Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Walking to Class...

"Hey, did you come here for that crazy preacher guy?"

"Whaa..?" I muttered, nearly unintelligibly, back to him. The day's barrage of classes had worn me down, to say the least.

"Yea, he said feminists are going to hell because they want more freedom then they deserve or something! This dude totally owns his wife! He said earlier that dirty dancing is a sin, so some girl started grinding up right next to him. So awesome!"

"I'll have to check it out," I stated unenthusiastically as I walked to class. Sure enough, right outside the building where I was about to take an Anthropology exam, the man was there. He wore a well-trimmed black beard, with a 1920s paper boy beret atop his head and dated attire that appeared as if the mothballs had only recently left its premises. I noticed his sign, a laundry list of sins as common on this campus as Saturday night public intoxication charges and 2 a.m. Pancheros runs. Bubbly girls practically bursting with mockery rushed up to the pillar he was standing upon merely to take pictures, sent off to curious friends in class, while testosterone fueled machos challenged his views with blunt profanities and base insults as creative and insightful as an episode of the "O'Reily Factor." The worst was when the man received a call from his supposedly subservient "missus" back home at God-knows-where, only to become swarmed with crude remarks about "your husband cheating on you" or "why don't you pay taxes you "f*****g idiot," or when he quietly whispered about his father's alcoholism, largely to an empty crowd who had finished participating in their demeaning another person for the day, made much easier when that person seems so artificial and distant from what we see as humanity. Granted, this man was spouting absurdities, not grounded in reality, condemning the immoral masses to hell whilst preaching a literal interpretation of the Bible and professing to be a virtual saint himself. To take that, for lack of better word, bull seriously would be a gross ignorance and silly fodder for playful harassment from your friends. But something about the whole scenario just left me feeling uneasy, uncomfortable, not right. No matter the man, to treat another person as something sub-human, worthy of being treated like a dog, just isn't right. Yes, some culpability is on his part for coming to one of the most liberal universities in the Midwest and preaching of hellfire and brimstone, but this curb side preacher is just a voice, a voice like many other voices, who can be ignored, but never stomped and spat upon. People were so venomous and mean-spirited in their comments, malicious in their stares, that I was exposed to a dark, unrelenting side of humanity that nobody should want to see. When a human being is free from consequence, from nosy parents, church obligations, overbearing professors, or what have you, one is capable of grave, blackened evils. When a human being is unrestrained, capable of reducing another human being to a lowly status where it feels appropiate to belittle and attack like a boyhood bully, then there is obviously something inherently wrong in all of us. I understand that nobody, including myself, respects the self-righteous, you're going to hell type of condemnation, and rightfully so, but I just don't see the benefit or satisfaction in lowering a person to that level in order to feel more comfortable about one's own immoral lives. This was mob mentality at it's finest, and even when justified, as it might have been today, it's a scary thing to witness. Who's with me??

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Grave Injustice, Some Stifling Defense, And A Little Donahue Worship

One team stands 2-1, renewed with a vigorous hope pouring forth from the collective heart of a fanbase still reeling from the horrors of a 0-12 2008 season. They have just toppled the number 3 team in the country by a field goal, standing ranked in the top 25 only one measly season after being at the lowest nadir of college football loserdom. The other team, perched atop a plateau of 3-0, is fresh off a stifling non-conference victory over Arizona, an admittedly lesser Pac-10 school than the former number 3 team in the nation, and started the year ranked number 22nd. That team is currently riding a 7 game winning streak dating back to a shocking upset victory of Penn State the previous season, yet currently sits unranked and disregarded by the national media at large. The former team is, of course, Washington, a horribly overrated West Coast team riding the coattails of ONE win, while the latter, unfortunate squad is Iowa, still being perpetually punished for a miracle win over Northern Iowa in week 1 and continuing a disgusting plummet in the national rankings despite not losing a game yet. Let's take Michigan as another example of how the AP poll voters are biased quacks who base their opinions off of 10-second Sportscenter snips and namebrand recognition of regal college football "powerhouses" by "name" only. The hallowed Wolverines, unproven and fresh from a 3-9 season a year ago, remain the most winningest college football program in history (due in large part to the fact that they've been playing football since the American Revolution), so naturally after a hyperbolized victory over the grossly overrated and overranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish, irrelevant on the national scale (quality-wise) for at least the last decade, they move up from not even "receiving votes" in the previous week's AP poll to being ranked number 18. Because, of course, beating Notre Dame is always a national accomplishment on par with saving a child's life.

