Chuck Long isn’t surprised the Iowa football team is carrying a 2-0 record into Saturday’s game against Northern Iowa.
The former Hawkeye quarterback, who will work the UNI game as an analyst for the Big Ten Network, is a little surprised at how Iowa got to 2-0.
Speaking Monday at the Davenport Grid Club luncheon, the runner-up for the 1986 Heisman Trophy said Iowa’s offensive performance has been almost a polar opposite from what he anticipated based on preseason camp observations.
“I really felt then that the passing game would be a strength and the running game might be a question early on, but it’s a total flip from that through two games,’’ Long said.
“It’s early and Nate Stanley, he’s a good quarterback, but for some reason the passing game just hasn’t been there yet. He doesn’t look comfortable right now and when we saw them in August, things were clicking.’’
That has been countered by a running game which has been better than Long anticipated at the onset of the season.
“Iowa’s backs have looked good and they’ve needed to be,’’ he said. “The guys up front are doing a good job of making it work.’’
Long believes the Iowa defense has been stout enough to give the Iowa offense a chance to grow and develop.
Tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant have combined for 17 of the 27 completions Stanley has had in 51 attempts through two games. Long said that approach, building the passing game around the tight ends, can work but will also likely lead to lower-scoring games.
“Does Iowa have the defense to make that work? So far, the answer has been yes,’’ Long said. “If you’re going to run the offense through the tight ends, you have to play good defense.’’
Long said Iowa must continue to work to develop a deep threat.
He said catches made my Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith of 45 and 30 yards during second-half scoring drives in last weekend’s win over Iowa State can be big for both sophomores.
“Just from a confidence standpoint, to make a big play in a big game, that’s big for a young receiver. Now, can you do it again? That’s the next step. How do you build on it?’’ Long said.
“Brandon Smith is going to be a good catch-point receiver for them in my mind while Smith-Marsette to me is the guy who has the quickness to get the separation they need to make it all work and loosen things up for the run game.’’
Long suspects the Hawkeyes will eventually put it all together.
“I think the pieces are there. It’s early, two games in, and it will be interesting to watch it develop,’’ he said. “With Wisconsin coming up next week, it needs to come together quickly.’’