The Iowa Hawkeyes offense looked confused and challenged on Saturday as it lost 9-6 to Iowa State in Kinnick Stadium.

Those would be two of the kindest adjectives you can find to describe what we saw in this year’s installment of the CyHawk Series.

Iowa was 5 of 17 on third downs. James Vandenberg was 20 of 42 for 236 yards and two interceptions. Iowa was 0 of 2 on rezone chances related to touchdowns scored, making them 0 of 6 on the season. Two of those possessions saw Iowa have 1st and goal inside the five yard line, only to come away with field goals; once against NIU and once against Iowa State.

Iowa had several chances to take the lead in this game in the second half thanks to a fantastic job by the Iowa defense.

For the second week in a row the Iowa defense made fantastic adjustments at halftime and played well above the level I expected them to play at this year. They allowed just 101 yards rushing on 41 ISU attempts. They forced four separate three and outs in the second half after none in the first. They only allowed one field goal in the second half and nine total points. They blocked a PAT. They played a great game. They allowed 232 first half yards and 69 yards rushing in the fist half to just 110 & 32 in the second.

After two games, they may have a higher ceiling than I once believed. However, the offense’s ceiling is going to be much lower than I had expected. Painfully low.

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This offense will get better, but after two games it’s looking a lot like what we saw in 2007.

Quarterback James Vandenberg is a much better quarterback than was Jake Christensen, but so far this season the results are fairly similar. The offensive line offered better protection this week than last (zero sacks), but the receivers dropped at least four balls and three others were tipped before they got to the receiver. One of the biggest drops of the day was by Don Shumpert on Iowa’s second to last drive and came on 4th and 10 from the Iowa 49. Vandenberg hit Shumpert right between the numbers and he flat dropped it. There wasn’t a defender within four yards. Had he caught that and just fallen down, Iowa would have had a first down at the Iowa State 35 yard line. Had Iowa gone three and out from there, they would have at least had a 52 yard field goal attempt…or a chance.

The Iowa defense would hold after that drive and Iowa had moved the ball down to the ISU 32 yard line with just over a minute to play on their final drive of the day. That’s when Vandenberg tried to loft a pass to CJ Fiedorowicz over ISU linebacker Jake Knott. Knott batted it down and intercepted the pass. Another missed opportunity in field goal range when Iowa was down three.

Holding your opponent to nine points and losing is rare. Very rare. Rare as in the last time it happened to an Iowa team was 1980 against Arizona. It took me five minutes of scanning back through each and every Iowa football season to find that one. You can check my math by looking at them yourself at this link. Iowa was 40-0 under Kirk Ferentz when holding its opponent under ten points.

There will be more time to analyze this one later tonight and this week, but the 2012 Iowa football season, which was always considered to be a bit of a crap shoot with a soft schedule as a saving grace, may already be dancing on the edge of the knife. Being +2 in turnover margin at Kinnick Stadium used to be as good as money in the bank.

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However with an offense that has scored just one touchdown in two games, there isn’t a lot of hope or much Iowa fans can bank on.