For this weekly column, the Minnesota Daily will interview someone knowledgeable about Minnesota’s next opponent. Blake Dowson, the sports editor for Iowa’s student newspaper the Daily Iowan, was interviewed this week.
Dowson covers football and baseball for the Daily Iowan.
Q: What do you think Iowa has done well and what do you think they need to improve on?
A: There hasn’t been a lot to brag about with Iowa this year. I’ll start with the stuff they’re doing not so well. The rush defense is the thing that they’ve harped on the most. It’s been ridiculously porous all year. Josey Jewell, middle linebacker, kind of like the heart and soul of the defense, talks a lot about how it’s miscommunication between the defensive line and everyone else. Getting everyone in their spots. They gave up over 200 yards in the second half against North Dakota State. They gave up right around 200 yards against Northwestern too. [Quarterback] C.J. Beathard is about the only good thing on offense right now and he’s not exactly reading pressure in the pocket either. Every now and then, he’ll make throws that make you stop what you’re doing, it’s amazing. It seems like he doesn’t have a ton to work with either. The receiver depth is brutal right now.
Q: Do you think Beathard has NFL potential?
A: I think he does. I actually tweeted that out after their last football game. He made this throw, this touchdown pass to Riley McCarron. He was falling backwards. He threw off his back foot, across his body, across the field to McCarron before McCarron even came out of his cut. Threw an absolute dime to him in the end zone. I think with his mobility and his arm strength, he can make any throw you ask him to and he’s pretty heavy too. His family has some NFL pedigree too with his grandpa being a former NFL general manager. I think he’ll get a shot.
Q: Do you think the North Dakota State loss is a testament to how good of a program NDSU is or how inconsistent Iowa has looked?
A: They talked before that game about how good North Dakota State was. Quite honestly, North Dakota State is the best team they played in the non-conference [schedule]. Iowa State isn’t a good football team and neither is Miami (Ohio). So it’s not like they overlooked North Dakota State, but at this point in the year, I think North Dakota State is the better football team. They are extremely well coached. They didn’t make a single mistake all game and they bullied Iowa about the entire game, which doesn’t happen to Iowa that much. North Dakota State was bigger, stronger and better condition in the fourth quarter. It was just kind of a butt kicking in the fourth quarter.
Q: What do you think Iowa will have to do to have success against the Gophers?
A: I think it starts with the ground game. They need to get [LeShun Daniels] going. I think they had 79 yards rushing on 41 carries against Northwestern. If Iowa wants to win football games they have to get somewhere north of 150 yards rushing. As talented as C.J. Beathard is, he can’t carry an offense through the air with Riley McCarron as his No. 1 wide receiver now. So they need to get the ground game going. I think it will help that the offensive line will all be playing together for the third week in a row now. They’re finally somewhat healthy so that help. But they’re going to have to figure out how to get some yards on the ground and how to stop teams for 200 yards rushing on the ground.
Q: Head coach Kirk Ferentz said Iowa is looking for an identity right now. What do you think that identity could be?
A: I think [it’s] the same as it is every single year with a coach Ferentz team. They want to be able to run the ball and they just haven’t been able to that this year. They call themselves ‘the bullies of the Big Ten,’ that’s what the offensive line wants to call themselves. The so called ‘bullies of the Big Ten’ got pushed around by a Division I double A team earlier this year. So clearly they don’t have that identity right now, but that’s what they want to get to. In the fourth quarter, when they were really grinding the opponent’s defensive line and they’re able to run the ball in the fourth quarter. They just haven’t been able to do that.
Q: Where do you see this program heading in the future?
A: That’s a tough question. If you would’ve asked me two weeks into the season, I [would’ve said] they were heading in the right direction. Recruitment wise, they have a ton of momentum right now. I think they still have a top-20 class coming in next year at this point but these two losses in the last three weeks have definitely made them take a step back a little bit. Losing to North Dakota State and Northwestern will do that for you. You don’t get a lot of respect losing to those teams in the national spotlight. So I think the rest of this year will be really telling in that aspect, to see how they finish. They really didn’t have any adversity last year during the regular season and now they do. This is the first time some of these guys have to handle that adversity.
Speed Round Questions
Q: How many wins will Iowa get?
Q: C.J. Beathard on a scale from 1-10?
Q: Iowa’s best offensive player?
A: C.J. Beathard.
Q: Iowa’s best defensive player?
A: Josey Jewell
Q: Does C.J. Beathard pass for more than 200 yards against Minnesota?
Q: Big Ten Champion?
A: Ohio State.
Q: Big Ten Player of the Year?
A: J.T. Barrett.
Q: Heisman winner?
A: Deshaun Watson
Q: National Championship winner?
Q: Score prediction?
A: 38-24 Gophers.