IOWA CITY, Iowa – A season opener in college football is sort of like a movie preview.
You see enough to know something, but hardly enough to form any conclusions, either good or bad.
It would be easy to get carried away and proclaim Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels as the second coming of former Hawkeye one-two punch Nick Bell and Tony Stewart after what Wadley and Daniels accomplished during the Iowa football team’s 45-21 victory over Miami of Ohio in the season opener on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
Wadley juked and spun his way for 121 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries, while Daniels complemented him with 83 rushing yards and two more touchdowns on just 10 carries.
That averages out to a whopping 10.1 yards per carry for Wadley and 8.3 yards per carry for Daniels.
The RedHawk defense had no answer for Iowa at the line of scrimmage or when Wadley and Daniels broke free in space, which was often.
But on the flipside, the Josey Jewell-less Iowa defense surrendered 424 yards and 25 first downs to a team that isn’t picked to contend for the Mid-American Conference title this season. Jewell was disqualified from the game for targeting on a long Desmond King punt return not even three minutes into the first quarter.
There were times when Iowa didn’t have an answer for RedHawk receivers Rokeem Williams and James Gardner, both of whom caught six passes for 113 and 95 yards, respectively.
Miami running backs Maurice Thomas and Alonzo Smith also combined for 118 rushing yards and averaged an impressive 6.7 and 4.5 yards per carry, respectively.
Iowa helped its cause on defense by recovering three fumbles and getting three sacks. But to allow over 400 yards against what is supposed to be a mediocre opponent from a lesser conference could be reason to be concerned just like Iowa rushing for over 200 yards could be reason to be excited.
“There were some good things out there,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. “The turnover-takeaway margin was good and I liked the way our offense capitalized on the takeaways that we did get. Saw some good responses out there too, based on what was going on. So I think the team, at times, did a really good job there. All that factored, we had some new guys playing. So this is invaluable as far as them helping moving them forward.
“Then, like any game too, you have things that you’re not quite pleased with and there’s going to be some things that we’re going to have to work on.”
Ferentz was mostly disappointed with the Iowa rushing defense, which allowed 158 yards on the ground.
But you could argue that Iowa’s pass defense, led by 2015 Jim Thorpe Award winner Desmond King, was even worse, allowing 266 yards and 14.0 yards per catch.
Or better yet, you could reserve judgment because one game hardly makes a season. It barely makes a statement.
You should hope that Saturday’s performance will inspire the players on defense because there is no reason to panic at this stage.
The defensive players should be upset that they allowed over 400 yards to a decisive underdog, but they have to fuel that anger in a positive way.
“That bothers us a lot,” said sophomore free safety Brandon Snyder, who made his first career start on Saturday. “But it’s our first game of the year, though. We just have to get back, be critical of ourselves and watch the film and just figure out what we have to correct.”
Ferentz couldn’t have said that any better because that’s exactly what the Iowa defenders need to do. They need to use constructive criticism to help correct the mistakes from Saturday.
Offensively, the Hawkeyes need to do a better job of protecting Beathard, who absorbed two vicious sacks on Saturday.
But there was so much to like about Iowa’s performance on offense, from being dominant on the ground to how well the receivers blocked down field on running plays.
“I mentioned some things I was really pleased with and again, just standing from the sideline, maybe at the top of the list would be our perimeter blocking, which at times had not been great,” Ferentz said. “But those why those little, whatever you want to call them, quick screen passes to the outside, those are good when you block and they’re not so good when you don’t block.
“So, as simple as that sounds. But I thought we really, all the guys did a nice job out there and that’s really encouraging to all of us.”
Now it’s on to facing Iowa State next Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. The Cyclones under first-year coach Matt Campbell were trailing Northern Iowa late in the third quarter on Saturday.
But if Iowa fans have learned anything about the Cyclones over the past two decades, it’s not to read too much into the season opener, good or bad.
We got a glimpse of what to expect from Iowa this season. But it would be silly and short-sighted to form any opinions right now.
Nobody expected the Hawkeyes to finish 12-2 last season, just like nobody expected Iowa to finish 4-8 in 2012.
Just let this season play out, at least for a few more weeks before you either anoint or dismiss the Hawkeyes.