A Hawkeye offense stuck in neutral puts together one encouraging late-game drive
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa waited until the fourth quarter of its second game to mount an impressive scoring drive.
It was enough to put away Iowa State 13-3 at Kinnick Stadium, thanks to another stellar performance from the Hawkeye defense.
But it also highlighted much of what had been missing from an Iowa attack stuck in neutral for most of the game.
Wide receivers Nick Easley and Brandon Smith had their first catches of the season, which was even more crucial with Ihmir Smith-Marsette sidelined by a shoulder injury after his 45-yard reception in the third quarter.
Tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson each got just enough daylight to make first-down catches to keep the 83-yard drive alive.
Running back Mekhi Sargent capped it with a 2-yard scoring run around left end that was the first of his young Hawkeye career.
All the pieces came together, and the Iowa offense finally resembled the one fans expected to see.
Junior quarterback Nate Stanley has not been particularly sharp in the early going this season. The wide receiver group had been virtually nonexistent until Saturday’s fourth quarter. Fant and Hockenson, a duo as talented as any in the country, had been relatively quiet. The play-calling by offensive coordinator had been relatively bland.
Perhaps what happened midway through the fourth quarter was a sign that all of this is about to change.
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It certainly needs to if the Hawkeyes (2-0) are to contend in the Big Ten Conference. They can’t always count on their defense to hold every opponent to single digits.
Maybe what happened Saturday was fitting since Iowa’s offense did the heavy lifting in last year’s 44-41 overtime win in Ames.
This year, it did just enough lifting.
Still, it’s worth noting that Iowa’s best play of the game, that 45-yarder to Smith-Marsette that started with the offensive line creating a perfect pocket for Stanley, who then made a perfect pass to his fastest receiver, was followed by a chop-block penalty.
The crowd sat back down and Iowa moved backward 15 yards.
The Hawkeyes settled for a career-long 48-yard field goal from Miguel Recinos. That seemed to epitomize the afternoon for Iowa’s offense.
Until that fourth-quarter drive offered a glimpse of hope.