Iowa's 24-14 smothering of Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl really put the final nail in the "Big Ten Too Slow" coffin. It set up the Hawkeyes for a Top 10 preseason ranking and possible Big Ten title run next year. It also introduced the country to the charm of Adrian Clayborn and the patriotism of Ricky Stanzi. That's great. But as a Hawkeye fan, as someone who was just enjoying the game, here are the five football things that I'll take away from the night that Iowa won the Orange Bowl.
1) Josh Nesbitt and Jonathan Dwyer combined for 95 rushing yards. Brandon Wegher, Iowa's backup who only played in half of the offensive series, ran for 113 yards. That 113 included a 32 yard touchdown run that doubled in length the best run that Georgia Tech could muster. For a team that was supposed to be a scary option, bringing back the ghosts of Mike Rozier, JC Watts, and Tommie Frazier, Georgia Tech never seemed able to, or even capable of, breaking off a big run. Yes,
2) This can't be emphasized enough - it's not just that Iowa forced Georgia Tech to punt. Surely no one thought that the Jackets would go a third consecutive game without punting, did they? What was more amazing was how quickly Georgia Tech was forced to punt. Through 13 games, Georgia Tech had 14 three-and-out offensive series. Let's look at their first half series on Tuesday night:
- 3 Plays - Punt
- 3 Plays - Punt
- 3 Plays - Punt
- 3 Plays - Punt
- 4 Plays - Punt (Yea! It took until the 2nd Quarter was half-completed, but Tech made a first down!)
- 3 Plays - Punt (Whoops! Regression to the norm)
- 1 Play - Half ends
A big part of what makes Iowa's defense successful is that they don't spend long periods on the field. Iowa's talent level does not run as deep as the other football powers. There is no available replacement of equal talent for Clayborn or Christian Ballard or Pat Angerer. That's why they play most every snap. By getting off the field quickly, they were able to avoid getting worn down by the Jacket offense.
3) Paul Johnson finally made the necessary adjustment at halftime. It wasn't to get Dwyer the ball more. It was to run exclusively to the right of the center - away from Clayborn. Georgia Tech ran 10 plays on their lone touchdown drive. The first was an 11 yard pass completion (one of only two from the game). The next nine saw seven runs around the right end and two runs between the center and right guard. Clayborn collapsed the left side of the line all game. His counterpart on the right side, Broderick Binns - an end more suited as a pass rusher, had a harder time doing this. When Johnson finally conceded that Iowa owned the left half of the field (and in the second half, there would be only two runs to the left), Tech moved the ball. It was too little and too late.
4) Ricky Stanzi is so predictable. In the eleven games that he played in, he completed a touchdown pass, or handed off the ball for a touchdown, to the white-jerseyed team in nine of them. This is ridiculous, but look at the teams that wore white
- Week 2: Iowa - TD Pass
- Week 3: Arizona - INT for TD
- Week 4: Iowa - Handoff for TD
- Week 5: Arkansas State - INT for TD
- Week 6: Michigan - INT for TD
- Week 7: Iowa - TD Pass
- Week 8: Iowa - TD Pass
- Week 10: Northwestern - Fumble in Endzone for TD
- Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech - INT for TD
He's been maddening, but he's also been brilliant. The first two drives of the Orange Bowl were literally perfect. 8-8, two TD passes. His scramble away from Derrick Morgan, who hardly seemed like a first round draft pick on Tuesday Night, was clutch. Finding Trey Stross for a third down reception that kept the final touchdown drive going was beautiful. Is it too much to hope that he takes another step forward for next year? Probably not. To be safe, should Iowa consider wearing the white jerseys at home as well as on the road? Probably.
5) Sell the Iowa defense short at your own peril. There are two times each year when college football offenses matter more than defenses. The first is when preseason polls come out and voters look at the skill players that return. The second is when people make bowl picks and focus on the talent on offense more than the talent on defense. It's not just the national media either. A certain Iowa blogger had the foolishness to predict that Tech would score 34 points in defeating the Hawkeyes. The Iowa College of Law shakes its head in disappointment at you, Mr. PowSurprise. The Hawkeyes have now gone 30 consecutive games without allowing an opponent to score 30 points. Do you know who has a longer streak going right now? That's right. Nobody. Now that's a 30 for 30 that I can get behind.
Over the 13 games this season, Iowa allowed the opposition to score 200 points. That's 15.4 points per game. That's really good. Here's where it gets better. 5 touchdowns, thirty-five points, came from the aforementioned Ricky Stanzi scores touchdowns indiscriminantly for the teams in white jerseys. If you eliminate those points, the Iowa defense only gave up 12.7 points a game. Mighty Georgia Tech couldn't even muster that against the Iowa D. I'm giddy thinking about at least 8 of the starting 11(make it 9 Amari Spievey!) coming back.
But, there will be too many days ahead when we can think about next year. This is a moment to continue to bask in the joy of this game. This absolutely perfect game.