It is a gross and repulsive injustice that Iowa has fallen from the top 25...there is no doubt in my mind that had we beaten a Notre Dame or a Michigan this past weekend, teams on par with Arizona talentwise, then we would be back in the rankings and groveling at the top 20. I'm all for the underdog mantra of "staying under the radar," as I realize a lot of Hawkeye fans take a sense of pride in sneaking up on self-righteous opponents from that role, but rankings make a different in national exposure, recruiting, and how one is viewed in the all-important BCS rankings. If I said that I'd rather be unranked than ranked so that we could "sneak up on people," I'd be a liar. So while the double standard associated with big-name programs in college football is tiresome, I'm overly numb to it at this stage, and there is still no logical reason why the Hawkeyes are not ranked at this point. The pollsters obviously want us to prove ourselves on the grandest of national scales, beating the 5th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions to land our quiet name back in the prestigious rankings, but we shouldn't have to beat the number 5 team in the country just to sniff the top 25 again. It's just unfortunate that we could have thumped an unranked Notre Dame, and we would have been back in the national rank and file. That's all I'll say on that subject. On to Saturday's 27-17 defensive demolition of former Hawkeye Mike Stoops and his Arizona Wildcats on a brutally hot Blackout, perhaps the worst day of the year for it in Iowa!

The story of this past Saturday's rugged, hard-earned victory over a sleek, athletic Arizona team was far and away the defensive performance. The offense was, at times, sluggish and disjointed, especially with the continuation of Ricky Stanzi's first half passing woes, but the one constant was the defensive front's penchant for disruption at the line of scrimmage, as well as generally clogging the running lanes and holding Nic Grigsby, the nation's 2nd-leading rusher heading into the game, to only 75 yards, including 55 on one play. Adrian Clayborn exuded a freak athleticism that doesn't come around too often, racking up at least 6 solo tackles while constantly harassing Arizona's beautifully flustered QB, nabbing a sack and a late forced fumble on QB #1's unfortunate replacement. Even with all these flashy statistics, Clayborn's most impressive play came on a seemingly routine tackle of Grigsby after a one-yard gain, when both players got an even start from the jump and Clayborn ran across the entire line, chasing Grigsby down before he could even get started. Seeing a player so large chase down a much smaller, quicker player was a surreal experience, and a quintessential example of Clayborn's dastardly athleticism. Another wonderful testament to the stellar play of the Hawkeye defense would be the opposing QB play. Arnaud's performance last week was originally thought to be a nerves-induced rivalry choking, but after the duds put forth by Arizona's signal-callers, many Hawk fans are starting to re-think that sentiment. By the 3rd quarter, when he was mercifully pulled, Arizona's starting QB, Matt Scott, was 4-12 (?) for 50 yards. That's it. Though his strength was thought to be in his mobility, he only managed to pull off one halfway decent scramble. Everything else was squelched by the bad boys in black up front. His backup, more of a pocket passer, did lead the Wildcats to a garbage time touchdown, but he also threw the inevitable pick to Tyler Sash, a.k.a. The Velociraptor back there. Once again, it was like fielding a punt! All in all, Iowa tussled and tattered the Arizona offense all day, stifling the overmatched young quarterbacks, strong-arming the offensive line, and reigning poor Grigsby in like a a rambunctious toddler. On his 55-yard run, Amari Spievey made perhaps the best hustle play of this young season, chasing him down the entire field, not giving up on the play, developing a solid angle, and finally bringing him down at the one yard line. David Cato nabbed a ferocious tackle for loss on the next play, and Iowa held on to force Arizona to take a goal line field goal. Huge play. Though Iowa dominated the time of possession with an effective running game and some savvy plays by wideouts Colin Sandeman and Marvin McNutt, the score was still 7-7 early due to a nasty pick-six by Stanzi, and Arizona hung around up until a thoroughly dominate Iowa 3rd quarter, when two drives that ended in Daniel Murray field goals stalled what could have been a much more lopsided final score. Stanzi once again flushed a so-so first half with a sharp, precise showing after halftime, finishing with 205 yards and his lone pick. Adam Robinson continued his successful running, nabbing about 110 yards and 2 TDs, though a lot of his yards came on a 43 yard scamper on 3rd and 23, when KOK decided to play up to his conservative namesake and run a draw, only the line opened up a massive chasm and Robinson took full advantage. Brandon Wegher got in on the action himself once again, landing 43 yards and another impressive, leaping touchdown.

