Block Party 09/06/2009Posted by sportretort in Sports, Uncategorized.
Tags: iowa hawkeyes, ncaa football, northern iowa, panthers, uni
It was a beautiful, sunny day. A GREAT day to be in Iowa City. Then there was the football game.
To be sure, this was going to be a difficult opener for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Their opponent, the University of Northern Iowa Panthers returned
14 starters off a team that reached the Football Championship Subdivision semi final game last season, including senior quarterback Pat Grace and all five senior offensive linemen. It amazes me that fans from the state of Iowa following the Hawkeyes took this perennial FCS powerhouse team located in their own back yard for granted. The people sitting behind me were talking before kickoff about how they were going to leave at halftime if the Hawkeye lead had reached 30 by that point. Are you kidding me? This was going to be a tough, slug it out game. I did not realize just how close it was to be.
This game, as most are, was going to be decided in the trenches. And there, Iowa had a
problem. On Defense, Iowa was replacing two defensive linemen, Mitch King and Matt Kroul, that are now in the NFL, and were the heart and soul of the defense for the past 2 to 3 years. Their replacements, Karl Klug and Christian Ballard, were starting their tenure against an offensive line that has 5 returning starters weighing an average 306 pounds per man. That was a tough assignment. On the other side of the ball, Iowa had graduated guard Seth Olsen (now with the Denver Broncos) and tight end Brandon Myers (Oakland Raiders). Tough losses, but still the O line had plenty of experience returning. But 2 of the expected starters could not play, including their most experienced lineman, Julian Vandervelde, who may miss a few more weeks. Iowa had other issues as well. Replacing running back Shonne Greene (New York Jets) was going to be difficult. The Hawks lost the player they thought was going to start there when Jewel Hampton was shut down for the season with a knee injury. Jeff Brinson and Brandon Wegher were also hobbled by injury. That left Paki O’Meara and Adam Robinson as the only available healthy backs.
Iowa made the typical first game mistakes. They lost 2 fumbles, failed on forth
down late in the game when a play designed to be run to the outside was turned up the middle and stopped. There was a missed field goal. The Hawkeyes also had a 46 yard touchdown pass called back because of a holding penalty. Give UNI credit. They looked like the best team for most of the game. They could have and probably should have won the game. Then there was that crazy ending. The Panthers lined up for a 40 yard field goal attempt with 7 seconds left. UNI’s kicker, Billy Hallgren, had made 3 field goals so far, but had been kicking low line drives. The Hawkeyes get penetration up the middle and block the kick! The ball rolls off to the left and is surrounded by 4 Hawkeye players, but they all stay away from the ball. A UNI player falls on the ball and recovers it for the Panthers. Game over? Panthers ball? What is going on here? Somehow, the clock shows 1 second left. The Officials huddle and discuss for more than 8 minutes before the call is decided. Since the ball never passed the line of scrimmage, it was live and UNI’s ball. Just how all of this took only 6 seconds remains a mystery, but the Panthers line up to try a 41 yard field goal. Iowa again gets penetration up the middle and blocks the second field goal attempt! Game over, Iowa survives 17-16.
“Fans” are up in arms. Will Iowa even win another game this season? Soon, the calls for Iowa coach Ferentz’s head will begin! Lets all settle down. There are things that need to be addressed. The o line needs to get healthy and tighter as a unit. The running game must be better. That should come with better line play and by getting Brinson and Wegher healthy. The younsters in the defensive secondary will get better with experience. And the d line needs to generate more pass rush. But it was not all bad. The receiving corps as a whole caught the ball with their hands better than I have seen in a while. Tight end Tony Moeaki had a monster game. Sophomore wide receiver Marvin McNutt stepped up and caught 5 passes. When he had time, quarterback Ricky Stanzi passed well, completeing 22 of 34 passes for 242 yards and a td. There is still a lot of talent on this team. And they will still win 8 games or more.