Iowa football's offense shows life — but only in spurts — in win over Kent State
IOWA CITY — On an afternoon when Iowa's offense had a golden chance to answer several questions instead of create more concerns, the Hawkeyes meddled in the middle of stagnant and steady.
It wasn't the breakout performance many hoped for after two weeks of defense-heavy headlines. This unit, aside from two lengthy Tyler Goodson runs, still lacked the explosiveness needed to navigate the road ahead against opponents far superior than Saturday's foe, Kent State. And Iowa's play calling largely reflected that. But there were signs of life quarterback Spencer Petras needed to show in methodically moving the No. 7 Hawkeyes down the field on two substantial scoring drives.
Mix those ingredients together and the final product is one still worth questioning. Saturday's 30-7 win over the Golden Flashes isn't an offensive step backward — but it can't be classified as a huge leap forward. Those hoping to find clarity Saturday must wait a little longer.
The good largely revealed itself without any glitz and glamor. Iowa's middle two touchdown drives — one to end the first half, the other to close the third quarter — required a combined 31 plays to cover 175 yards, taking only 43 seconds less than an entire quarter of game clock. Only two of those 31 calls covered more than 11 yards.
But within those two lengthy possessions were several important moments of execution. The 20-play, 95-yard drive before the halftime horn saw Iowa convert four third downs, including the eventual TD pass to Sam LaPorta that gave Iowa a 16-7 advantage. The other featured much of the same, with the Hawkeyes picking up three third downs and one fourth down. Goodson's mad dash to the end zone from 35 yards out cemented the success.
"You saw the run game, the pass game, everything showed up," Petras said. "It was all 11 guys showing up. Those were great drives.”
In between that score and LaPorta's 18-yard catch to open the possession, Iowa had nine consecutive plays pick up single-digit yardage. Right now, consider that a microcosm of how Petras and company best operate. Easy, low-risk calls that keep Iowa in manageable situations. This offense, as is the case with many around the country, can't play from behind the sticks. With a menacing defense on the other side, the urgency to open things up goes way down.
The final stat lines look promising. Petras finished 25-for-36 for 209 yards and a score; he hit Nico Ragaini late for a 48-yard gain to boost that yardage. Goodson's 22 carries for 153 yards and three scores made for a career day — so far. And nine different Hawkeyes caught passes.
So there's progress to be found, certainly. But this showing still comes up short of fully answering Iowa's offensive questions.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.