Another major story of this game, especially in the context of next week's big game, was the injuries. A lingering ankle injury kept the Glass Man himself, Tony Moeaki, out of this contest, but luckily his backup, the very capable and Brandon Myers-esque Allen Reisner, subbed in with flying colors, racking up about 40 receiving yards while showing off his wonderfully soft super-glue hands. Though Reisner doesn't have Moeaki's jaw-dropping athleticism or dominate run blocking capabilities, it's nice to know the injury prone superstar once again has a reliable backup. DJK also sat this one out with a hamstring injury, but luckily wideout is the Hawks' deepest position, and a vast array of characters filled in admirably, though I would like to see more of Keenan Davis out there. Perhaps the biggest, most figuratively and literally, hole to make up for was the conspicuous absence of left tackle Bryan Bulaga, apparently with intestinal issues due either to a thyroid problem or an infection from a tattoo, depending on who you listen to. No one seems to know when he will be cleared by the doctor, but in the meantime his admitedly undersized backup, redshirt frosh Riley Reiff, has done a fantastic, even dominate job, in his absence. He limited an All-Pac 10 defensive end to only one tackle, an essentially worthless game. But Penn State is another deal. One more player I should talk about is Heisman Candidate and Iowa punter Ryan Donahue, who has been having as dominate and entertaining a seasons as a punter could possibly have. He gives the Hawks fantastic field position everytime out, consistently pins the opponent inside their own 10/5 yard line, and contributed mightily to our narrow victory over UNI. If Donahue was a safety, only the gods could comprehend his potency. Donahue would possess a tenacity rivaling that of Bob Sanders, with a penchant for sternum-snapping hits and unyielding intensity, leading to the occasional "foaming at the mouth" whenever his rabid intensity exposes itself to the shockingly pleased Kinnick faithful, clad in midnight black while playing the role of bloodthirsty Romans clamoring for their ketchup-topped gladiator to slay the lion. His coverage skills would rival that of the fleece blanket wrapped around grandma's knees at Christmas time, or at least that of Champ Bailey. On a good day. Donahue would rise from his crippled feast, a mound of battered enemies, running backs searching for shoulder blades, wideouts missing toes, tight ends cross-eyed and stumbling from the severe spinal wreckage that Bomb-a-Hue proudly claims responsibility for. He raises his fist, bleached white, yet speckled with fresh grass and Nittany Lion cartilage, points to the lonely red-headed Hawk fan sitting in row 15, easily distinguishable among the Beaver Stadium White-Out, and shouts "I AM GINGER!" And you thought Donahue could only punt...

The epic revenge match against the Nittany Lions, which will be aired on ABC Primetime while welcoming in the College Gameday crew, should be the toughest test of our entire season. Penn State will bring new meaning to the words "motivation" and "hatred," looking to embarrass the Hawks on a national stage after Murray's field goal kept them out of the national championship last year. Not only does Ferentz's 6-2 record against JoePa suggest that PSU is our bitch, but even in basketball, a sport where the Hawks have barely been competent in recent years, Iowa knocked off the Nittany Lions in a late season thriller and kept them out of the NCAA tournament. DJK and Moeaki are expected back, but nobody seems to know if Bulaga will play or not, so look for Reiff to throw his 280-pound body into the biggest fire of his life. ISU and Arizona are one thing, but Penn State is an entirely different burn. We'll see. The raucous, much-ballyhooed White Out crowd will be a frightening experience, and new starters should be prepared to shiver in their cleats, but Penn State has played three straight cupcake opponents to start the season, and Iowa is their first challenge, a major one at that. It will be a competitive, physical, emotional game, with the factors stretched against us, but if Stanzi can limit the turnovers, the defense can continue to play at an elite level, and the youngest players can tune out the distractions of crowd noise, then we should make it a College Gameday to remember.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Kegger for Wegher, and other tidbits from the Cy-Hawk game

