Brown: Promising Iowa season rolls on
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz saw significant progress from his team during Saturday's 31-17 victory at Iowa State.
"Proud of the guys, proud of their growth," Ferentz said after his team outscored the Cyclones the second half, 21-0.
Ferentz went on to say there's plenty of room left on the growth chart, starting with a 7 p.m. game Saturday against Pittsburgh (2-0) at Kinnick Stadium.
"Hopefully we can keep pushing forward," Ferentz said. That's our mindset right now."
Iowa is 2-0 for the 11th time in the Ferentz era. Nine of those previous 10 teams went to a bowl game. The exception was 2007. The last time the Hawkeyes started 3-0, they finished the season in the Top 10 after an Orange Bowl victory.
Is depth at running back a concern?
The running back stable looked full when the season started. Now, not so much. LeShun Daniels was on his way to a second straight 100-yard rushing game when he injured an ankle late in the second quarter and didn't return. His status for Pittsburgh is unknown. Derrick Mitchell, the No. 3 running back, hasn't played all season. That leaves Jordan Canzeri and Akrum Wadley the top two backs for now. Canzeri had 124 yards rushing against the Cyclones, his first 100-yard game since Purdue (165 yards) in 2013. Iowa's running game is showing life. The Hawkeyes averaged 5.8 yards a carry against Iowa State and 4.8 yards per carry in the opener against Illinois State. Pittsburgh has allowed just 3.3 yards per carry this season.
Another test for the secondary
Iowa State's receiving corps made life difficult for Iowa's secondary the first half. The Hawkeyes got more physical with those receivers the second half, the line got better pressure on Iowa State quarterback Sam Richardson and the defense pitched a shutout. Now comes Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd. Playing his first game after being suspended for the opener, Boyd had 11 catches for 95 yards in Saturday's rainy 24-7 victory at Akron. Boyd torched Iowa's secondary to the tune of 10 catches for 153 yards in Iowa's 24-20 victory last season at Heinz Field.
The Kidd can kick
Punter Dillon Kidd turned in the best game of his career at Iowa State, averaging 47.4 yards in five kicks. More importantly, his hang time negated the strength of the Cyclones' punt return unit. Three of those punts were fair catches, and a fourth went out-of-bounds. Two of his punts traveled better than 50 yards. Iowa State had zero punt return yards. Kidd, who emerged from competition with placekicker Marshall Koehn for punting duties this season, has averaged 47.2 yards on his seven punts the first two games. Kidd averaged 38.5 yards last season, with a 33.4 net punting average. That net punting average is at 41.6 yards through two games.
Jaleel the real deal
There was a lot of concern about the offensive line, and replacing Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal, before the season started. There was not as much concern over replacing defensive tackles Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat. But Ferentz wasn't sure Jaleel Johnson and Nathan Bazata has what it took. He's not so worried now. Johnson recorded five tackles and a sack against Iowa State. "He's reflective of our football team," Ferentz said. "I think he's preparing hard and he's worked hard and clearly some good things are happening for him out on the field." Pittsburgh will be another test, even though star running back and reigning ACC player of the year James Conner (155 yards vs. Iowa last season) was lost for the season with a knee injury in the opener. Iowa's rush defense is eighth nationally, allowing just 49 yards a game and 1.78 yards a carry.
Keep those rally caps handy
Iowa has had to come from behind to beat Pittsburgh in the last two meetings. In 2011 at Kinnick Stadium, the Hawkeyes trailed with just over 12 minutes to play, 27-10. But quarterback James Vandenberg threw three touchdown passes, two to Kevonte Martin-Manley, for a stunning 31-27 triumph. Iowa trailed at halftime last season at Heinz Field, 17-7. C.J. Beathard replaced an injured Jake Rudock at quarterback the second half and Iowa rallied to win, 24-20.