IOWA CITY, Iowa - There’s a restlessness that comes when a.) you’re the No. 5 team in the nation and b.) you’re down by seven points in a sloppy, listless game at home in front of 65,000 fans who didn’t show up to see that.
And so, when Iowa left the field to scattered boos in Saturday’s home game against Colorado State trailing at halftime for the first time this year, the Hawkeyes knew that corrections had to be made quickly.
Those corrections turned into a 24-14 victory, Iowa’s 10th consecutive dating back to last season. The Hawkeyes finished September 4-0, with eight Big Ten regular-season games looming.
They put together a resumé that included a home win over a ranked Indiana team, a road win over a ranked Iowa State team, a coldly efficient home win over Kent State, and now this one, a furious scramble that can be a good education if applied correctly in the coming weeks.
“Just a lot of things that we’re going to have to get cleaned up here,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
The Hawkeyes trailed 14-7 at halftime, a 30-minute sputter that can, and did, fuel angst.
“We knew on both sides of the ball it wasn’t going to be easy,” said quarterback Spencer Petras. “Colorado State played really hard, but a lot of our issues were all self-inflicted.”
Petras would know — his interception late in the first half led to a Colorado State touchdown that provided the halftime deficit.
But then came the third quarter.
Let’s start with Iowa’s defense, which forced a turnover when Yahya Black knocked the ball away from Colorado State running back A’Jon Vivens near the Rams’ goal line. Linebacker Jack Campbell, who was everywhere on what turned into an 18-tackle game, pounced, and the Hawkeyes had the ball at the 6-yard line. Wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. then scored on a run to the right, and suddenly it was 14-14.
The Hawkeyes have been cruel with their takeaways this season — the nine they’ve forced have been converted into 52 points.
It’s why they have thrived. The turnovers have come at the right time, especially this one.
“Part of football,” Ferentz said, “is just cashing in on opportunities.”
“I had no idea what happened, and I looked back, and Jack recovered it, and I was like ‘Yeah, let’s go,’” linebacker Seth Benson said.
They were going.
Three plays into the Hawkeyes’ next possession, Petras gunned a pass to tight end Sam LaPorta, who was wide-wide-wide open, and now it’s 21-14.
Kinnick Stadium, which trembled with concern just a few minutes earlier, was suddenly rocking, and the Rams were done providing a challenge. Iowa’s defense would hold Colorado State to 32 yards on 19 third-quarter plays, draining all of the credit the Rams had earned by a first half of agitating the Hawkeyes.
“Yeah, at halftime we're behind and not playing great, quite frankly,” Ferentz said. “A lot of our own doing, some of the things, especially that field position. We put the defense out there twice on short fields.
“It is what it is, and you've got to live with it, and I just told the guys, that's why we play 60 minutes. We always talk about that. Everybody does. But let's play the full 60 and let's try to clean up the things that we weren't doing well and see if we can come up with something maybe a little bit better.”
Caleb Shudak added a fourth-quarter field goal for the final margin the Hawkeyes appreciated. They had been bruised and shaken, but they were still unbeaten.
Petras was effective yet occasionally shaky. He was 15-of-23 with 224 yards and two touchdown passes — the 43-yard scoring throw to true freshman Keagan Johnson in the first half dropped into the right spot for a 7-0 lead — to go with the interception he threw and the three times he was sacked.
Iowa didn’t have much of a running game — the Hawkeyes were held to 54 yards on 32 carries.
And, still, it was a win.
It’s a short week for the Hawkeyes, who play Friday at Maryland. Then there’s the October 9 home game against Penn State, and then six consecutive games against the curiously shaky West Division.
The Hawkeyes are 4-0, no matter how it has looked.
“Sometimes you've got to play through things, and today is an example of that,” Ferentz said.