The run defense could use some work. Stanzi still hasn't played well in the first half. The offensive line can't seem to stay healthy and form a consistent unit. And, worst of all, it seems like Iowa's dominate 35-3 victory over Iowa State in Ames was more a product of Austen Arnaud's sheer incompetence than stifling coverage by an Iowa secondary that was more than questionable last week. Yet, the only two questions I had on my mind after this thoroughly satisfying thumping of our in-state little brother was "Who the heck cares?" and "Where's the victory celebration at?" That air of satisfaction embodied the attitude of most every Iowa fan, optimist and pragmatist, last Saturday as the Hawkeyes ventured on the road, to a place they had only been victorious at ONE time this entire decade (not since 2003 with the venerable Nathan Chandler at QB), and smashed their rivals in the biggest college football game played every year in the tiny state of Iowa, handing Paul Rhoads a humbling first loss as Cyclones' coach and relegating the Ames faithful to the middling stature of 3rd-best team in the Hawkeye state. Anyone who watched Iowa's first two games should be able to bellow with confidence that UNI is a much better team, both defensively and offensively, than the Division-1 Cyclones, so is it finally time that they realize the Big 12 is much too competitive for them to ever be successful, and become resigned to joining the MAC? We'll see. Right now, Hawkeyes infesting the rowdy streets of Iowa City on this Saturday night should be content to chant "In Heaven There is No Beer" at the local bars, kick back on Sunday, procrastinate on the inevitable piles of homework, and close those eyelids, just for a short while, with the satisfaction that your football team is unquestionably the best one in the state, and, right now at least, one of the best in the Big Ten.

It was a beautiful day in Ames, and the jam-packed crowd was as juiced as ever for what they had hoped would be a mirror of Iowa's last trip to State in 2007, when Jake Christensen and the heavily favored Hawks muddled their way through a dud of an offensive stinker, scoring only 13 points while the embattled 'Clones kicked 5 field goals to give Coach Chizik one-fifth of his career victories at Iowa State. The major concerns heading into this year's contest included the seemingly perpetual shuffling of the offensive-line, thought to finally be a full unit again with the return of left guard Julian Vandervelde and, more importantly, right tackle Kyle Calloway, but left tackle Bryan Bulaga was hospitalized late in the week with some phantom illness supposedly ranging from deadly heart failure to swine flu, and would be making the trip, but not playing. Kirk pacified any mortal fears with a reassurance that Bulaga would again play this season, sooner rather than later, but would not elaborate on the mystery illness or when he would be cleared by a doctor. Next, how would the gameplan differ with the obvious strength of the team being its passing? Would the coaches stubbornly stick to "balance" and predictability, or exhibit the confidence to let Stanzi air the ball out more? Also, the anemic running game gave fans reason to doubt the productivity of the offense against UNI the previous week. Would Adam Robinson be able to shoulder the majority of the load? Would we see more Wegher (hint, hint) or Jeff Brinson? Finally, with Shaun Prater not returning to the lineup until next week's game against Arizona, the secondary bore a major hole on the left side, likely to be filled once again by the shaky William Lowe/Greg Castillo combination. Would they be able to stave off a red-hot Arnaud? Well, you guys all watched the game, so here are the main points I could glean from it.

