IOWA CITY, Ia. – When will you embrace the Iowa football team?
Last week’s win over Iowa State felt like a reconciliation, easing some of the tension from a 4-8 finish in 2012 and mixed results against Northern Illinois and Missouri State.
Saturday’s 59-3 rout of Western Michigan felt like a love-in. Plenty of backups played in the second half, including quarterback C.J. Beathard, with no unwanted drama.
But not everybody is falling head over heels.
There were 3,699 empty seats at Kinnick Stadium, mostly in the student section. The mood on Internet message boards remains upbeat, but a little cautious.
This was Western Michigan, after all.
“They got after us,” Broncos coach P.J. Fleck said. “They dominated the line of scrimmage, and when they hit us, they hit us.”
Fleck was being polite after a punishing defeat, but he’s a good person to make comparisons. Western Michigan gave a better showing against Michigan State, losing 26-13, and Northwestern, losing 38-17, than it did against the Hawkeyes.
“I was impressed with Iowa,” Fleck said. “It doesn’t surprise me in what a Kirk Ferentz team is like.
“He’s an offensive line guy. He’s tough. And he sets the tone for his team.”
Ferentz was modest about Saturday’s success.
“We’re pleased with the win, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “But I think everybody realizes we’re still very much a work in progress.”
Some of you still feel a little jilted, unwilling to re-invest emotionally until the Hawkeyes prove their worthiness in the Big Ten Conference.
Iowa’s three wins have come against opponents with a combined record of 0-10 (Missouri State 0-4, Iowa State 0-2, Western Michigan 0-4).
It’s easy to be seduced by a favorable nonconference schedule.
A win this Saturday in the Big Ten opener at Minnesota would be reassuring.
It would give the Hawkeyes their first four-game winning streak since 2009.
It would also keep the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy in Iowa City.
You want devotion? Bring home the bacon.
“There’s no question I feel better than I did two weeks ago,” Ferentz said. “We’re on the right track, but it’s day to day, week to week.”
The next six weeks could be a deal-breaker.
Iowa plays five games in that span against opponents with a combined record of 18-2.
“We’re definitely not where we need to be,” running back Mark Weisman said. “We’ll take it from here, get ready for (Minnesota) and see where it goes.”
The Gophers have won two of the past three meetings with Iowa and are 4-0 for the second straight season.
Michigan State (3-1) has this week off before visiting the Hawkeyes Oct. 5. Iowa has an off week before traveling to fourth-ranked Ohio State (4-0) for an Oct. 19 matchup.
After that, it’s home dates with Northwestern (4-0) and Wisconsin (3-1).
“Every game is going to be close,” Weisman said. “You’re going to have to grind them out, learn how to finish games.”
In other words, there’s bound to be a few more rough patches. That doesn’t mean the Hawkeyes won’t eventually win you over.
Andrew Logue covers Iowa football and sports media and has been with the Register for nearly two decades. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewMLogue.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football