For the third weekend in a row, the Iowa Hawkeyes will face a quarterback on the pre-season Davey O’Brien Award Watch List. Dustin Crum and the Kent State Golden Flashes visit Kinnick Stadium to face the fifth-ranked Hawkeyes Saturday. Crum is a great quarterback who put up big numbers last year. However, the story of the game begins on defense with the ball Hawks – and Flashes for that matter. Iowa is off of two impressive Top 25 wins against Indiana and Iowa State in which they recorded six interceptions. Kent State, on the other hand, has forced eight interceptions on the season. Four of which came against seventh-ranked Texas A&M. The turnover stats for each team are impressive, and Saturday’s game will showcase the top two ranked interception defenses in the country between Iowa and Kent State.
Ball Hawks And Flashes
Iowa again showcased its robust defense against Iowa State last week. They recorded three interceptions and a fumble recovered for a scoop-and-score touchdown. Matt Hankins caught two of the interceptions making it the second week in a row where an Iowa cornerback had two picks. The forced fumble was initiated by sophomore linebacker Jestin Jacobs. He threw an Iowa State blocker to the side and punched the ball out right into a wave of Hawkeye defenders for an easy score. In what was the turning point of the game, Iowa took a commanding 21-10 lead. The four total turnovers make seven on the season for Iowa and they’ve been getting a lot of national attention because of it. This defensive group is elite, and they’ll face another great quarterback on Saturday.
Kent State’s defense flies under-the-radar, but they currently have eight interceptions through two weeks of football. In their two games against Texas A&M and Virginia Military Institute, the Golden Flashes recorded four interceptions each. Cornerback Elvis Hines intercepted the Aggies twice and hauled in one more against VMI last week. The fifth-year senior from IMG Academy has the second best overall defensive coverage grade on the Kent State defense. Hines’ coverage grade is right behind Keith Sherald Jr. who lines up on the other corner. Sherald played well against the Aggies in week one where he allowed zero completions on three man coverage targets. The Golden Flashes lost by 31, but their defense showed a lot of promise after holding Texas A&M to 10 points in the first half. This defense doesn’t rank as high as the Hoosiers or Cyclones on a national level, but Kent State will show great coverage all day.
Dustin Crum is one of the more prolific quarterbacks in the country, but doesn’t get national attention at Kent State. Last season, Crum passed for 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns in just four games. On a team that averaged 49.8 points per game in 2020, Crum had a 73.5% completion percentage and was the heartbeat of the offense. He hasn’t quite had the opportunity to get going this year with the nature of their first two opponents, however. Against Texas A&M, he didn’t have a great performance with just 89 yards and two interceptions. The Aggie defense is one of the best this season and it didn’t budge against the Golden Flashes.
Last weekend, Crum had a solid performance against VMI, but came out of the game early with a huge lead. He had 180 yards and a touchdown through the air, and added another one on the ground with 70 rush yards. Crum is a pass-first kind of quarterback, but he can be elusive and scramble for solid yardage. So far this season, Iowa has forced their first two quarterback opponents to the bench after three quarters of play. Crum will be challenged against the Hawkeye secondary, but don’t be surprised if he manages some spectacular throws or gains some solid run yardage. He has the talent to stand tall in the pocket or tuck it and run.
On Iowa’s side, Spencer Petras has been able to manage the first two games very effectively. The Hawkeye defense has given Petras a lot of cushion. He hasn’t needed to show the entire playbook or put up a lot of points. In the first two games, Iowa scored 21 defensive points and set up an average starting field position at their own 37 yard line. We haven’t seen what Petras is fully capable of because Iowa hasn’t needed to show it. He flashed a fantastic pass against Iowa State hitting Charlie Jones for a 26-yard touchdown in a small window. His timing is great when he is comfortable in the pocket, but that’s about the extent of what we know. Petras has been able to get the ball in his playmakers’ hands enough to secure the win and run the clock. But so far, his true ceiling is still under wraps. The Kent State defense ranks 102nd in total passing yards allowed and 98th in overall pass rush grade. Petras should have some time in the pocket behind his offensive line to make some comfortable throws. With time and confidence, he could potentially show some more of his passing skills on Saturday.
Iowa Meets Kent State
After opening against two Top 25 teams, Iowa will get a solid Kent State team out of the Group of Five. The Golden Flashes have shown they can put up big points in the MAC, but against a top defense in Texas A&M, they struggled. Iowa has a similar, if not better, defense compared to the Aggies. Both have allowed comparable yards and points per game this season. However, Iowa has a large advantage in the turnover game averaging an additional two per contest. Kent State struggled to be productive against that kind of coverage, and Iowa will present similar challenges to Crum.
The Hawkeyes are moving to the easier portion of their September schedule after starting 2-0 against two ranked teams for the first time since 1974. With those ranked wins, Iowa has now won five-straight ranked matchups dating back to the 2019 season. Iowa proved they were big-game ready right out of the gate. With the remainder of non-conference play, they can now fine-tune some details. The most important game on the schedule is the next one. The Kent State Golden Flashes will be ready to battle on Saturday.