-Brandon Wegher is a young mustang. Wow, what a savior at the running back position! It's very easy to get lost in empty platitudes and absurd hyperbole for my fellow U of Iowa freshman from Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, but with the sparkling, explosive performance that he put on against the Cyclones, it became stunningly apparent that we have a more than capable running back for the future here at Iowa. Wegher made a bevy of eye-opening plays, included a leaping one-handed catch on a dump-off from Stanzi that would have been impressive had he just reigned it in and fell over, but was made even more incredible by the fact he maintained his balance while cutting and spinning his way forward for the first down. On one of the game's final, most punishing drives, Wegher nabbed almost ten yards a carry, darting his way through an obviously comfortable line's massive holes, charging his undersized body into the Cyclone secondary with reckless abandon. He finished with 15 carries for 101 yards and a diving touchdown from the 1 yard line, showing off his springy hops in the process of scoring his first collegiate touchdown after a senior year at Sioux City Heelan when he scored over 50 of them. Wegher is exciting because he can make plays athletically that nobody else on this roster can, and you can expect the undersized gem of the 2008 recruiting class to keep making them for the next four years. Oh yea, Adam Robinson had a pretty good game as well! He continues to run hard, and with fiery burst, rushing for almost 70 yards on just under 20 carries, setting up Iowa's first touchdown and providing a consistent option all game long. Look for Robinson and Wegher to get about even carries against Arizona next week. Paki and Brinson each nabbed a carry apiece, but both appear to be out of the rotation for the forseeable future.
-Ken O'Keefe came in with an excellent gameplan, and though it wasn't always executed to perfection, it showed a willingness to change and deviate towards common sense instead of what is expected all of the time. Seeing that the strength of this team was in its stacked wide receiver depth and gunslinging quarterback, the Hawks came out throwing, sometimes on all three downs, with 5-wideout sets! Never has Iowa run 5-wideout sets, or passed the ball to set up the run on first down. It was a bold, fresh decision by KOK, and a very fun, loose style of play that opposing defenses aren't used to seeing Iowa encourage. This may have been an abberration, as Iowa seems to have established their previously ambiguous running game, and ISU's Charmin-soft defense was just begging to give up yardage through the air, but whatever the reasoning, it was entertaining and refreshing to see KOK open up his playbook and let Stanzi dictate the game with the pass. Fantastic gameplan, and a huge reason the Hawks won.

-The offensive line did a very serviceable job against an admittedly overmatched Iowa State defensive front, even without Bulaga on the left side. Redshirt freshman Riley Reiff, known more for naked, drunken Pancheros runs than his play on the field, still needs to add some bulk, but appears much larger than when he was a freshman (yeahhh Chris Doyle yeahhh). He filled in quite nicely for Bulaga at left tackle, brandishing a mean streak and tenacity that are instrumental qualities to being an Iowa porker up front. Calloway's return made a huge difference, as well as Vandervelde's temporary effort, while Dace Richardson's return to prominence continues to be one of the best stories of the season. This line is deep, talented, with an apt blend of youth and experience, but we won't know the full extent of its dominance until we can have a week when they all are fully healthy. That is what defines a consistent, dominate offensive line, like our 2002 outfit. Hopefully against Penn State, the Hawks can acheive that.

-Ricky Stanzi continued his Jekyll and Hyde act with a 2-INT first half performance, then followed that up with a near-flawless 2 touchdown second half en route to the first 4-TD game of his career. He continues to prove that mistakes do nothing to influence his chuck-first, ask questions later mindset, and he is the king of "bounce-back" drives and performances after making a poor throw, but it's impossible to ignore all the points left on the board with Stanzi's shaky first half, when he consistently overthrew open wideouts and looked shockingly Christensen-esque at times. Luckily, his beautiful pass to DJK for the touchdown that put Iowa up 14-3 reaffirmed the people's belief that Stanzi can make all the capable throws, and his pair of second half endzone darts to Allen Resiner and Keenan Davis, respectively, identified him strongly as a clutch, 4th-quarter nightmare dating back to the iconic Penn State drive last year. If Stanzi's second-half passer rating were used strictly as a judge of his quarterbacking ability, he would be trumping Colt McCoy, not only in swagger but in the Heisman race. Just sayin'.

