In the days of Hayden Fry, it would have been a "Hokie Pokie" locker room. The Hawkeyes carefully dissected the Wisconsin Badgers, 20-10, as Hayden Fry proteges directed each team and another looked on. Barry Alvarez, the athletic director at Wisconsin stopped by as Gary Dolphin and I we're having dinner Friday night at Ruth's Chris, and we had a good time reminiscing about his days as one of Hayden's assistants.
In a stadium of late-arriving, reserved Badger fans, the Hawkeyes got off to a very slow start and did not look anything like the team that had won 6 in a row. The Badgers controlled both lines of scrimmage and at the end of the first quarter the Hawks had only two first downs and a total of 30 yards. Wisconsin had 6 first downs and 74 yards.
The second quarter started in the same pattern as the first with Wisconsin in control. It wasn't until Ricky Stanzi hit Derrell Johnson Koulianos (DJK) for 34 yards and a first down deep into the second quarter, that the Hawks began to turn the tide. From my view point this was a game-changing play. If the Hawks had gone three-and-out for the 3rd consecutive series with Wisconsin leading 10-0, they may have never recovered. Having a healthy DJK in the lineup is critical to the Hawkeyes down the stretch. He has more experience than most of the other receivers and the talent to make big plays. With the field goal that followed this drive, the Hawkeyes started the scoring parade that led to the victory. A lot more big plays followed, but without this one, the rest may have been too late.
With the exception of the Stanzi fumble on an attempted screen pass and the sack in the last drive that added 5 yards to the final field goal, the Hawks played errorless football in the second half. The defense gave up only 58 yards and 3 first downs. Stanzi was 11-13 in the second half as the offensive halftime adjustments were as effective as the defense's adjustments. The plan to throw more square-out patterns to spread the defense worked, as it created more room to run on the inside. The Hawks rushed for only 23 yards in the first half, but 118 in the second half (if you don't count the negative sack yardage.) The Hawkeye coaching staff again proved that they are one of the best in the country at making halftime adjustments.
As for special teans, the kick coverage improved, with punt coverage being outstanding. Donahue punted 3 times for a 50-yard average with no return yardage. This kind of performance each week will take the Hawks a long way toward a Big Ten title. I also think that Colin Sandeman looks very comfortable back on punts. This job gets harder as the weather gets worse and the sun makes catching the ball very difficult when looking south during games with a 11am start. I also like Robinson and Wegher back on kick returns. I feel running backs spot the opening better and know how to protect the ball. I have a feeling one of these guys is going to break one.
This was a picture-perfect victory for the Hawks. They were down 10 points for the second time this year, found a way to fight back and beat a well-coached, talented Wisconsin team at their place. From the press box, the Hawks' domination became obvious as the 3rd quarter wore on and the offense was able to take advantage of the turnovers supplied by the defense. The second half was certainly the best 30 minutes played by the Hawks this year. As every coach loves to say, "It's something to build on."