Leistikow's First Word: Josh Jackson does it all; Hawkeyes' offense does nothing

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

MADISON, Wis. — Josh Jackson is great. He’s really, really great.

But your star cornerback can’t be your best offensive player, too... especially when he doesn’t play offense.

Iowa found out in rough-and-humbling fashion Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium that a good performance one week doesn’t necessarily translate to the next in a 38-14 loss to third-ranked Wisconsin.

The Badgers are a good team — maybe better than good. They’re now 10-0 and have already clinched the Big Ten Conference’s West Division title, with an eye now on the College Football Playoff.

Nate Stanley is sacked by Wisconsin's Olive Sagapolu in the second quarter. Stanley was ruled just outside the end zone to avoid a safety.

But the Hawkeyes made them look like Alabama on Saturday.

A week after exploding for 487 yards against then-No. 3 Ohio State, Iowa's offense was the worst kind of offense: inept.

Iowa gained 20 yards on seven drives in the first half, gaining one first down on 23 snaps. And, amazingly, it got even worse, with Iowa having 14 total yards on 26 plays after another three-and-out to start the third.

At one point in the fourth quarter, Iowa had 46 total yards on 43 plays.

In the second quarter, the Hawkeyes punted five times and netted minus-2 yards.

I don’t remember everything about Iowa’s 44-7 loss at Arizona State in 2004 — a futile offensive performance (100 total yards) that coach Kirk Ferentz occasionally references as a low point — but what happened in Saturday had to be on par or worse.

All the old stuff that frustrated Hawkeye fans and coaches early in the Big Ten Conference season cropped up. There was a key first-half drop by freshman Ihmir Smith-Marsette when Iowa desperately needed a first down. There were two false starts on Iowa’s freshman tackles that put the challenged offense in third-and-impossible situations. There were poorly judged punts (by a senior) that cost Iowa critical field position.

Still, the Hawkeyes hung in there behind an opportunistic defense that created four turnovers in two-plus quarters. They trailed only 17-14, thanks to Jackson’s two interception-return touchdowns — one 90 seconds into the game, one early in the third quarter. Jackson now has seven thefts this season, which likely will be tops in the country after Saturday's games are done. 

(Hello, Thorpe Award people?)

But by the time Wisconsin's student section was jumping around at end the third quarter, the Badgers had countered thanks to two big Iowa mistakes. A botched snap from James Daniels to Nate Stanley went for a Badgers' fumble-return touchdown, and a Stanley interception set Wisconsin up on another short field after the Hawkeye offense showed its first (brief) signs of life.

It quickly went from 17-14 to 38-14.

So the Hawkeyes are now 6-4 overall, 3-4 in the Big Ten. They've got two extremely winnable games remaining, vs. Purdue and at Nebraska, and can still bask in the glow of last week's pasting of Ohio State. The Buckeyes put the hammer down on Michigan State, 48-3, on Saturday.

Last week's Iowa performance coupled with Saturday's, though, doesn't equate. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 23 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.