Leistikow: Iowa widens the Cy-Hawk gap in emphatic win
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Before the season, Iowa’s talented football video department produced a 3½-minute piece on the meaning of the Hawkeyes’ signature logo.
“This Tiger Hawk doesn’t only stand for Iowa City,” star quarterback C.J. Beathard says as the music crescendos.
Star cornerback Desmond King follows: “This Tiger Hawk stands ... for the Hawkeye State.”
Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium, they emphatically proved it, showing that a wide gulf has been created between the state’s Power Five programs.
The 10th-ranked Hawkeyes put the pedal to the floor and didn’t let up in an impressive 42-3 victory against Iowa State.
On the same week Kirk Ferentz signed on to be Iowa’s head coach through 2025, he showed the new guy to this rivalry, rookie Cyclones coach Matt Campbell, that there’s a lot of catching up to do.
Ferentz had an indication this performance was coming, after what he called "a relentless week" of practice.
"Really proud of the way the guys prepared this last week," Ferentz said. "And certainly tonight, they showed up and competed.”
Too often, Ferentz has brought the superior team into this grudge match and let the Cyclones stay too close. It's why even after Saturday's win, he's still .500 (9-9) against the Cyclones.
But this wasn’t 2014 Kirk, the guy who was way too conservative with a 14-3 halftime lead here at Kinnick Stadium and lost 20-17 on a final-seconds field goal to a lousy Cyclone team.
This was 2016 Kirk, delightfully aggressive from start to finish. What came from it was the largest victory margin in the series since 1997.
“It’s like big brother, little brother," Iowa running back Akrum Wadley said. "This game is always a hard, tough game. We came out (and) were the better team today."
From the get-go in improving to 2-0, the Hawkeyes were clutch — Beathard zinging a ball to George Kittle on third-and-goal for the game’s first score, a 9-yard strike.
The Hawkeyes were smart, faking a handoff to Wadley and sending him past Iowa State’s puzzled secondary for a 26-yard touchdown catch and a 14-0 lead.
The Hawkeyes were bold, gaining 25 yards on a reverse run with Matt VandeBerg to end the first quarter, then going for a fourth-and-2 (and getting it) on their way to a 21-3 lead.
By the time the third quarter was over, Iowa had scored more points (42) than any of Ferentz’s previous 17 teams in this series while allowing just three.
That’s how you own your in-state rivals: Put them down early, and don't let them come up for air.
“To be able to go out there and perform like we did," said LeShun Daniels Jr., who rushed 15 times for 112 yards, "that was a sweet feeling.”
Hayden Fry once won 15 straight times against the Cyclones. His statue is now in Coralville.
This is just two in a row for Ferentz, but this is what Hawkeye fans have clamored for years to see — not to mention the dozens of committed and potential recruits in the sold-out, striped-out stands under the lights.
It really couldn't have been scripted any better.
Iowa played another clean game. Still no turnovers in 2016. Beathard threw for three touchdowns, like he did last year against the Cyclones, and added another one on the ground.
The offense is averaging 43.5 points a game. It's 10-for-10 in red-zone opportunities with nine touchdowns.
“Certain games, when you get a couple completions, you kind of get in a groove," said Beathard, who finished 19-for-28 for 235 yards. "This was one of those games.”
Defensively, the Hawkeyes looked like they had something to prove after a leaky Week 1 performance against Miami of Ohio. And with Josey Jewell (team-high nine tackles) back in the fray after last week's targeting ejection, they showed a suffocating defense that'll be required to contend for a Big Ten Conference championship.
"I was really hungry for this game," Jewell said, "and ready for it the whole week."
VandeBerg, not Allen Lazard, was the best receiver on the field, with a career-high 129 yards through the air (plus those 25 on the ground).
You can bet the folks in Ames are glad Beathard and VandeBerg are seniors, after what they've done to the Cyclones the past two seasons.
Next year in Ames might be a different story. Campbell will have another year under his belt. Iowa will have a new quarterback.
But Saturday showed that, for now, the Hawkeyes have taken control of this rivalry. And it's not close.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 22 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.