-Finally, I'll end with the undisputed stars of the game...safeties Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood, responsible for 6 Iowa State turnovers, including 4 interceptions by Arnaud in a paltry 79 yard effort, and 1 for his backup, Jerome Tiller. Black and gold pessimists will likely point to average defensive line play, allowing Cyclone back Alexander Robinson to gain 100 yards, as a potential pitfall for this team, and don't get me wrong, they will have to play better, but this is a talented group that can collapse the pocket and dominate the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, on this day, those interception were on Arnaud, not frenzied pressure from Adrian Clayborn or Broderick Binns. Instead of methodically attacking our soft Cover 2 with underneath slant routes and the like, always open with our secondary playing nearly 10 yards back, Arnaud, adrenaline flowing like a geyser, attempted to go for the homerun on numerous occasions, not anticipating turnover machine Sash would be playing centerfield and plucking Arnaud's duds from the sky like a low punt. Sash picked off three of Arnaud's passes, none of them requiring him to overly stretch his body to reach, adding some spice to the nabs with some fancy moves on his juke-heavy returns. He also forced a fumble on Robinson, a crucial turnover, finishing off his successful day with four forced turnovers, an unprecedented feat for a single player. If Sash keeps this up, he will break most every statistical record at Iowa, potentially going down as ONE of our best safeties of all time. Don't laugh. Just hope I didn't jinx him. Also can't forget about Greenwood, who fielded two major interceptions himself where he potentially could have called for fair catch. It was a satisfyingly productive day for a player who generates a fairly decent amount of blogosphere mockery. Amari Spievey had a relatively quiet day, which means that he was doing his job, while Willie Lowe played admirably at the other corner spot. Prater back next week, folks, so it's valuable that we've developed some depth in his absence. The Iowa run defense will be tested by the number 2 rusher in the nation, Arizona's Nic Grigsby, while Ricky Stanzi is pitted up against the fastest secondary he's had to face all season! Go Hawks, Blackout Saturday!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Stanzi is one lucky Manzi...

Saturday's near-disaster performance by the 21st-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes against in-state "FCS" (1-AA dammit!) powerhouse Northern Iowa will either go down as a legendary "wake-up call" for the ages, unveiling the quintessential next-man in, blue collar attitude that so binds the fabric of the Hawks, or a flimsy, luck-fueled abberation, a la Syracuse in 2006, when a passionate goal-line stand led to a 6-7 season. Iowa's offense sputtered and slumped their way through an uninspiring 17 points in 4 quarters, including only 3 at halftime, in this insanely odd, unconventional 17-16 victory over the scrappy UNI Panthers. My Hawkeyes were thoroughly thumped and trounced, out-played and smacked around by UNI's bigger O-Line, left clawing at the brand new synthetic turf as Panther QB Pat Grace sharpened the surgical tools and methodically dissected the shaky Iowa secondary, already hurting with inexperience and injuries, fooling them with fakes and finding receivers so open you'd think the Hawkeyes were trying to catch up on riding lawnmowers. UNI was the better team on Saturday, yet they did not win. Coach Farley did an amazing job inciting his troops and instilling them with the attitude that they are the best team in the state, that they could come into a golden rush of over 70,000 Hawk fans and silence every single one of them. They did. Yet in a shockingly un-karmic middle finger to the values of hard work and perseverance, as well as simply better play, the football gods thankfully rained on UNI's supposedly impending parade (Farley said it's not a matter of "if" UNI will beat Iowa, but "when") and gave us the unnaturally good fortune of two blocked kicks in a row, in 7 seconds, to somehow pull this ball game out of our magic hats. I'm not sure what that kicker could have done to deserve such misfortune (besides live in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and kicking field goals with as much arch as a Shaquille O'Neal free throw), but whatever he did, thank you. Because the tears were already welling up in my eyes, the anguish ready to explode from my chest, as I frantically thought of ways I would cope with watching MY Iowa Hawkeyes, the hot preseason sleeper pick in the Big Ten (at least before Hampton's injury that is), at my first collegiate football game as a student at my dream school, lose the opening game of the season to a school not even classified as Division 1. That, my friends, is called misery. Thankfully, I didn't have to skip my post-game ritual of calling Dad and discussing the game, on account of sobbing, as the Hawkeyes miraculously found a way to block those two kicks, even after a heartwrenching rulebook nuance allowed UNI to kick again with one second remaining after the first block failed to cross the line of scrimmage, when just about every Hawkeye fan across the nation was ready to unload a shotgun shell into his/her battered brains. Farley can talk all he wants about "woulda, coulda, shoudas" (forgive the cheesy colloquialism), but at the end of the day, my favorite cliche remains true: a win is a win, and the scoreboard says the story.

