Doubting Iowa? Hawkeyes put on convincing show in 51-14 blowout at Maryland
The running game is subpar.
The offensive line is behind schedule.
The defense showed signs of decay against Colorado State.
So much for all that …
True, Iowa football entered Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium on Friday night undefeated and ranked No. 5 in the country but hadn't played the complete game fans hoped for. Their opponent, Maryland, also undefeated, was supposed to serve as the litmus test ahead of Iowa's projected top-five matchup against Penn State in Iowa City next Saturday.
The Hawkeyes passed with flying colors, crushing Maryland 51-14 in Big Ten play.
Here was that complete game — and then some.
Per usual, the defense jumpstarted the blowout win. Cornerback Riley Moss intercepted Maryland's Taulia Tagovailoa early in the first quarter setting up Iowa at midfield. As they've done every time this season (more on this later), Iowa's offense turned the turnover into points and took an early 3-0 lead.
Then some early adversity. Maryland marched down the field with relative ease, all passes against Iowa's vaunted secondary and took a 7-3 lead. However, Iowa's offense delivered arguably their best drive of the season.
And it set the tone for what was about to be a memorable 15 minutes.
Iowa's rush offense has been under severe scrutiny this season, and for good reason. Starting from their own 41-yard line, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz called Tyler Goodson's number three straight times to start the drive that became gains of 5, 6 and 5 yards.
Next play: Spencer Petras found tight end Sam LaPorta on a play action in which he was wide open. Four plays later, Petras quarterback sneaked it into the end zone. In total the drive went eight plays, seven of them went for positive yardage and the one that didn't was a dropped pass.
All in all, Iowa's first half couldn't have gone any better:
- Iowa's turnover differential: +5
- Iowa's offense scored on six of their seven drives
- Tyler Goodson and Ivory Kelly-Martin combined for an average of 5.7 yards per carry
- Punter Tory Taylor only saw the field once and kicker Caleb Shudak converted his only attempt
And now, a quick word on an unbelievable streak.
Entering the game, Iowa's offense had converted every turnover (9) into points (51). By the 0:04 mark in the second quarter, that streak extended to 13 turnovers into 75 points. Then cornerback Terry Roberts intercepted Tagovailoa at the end of the first half and the streak appeared over.
First drive out of halftime for Iowa, however? Petras found Goodson for a 67-yard touchdown pass and (unofficially) the streak lived on. At 82 points off 14 turnovers, that's nearly six points per turnover.
Iowa's defense has been at the forefront all season but the Iowa offense excelled on Friday night. Petras was in control and connecting on passes of all distances, Iowa more than doubled Maryland in time of possession and first downs and Brian Ferentz called a diverse game that kept Maryland's defense guessing the entire night.
The recipe didn't change. The Hawkeyes defense gave the offense short fields to work on but on two important drives: the one down 7-3 and the first out of halftime, they moved the ball at will and finished with touchdowns. Petras' fifth touchdown of the game, a short pass to Tyrone Tracy Jr. early in the fourth quarter, was the offense's ninth consecutive drive that ended with points.
The starting defense took a well-deserved curtain call at the end of the third quarter to the tune of four forced turnovers and only 214 yards allowed. Special teams added a forced turnover as well and Caleb Shudak converted all three field goal attempts.
A dominating win on the road over an undefeated team. Just what the doctor ordered ahead of the biggest game of the season.
Sixth-ranked Penn State will be a different animal and a much more worthy opponent but as far as questions, Iowa answered many on Friday night. There's no doubt Iowa is as ready as they possibly can be for what will be a college football playoff defining game.
And more good news for the Hawkeyes, it will be in front of the first sellout crowd of the season.
Kennington Smith is the Iowa Hawkeyes beat writer for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at email@example.com