Howe: ISU Exorcism

Iowa State tried to wield its Jack Trice magic on the Hawkeyes once again on Saturday but Iowa was able to sidestep disappointment and recapture the CyHawk Trophy.

AMES, Iowa - The eerie feeling of deja vu crept into Jack Trice Stadium midway through Saturday's third quarter. Favored Iowa was statistically dominating and controlling a game against rival Iowa State when the tide suddenly shifted.

The lifeless Cyclones were stuck at around 100 total yards of offense at the time. Anybody that had followed this series in the last decade and a half had to be thinking that perhaps ISU had the Black and Gold right where it wanted them.

Then, in an instant, or what seemed like one, Cyclone Quarterback Sam Richardson sidestepped an Iowa blitz and hit Quenton Bundrage with a pass down the right sideline. Cornerback B.J. Lowery missed the tackle and the ISU receiver raced 67 yards into the end zone. Iowa dominated the game it led just 13-7 with 5:28 to play in the third quarter.

Would the ghosts from CyHawk Series past once again haunt the Hawkeyes? Not this year.

With the crowd in a lather after ISU's big play, senior Jordan Cotton sparked a response with a 28-yard kick return to Iowa's 40. Nine plays and five minutes later, sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock connected with classmate Jacob Hillyer for a 26-yard touchdown through the air.

It turned out to be an incredibly important scoring march against a Cyclone team that kept coming. Some freaky things happened for ISU from that point forward, including the home team recovering an onside kick.

The Hawkeyes' bounce-back score showed serious intestinal fortitude for a program that last beat a BCS opponent the previous October. It came under the guidance of a signal caller making his first-ever road start in a sea of rival red. He received tremendous support from a dominant offensive line and hammering running back Mark Weisman, who carried 35 times for 145 yards.

ESPN's College Game Day began the morning by minimizing the importance of Saturday's battle for Iowa. It was an easy target with the Cyclones losing to Northern Iowa at home and the visitors splitting its first two contests on the back of a 4-8 season.

Not everybody can be Alabama or Oregon. There are far more teams attempting to claw their way to relevance. Iowa, with three Top 10 finishes in the last 11 years, is one of them.

No one knows where this Hawkeye season is headed but Saturday's road win in enemy territory can certainly be a stepping stone to brighter days. It's a tangible accomplishment that can be drawn upon while navigating a tough schedule the rest of the way.

A loss here on Saturday would not have spelled the end for Iowa's season just like the win doesn't cure all its ills. It erred plenty of time in the game and win or lose it's a work in progress, like most years. Rationale minds realize it's a journey.

The Hawkeyes proved once again that it can run the football. They did it 60 times (Yes, 60 times) for 218 yards. Rudock managed the game and hit enough throws to keep the defense honest.

Iowa seems to be developing its offensive identity. And despite its no-huddle and sped up tempo, it looks a lot like the ones that have experienced success under Ferentz and plays in any weather.

The Hawkeye defense is growing. Yes, there are breakdowns in coverage and blitzes that don't always get home. It also comes up with big plays, like Lowery's circus interception after ISU recovered the aforementioned onside kick.

Much consternation has permeated the fan base in recent seasons. It showed up lower than normal attendance for last week's game again Missouri State.

It will be interesting to see if Saturday's win will impact next weekend's last non-conference contest against Western Michigan, not exactly a big draw. There are tickets to be had.

It's a process. One that looks a lot better than it did 24 hours ago.