The question now is, however, where do we go from here? Next week is the big (well, in Iowa I guess) rivalry week, ISU-Iowa, and while this game usually has zero bearing on how the rest of the season plays out, and making predictions is about as wise as sticking your hand in Pat Angerer's drink during dinner, I actually believe this contest will go a long way towards determining if UNI was the spurring catalyst to success that we needed, or a blinding light exposing our every weakness and plethora of gaping holes. Iowa State beat some Dakota directional high school program something on Thursday night, winning in semi-impressive fashion and moving the ball fairly well through the air with Austen Arnaud humming along at QB. That's what worries me, as our secondary was exposed as faulty on Saturday, and I still contend that had Phillip Bates not played last year, Arnaud would have led ISU to a victory at a sloppy Kinnick field. I'm not worried about their running game, because quite frankly, nobody runs on us, and their defense looked lackluster at best against competition that wasn't even close to UNI's quality, so if Ken O'Queef decides to hand Stanzi the reigns, as he should, instead of manically striving for a "balance" that isn't there, I think we can move the ball with relative ease and make this thing a surprise shootout. We all know Iowa has struggled mightily in the corn-y confines of Lames, Iowa this past decade, as something about a shoddy high school stadium and ugly women cheering for flabby farmboys and scrawny Jucos just gets our boys nervous. Yes, Iowa will play tight, and Iowa State will play like General Patton just gave the pre-game address, but even with an unproven running game, we have the better team, and that is undeniable. Before I make a final prediction, I'll go over some positives and negatives from Saturday's game, with thoughts centered specifically on any lineup changes, injuries, or demotions.

Stanzi, for being sacked and faced with pressure on so many occasions, had a more-than-solid game, passing for about 250 yard and a touchdown. Protection was inconsistent, and the running game didn't give him much of a security blanket, but Ricky had the play-action working to perfection in the 2nd half, and developed a beautiful, easy rapport with Tony Moeaki. He also had a few nice passes to Trey Stross, Allen Reisner, a conspicuously absent DJK, and Marvin McNutt. Stanzi will be fine, so Kirk/KOK, let's make it become known that this is his team, Stanzi-ball or not, because with his arm and bravado, he gives us our best chance to win every week (as well as our best chance to lose). Adam Robinson will be the back, no questions asked, against the Clones. He has burst and runs hard, with something to prove. Paki runs hard as well, but that's about it. His one shining chance in the sun was an epic fail, to say the least, as he showed none of the burst or vision required of a D1 back. I'm a huge Paki fan, and I love his energy, but there is just no way in hell he can be our running back with his physical defects and inability to pick the open holes and go. I'd love to see Brinson factor in there somehow, as he appears to be the most physically imposing of the three, with the best chance at being an everydown back, but he has missed a lot of practice, and if you haven't played before, Kirk won't cut you much slack in that department. A lot of that will depend on this week's practice. Wegher appears to be an emergency situational option at this point. Our O-Line was solid, but with injuries and inconsistent shuffling abound, they were not the dominant, monogamous unit that they were last year, and not even close to matching the preseason hype. In pass protection they appeared to miscommunicate/get beat numerous times, but in the run game they opened up plenty of holes that just weren't always hit. We all took Shonn Greene for granted, that's for sure! They will be aided by the return of potential All-Big Ten Kyle Calloway from a one game suspension, as well as the gradual return of two-year starter Julian Vandervelde. The other major concern is our defensive secondary, which is young and overly dependent on one player, future NFLer Amari Spievey, for production, especially until Shaun Prater's return from OWI suspension just in time for the Arizona game. Greg Castillo was attacked on numerous occasions by the savvy Grace, while William Lowe appears a bit undersized to be a lockdown option at that position. UNI picked us apart in the two minute offense, and we have to get more pressure on the QB, conservative schemes be damned. We can analyze defensive match-ups and offensive line play all week long, but everything goes out the window against ISU, so I'm predicting a rare, close 24-21 thriller, with Daniel Murray coming through again!