Digital Rewind: Finding relief after early Hawkeye hell

Danny Lawhon
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The sky did not fall on Iowa football Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

But that sunny ceiling on the 2014 season rumbled low enough to push fans into three and a half quarters of Hawkeye hell before a 17-13 comeback victory over Mid-American Conference foe Ball State came with the speed of a bat fleeing the fiery furnace.

For good reason, Hawk Central chat-goers were in full angst mode, with no shortage of culprits among their 700-comment feeding frenzy.

Three points through 56 minutes? Three missed field goals?

The way the final two touchdown drives unfolded weren't shocking or miraculous by themselves, but the force of the previous piling on was so one-sided that the positive emotional rebound never really came before, during or after Jake Duzey's deciding score.

And, let's face it, the Hawkeyes still have issues -- of all degrees.

SHARE THE SNIPES: Iowa pulled its collective rear end from the flames in those final three minutes. Before then, both the offense and special teams, in particular, were the source of much haranguing:

-- Kirk Ferentz: "Ferentz MUST adjust after this game. Ball St. has given everyone a blueprint for how to beat Hawkeyes all year," said commenter Blitz! "As opposition improves, that blueprint will be even more effective."

-- Jake Rudock: "I bet Rudock would fit in great in the MAC," Phil offered in the late going before the final drive. During a first half in which Rudock attempted just one throw that sailed 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, Phil said: "At least (backup quarterback C.J.) Beathard looked down the field. Rudock just checks down for 3-yard gains at the most."

To be fair, the first-half numbers were nothing special.

Jake Rudock's first-half pass breakdown did not include many shots down the field.

-- The missing rushing attack: "Averaging 1.5 yards per rush is the problem. Not Rudock," said Smitty. "Good grief." Another guest said: "The (offensive line) has such a size advantage they should be blowing the (Ball State defense) off the line and opening up truck-size holes."

-- Greg Davis: "I thought Iowa fired Ken O'Keefe?" chimed in one guest before Iowa's final drive. "Oh, wait, Davis = O'Keefe."

-- Jonathan Parker: Somehow on this vitriolic day, the redshirt freshman avoided a direct line of fire. But after his first fumble on a jet sweep, frequent commenter BonduHawk was a fan of punctuation: "That. Is. Awful. Wow." Smitty said that both Parker and placekicker Marshall Koehn should be riding the bench after his second cough-up on a third-quarter kickoff return.

-- The entire kicking cavalry: Koehn's pair of first-half misses brought a two-pronged suggestion from HeneryHawk: "Maybe the freshman kicker gets a chance? Kind of like C.J.?" Life wasn't much better when Mick Ellis missed his own chip shot of 29 yards. BonduHawk said, "I'd only kick the field goal if the ball is mathematically in the exact center of the playing surface, width-wise."

OTT-A-BOY: I can't go without crediting the Iowa defense, which stepped up time and again and did its part to keep Ball State out of the end zone.

The star of the day was Drew Ott, with 13 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, a sack and a forced fumble in the final minute.

"Ott is a grown man," said commenter Bill, and one guest even asked whether Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini would mind having Ott in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers needed a last-second touchdown to squeak by McNeese State.

OH, SCH … ERFF: Brandon Scherff's leg injury was thankfully a tweak rectified by a little rest and a few extra walking steps. But the coveted offensive tackle and everyone nervous and sympathetic for a half-hour.

"Great hustle, what a crappy way to lose your senior year and millions of $$$ as a first-round pick," offered one guest. "That really stinks."

Other commenters were struggling to find where the injury was, and I was equally stumped after watching the replay a half-dozen times.

But the senior from Denison was back on the sideline less than 20 minutes later and received a loud ovation.

The only bold immediate opinion came from ESPN2 analyst Joey Galloway, who opted for the negative.

"His knee brace is unbuckled," the former NFL wide receiver observed. "He's not coming back anytime soon."

Fans were relieved to point out the poor prediction later on.

BRING ON BEATHARD: That old saying about the popularity of backup quarterbacks got a full run on Saturday afternoon. Beathard showed up for one first-quarter series and threw a beautiful deep ball to Damond Powell that was a bobble away from an first-strike touchdown.

The effect of that deep ball became weightier as the afternoon wore on. As the offense's struggles piled up, flans clamored for a change of pace.

"Why couldn't Beathard come in?" said Rudock's big fan, Phil. "Rudock has not been impressive at all, and Beathard put one right on the money in the first half."

One guest in the fourth quarter apparently had Beathard's one-and-done afternoon figured out.

"Beathard screwed up his chance by almost throwing a TD," the chatter said.

Sideline reporter Paul Carcaterra brought up the designed two-quarterback rotation Ferentz had mentioned in press conferences and observed that Rudock didn't look too thrilled by the near-touchdown.

Galloway wasn't mincing any words when trying to put himself in Rudock's head.

"If I'm your starting quarterback, I'm upset by this move," he said.

Will there be more than one series for Beathard next week against Iowa State? Before Rudock's late drives, I'd have said, "Stay tuned." Instead, I'll just say tune in next week for our Cy-Hawk chat, starting at 2 p.m.

Miss any of Saturday's chat? Check it out right here.