Iowa Hawkeyes vs LA-Monroe Warhawks Football Preview
When the Iowa Hawkeyes finish their nonconference schedule on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium against the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks, they can't be too sure of what's going to transpire on the gridiron. There's a stale vibe permeating the air in Iowa City. A close-shave win in week three of the college football season certainly gave the Hawkeyes a boost, but the bigger picture suggests that this is a team doing battle with its most formidable and dangerous opponent: its own self.
Last week, the Hawkeyes battled to the biggest comeback in school history when they overcame a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Pitt Panthers 31-27. Quarterback James Vandenberg threw for 162 yards in the fourth quarter and 399 total. He threw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes, two to Kevonte Martin-Manley. Marcus Coker led the Hawkeyes' rushing attack with 86 yards on 23 carries. Coker has carried 69 times for 267 yards and two touchdowns this season, but he's been a fumbling machine as well.
Marvin McNutt leads Iowa receivers with 18 catches for 313 yards and two touchdowns. Keenan Davis has caught 17 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Martin-Manley has three touchdown receptions among his eight receptions on the season. Those numbers are decent after three games, but they mask deeper truths about the Hawkeyes.
The comeback against Pitt could be a key turning point in Iowa's season, but it could be just as true that the Hawks are merely delaying a fall from grace in the Big Ten. Two weeks ago, the Hawkeyes lost 44-41 in triple overtime at Iowa State, meaning that if coach Kirk Ferentz's team had fallen to Pitt, it would have been 1-2 for the first time since 2000. The Hawkeyes scored just three points in the first 43:44 of their game against Pitt, in what was a horrible offensive showing before an inspired final 16 minutes. Against Iowa State, the Hawkeyes' defense was the problem. Iowa is in search of consistency, and this Saturday's opponent, Louisiana-Monroe, is just dangerous enough to cause trouble if Iowa's not on its game.
ULM lost 38-17 at TCU last week, but don't let the 21-point margin fool you. The Warhawks gained 189 yards in the first quarter and led 17-14 before the Horned Frogs woke up and scored 24 straight points. ULM trailed by only four points at halftime and made TCU work hard for a home-field win. The Warhawks are best known nationally for beating Alabama in 2007, but that was ULM's only win in 37 games against BCS conference teams since the inception of the BCS in 1998. Nevertheless, if Iowa doesn't watch out, it could get ambushed in this contest.