against Missouri State?
“I think we’ll know more about that Saturday after the game,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I don’t know if there is an advantage to either side.”
Iowa has shown signs of being an improved team from a season ago. The running game looks solid. The passing game under first-year quarterback Jake Rudock has been, well, passable. The defense has been good against the run but is still missing a consistent pass rusher. And the secondary has been an opponent’s best friend at times.
Total offense per game is up, from 310.4 yards last season to 474.4 this season. Opponents’ total offense has dropped, from 381.6 yards to 317.5. But statistics don’t always tell the whole story.
“Stats are for losers,” New England coach Bill Belichick, who once had Ferentz on his staff at Cleveland, said late in the 2009 NFL season. “The final score is for winners.”
Eleven penalties for 100 yards last week against Missouri State took the shine off those improved statistics. So did dropped passes. Failure to convert on third down in the second half against Northern Illinois was fatal.
A victory over the Cyclones today would give Iowa some much-needed confidence and momentum.
It would also give some validity to the Hawkeyes’ improvement on both sides of the ball.
Follow Hawkeye football reporter Rick Brown on Twitter (@ByRickBrown) from today’s game.