The opinions are free, so take all you like.
Iowa State vs. Toledo: A lot of positives came out of this game:
-ISU, and Dan McCarney, won an overtime game. This is huge. This was more than a monkey on Mac's back, it was a 500 pound gorilla. Many football observers think coaching plays an even bigger part in OT games, so for Mac to be 0-5 lifetime, and 0-3 last year gave critics ammunition, and ISU doubts in close games. That should be over now, or at least subdued.
-Todd Blythe is good. Really good. And here's some free advice: throw him the ball more! Yes, I know, they were using coverages that blah, blah, blah. Just throw him the ball. Don't wait for overtime. They can't cover Blythe, and even if they do, he'll find a way to catch it. Iowa drove me crazy underutilizing the great Tim Dwight ten years ago. ISU may have Blythe for just one more season, this one, so again, THROW HIM THE BALL.
-Bret Meyer looks even better. I've always thought a lot of Meyer as a person, and I think more of him as a quarterback each season. He's already better than I thought he'd be. He's really using his head, not to mention his legs and arm. Meyer's an easy guy to root for.
-The Cyclones are solid up the middle. Stephenson at center, Curvey at nose tackle. Those are two really important positions, and ISU can hold its own with anyone over the football.
-Brett Culbertson made his kicks. You don't think that extra point to tie in OT was pressure? It was a lot of pressure, and the former Lincoln Rail delivered. He's a stand-up guy. I'd love to see him make one with the game on the line.
-ISU found a way to win. Winning begets winning, and in three months it won't matter that it was triple overtime, just that it was a win against a decent D1 opponent.
-The crowd was great. Jamie Pollard could run for Grand Poobah of ISU and he'd win in a landslide. Nearly every person Andy Fales talked to Thursday night gushed about Pollard's moves to make it a better atmosphere. 43,000 fans isn't bad, but still shows there's work to do. The ones who were there will be back.
-A win is a win.
And now for some of the negatives:
-Bonehead play for the ages on blocked extra point. THAT'S A LIVE FOOTBALL! PICK IT UP! Hard to believe at least one player, possibly more, forgot the play wasn't dead. They realized it when Toledo scored two points. That was a two point swing, and as you know, two points kept this game going an extra 3 periods. At least it didn't contribute to what would have been a crushing loss to the morale of cyclone nation.
-The defense looked soft at times. It's true, ISU is inexperienced in spots, but the D-backs must tighten up the cushion they're giving receivers or they'll be giving up 40+ a few more games. ISU made Toledo's quarterback looked like a veterans, and he was starting his first game.
-McCarney said before the game all the talk of Iowa State "outscoring people was a lot of happy horse crap." Well, make it: Happy Horse Crap 1, Visitors 0.
-Clones let another team back in the game. Up 20 to 8, the Cyclones again failed to put their foot on an opponent's throat. At least this time, it didn't come back to bite them as it has so many other times.
-Too much praise for Toledo. Yes, the Rockets are a good MAC team, but they're still a MAC team playing on the road at a BCS conference contender's home opener. ISU should have beaten Toledo by ten or more, and fans should expect that. Respecting the opponent is one thing, making them seem better than they are is another. Iowa State should beat Toledo at home 10 out of 10 times and it should never go to overtime. Period. The Cyclones and their coaches, not to mention the fans, need to think like that.
-Reaction after winning. You could see that for a split-second, fans were about to storm the field and players were about to go nuts, and then it hit them, "Wait, we just beat Toledo. This isn't 1996." This should almost be in the positive column.
Iowa vs. Montana:
-The stadium looks great. Kinnick was the real star Saturday. A serious upgrade from top to bottom. Iowa City on game day, Montana notwithstanding, is one of the five best college football atmospheres in America, at least of the ones I've visited, and I've been to a bunch. It just doesn't get any better, or if it does, not by much.
-Kinnick Statue. The new "must see" attraction. As our Shawn Terrell pointed out, you'll see this statue with Hawkeye fans on a lot of Christmas cards and e-mails. Nile Kinnick was the real deal, and this was a great idea.
-Oh yeah, Iowa won. Can't remember when an Iowa football game was less dissected and analyzed ahead of time, but come on, it's Montana. The Grizzlies are a great 1AA team, but completely mismatched against Iowa. The Hawkeyes won, and won going away, so that's all that really matters, and all anyone expected.
-Tate and Young looked good. No surprise. Tate seems to be enjoying himself more this season, he would almost have to, while Young is underrated, as usual. Didn't take a hit all of August. Didn't matter.
-Austin Signor can kick. He's no Kyle Schlicher, not yet anyway, but he doesn't need to be. Signor gives Iowa a credible option until Schlicher's leg heals.
-The defense looked solid. But what else could we expect against Montana.
On the negative side:
-Iowa played Montana. I know games like this are here to stay, and Iowa's not the only one scheduling controlled scrimmages at game prices, but it sure is a different vibe than a game in doubt. I suppose it beats pre-season games, like in the NFL, but not by much. If the Missouri Tigers had some backbone, the season would have looked more interesting.
-Kyle Schlicher was hurt. Let's hope it's nothing serious. The thunderfoot from Ankeny is a difference-maker for Iowa.
-Herb Grigsby and Kenny Iwebema were suspended. If ever a suspension failed to weaken a team's chances of winning or worried a fan base, this was it, but only because---have I mentioned this---Iowa played Montana.
-11 a.m. kickoff. I know some people like these, but I'm not one of them. I enjoy a few more hours of tailgating---when I'm not working, of course. This week I stayed at home.
-ESPNU. Mediacom doesn't have this channel, and I have Mediacom. Let's make sure it doesn't happen again or I'll have to break down and get the dish. On the other hand, it's always nice to go to a restaurant or bar and have a shared experience with other football fans.
-Slow start. The offense looked sluggish, but football is a very emotional game. I played for ten years, and it does matter how much you get up for the game. It's hard to get up for a team you know you're going to beat even if you fail to execute. 17-7 raised eyebrows, but it was never in doubt. Iowa could score whenever it really wanted to.
I'll close by congratulating Drake on improving its game atmosphere by leaps and bounds. The Bulldogs had everything they needed Thursday night, except a way to slow down UNI. The Panthers look like future national champions to me.
I'll be back next time to catch up on the non-football stuff.
As always, thank you for reading and for the feedback.