September 26, 2009

TES - 2009 Hawkeye Football Game Notes Week 4

Iowa’s Record:  3-0, 0-0 Big Ten
Iowa’s Rankings
AP: (39 votes)
USA Today: (58 votes)
ESPN Power Rankings: Votes
ESPNU Allstate: 

2009 Iowa Football Schedule

September 5th Iowa v. Northern Iowa Panthers WIN 17-16
September 12th Iowa @ Iowa State Cyclones WIN 35-3
September 19th Iowa v. Arizona Wildcats WIN 27-17
September 26th Iowa @ Penn State Nittany Lions 8:05 pm, ABC
October 3rd Iowa v. Arkansas State Red Wolves 12:05 PM, ESPN2/Classic
October 10th Iowa v. Michigan Wolverines HOMECOMING, 8:05 pm, ABC/ESPN
October 17th Iowa @ Wisconsin Badgers 12:05 pm, BTN/ESPN/ESPN2
October 24th Iowa @ Michigan State 7:05 PM, BTN
October 31st Iowa v. Indiana Hoosiers 12:05 PM, ESPN/ESPN2
November 7th Iowa v. Northwestern Wildcats TBD
November 14th Iowa @ Ohio State Buckeyes TBD
November 21st Iowa v. Minnesota Golden Gophers TBD

Outback Bowl 1/1/10, 11:00 AM, ESPN
Capital One Bowl 1/1/10, 1:00 PM, ABC

Rose Bowl 1/1/10, 5:00 PM, ABC
Sugar Bowl 1/1/10, 8:30 PM, FOX
Fiesta Bowl 1/4/10, 8:00 PM, FOX
Orange Bowl 1/5/10, 8:00 PM, FOX
BCS Title Game 1/7/10, 8:00 PM, ABC

September 26th 2009: Iowa Hawkeyes @ #5/#4 Penn State Nittany Lions, 3-0, 0-0, Big Ten
Prior Games: 21, Penn State leads 11-10
Last Game: 2008, Iowa 24, Penn State 23

Hawkeye Stat Pack:

Turnover Margin: +3

Current Line: Iowa +11

Scoring Defense 12.0, Pass Def 162.6, Rush Def 140.6, Interceptions 6, Total Defense 303.3
Big Ten                 #2                       #1                          #8                             #1                    #3
NCAA                  #15                     #25                         #68                           -                      #36

Scoring Offense 26.3, Pass Offense 227.3, Rush Offense 137.0, Total Offense 364.3
Big Ten                #10                            #7                                 #8                               #10
NCAA                 #70                           #55                               #70                              #68

Depth Chart for this week:

Game Watch: ‘The Best Game Watch Outside Of Kinnick.’
Opal Bar & Restaurant, 251 East 52nd St. Corner of 52nd and 2nd, 212 593-4321

Getting There:
6/E (no V on weekends) trains to 51st/Lexington Ave. Walk 2 blocks east, 1 block north to the bar.
M15 Bus – downtown on 2nd Ave, uptown on 1st Ave.
M50 Bus from the west side.
Several parking garages are in the area, but we strongly encourage you to take cabs or mass transit to our game watches!,+NY,+NY&ie=UTF8&split=0&gl=us&ei=6M-NSrfjBcm_tgf0-d3fDQ&ll=40.756205,-73.966709&spn=0.004502,0.011394&z=17

Last Week: Arizona

I didn’t want to mention it in the Notes last week for fear of a jinx, but thank you Hawkeyes, for breaking my own personal, live Iowa viewing, 3 game losing streak.

Yes, at Pitt in 2008, at Penn State in 2007, and the night game against the Buckeyes in 2006.  Those, the last three where I sat in the stands, but now my own personal demons have been exorcised.  Now it’s time for a winning streak.  Much more on that, later!

Yes, it was a game with some big high highs and low lows, but the Hawks did what they had to do to (mostly) finish the pre Big Ten season without a loss.  Which we have failed to do since the 2006 season (yes, I am assuming we are going to beat Arkansas State next week).  And as we are a team that usually starts to hit stride once the Big Ten opens up, we can be very pleased with the 3-0 start.

Not that such a start would find us ranked.  Much more on that, later!

That, my friends, is why you take the ball first.  A nice 10-play drive to put the Wildcats into a 7-0 hole before they ever touched the pigskin.  On that possession, the one handed highlight reel snag by McNutt, the 21 yard strike to Sandeman on a 3rd and 10, and 25 rushing yards for Robinson, including the last 2 for the touchdown.  Some confusion as to he or Morse with the td, but I guess the review showed he did cross the goal line before losing the ball.  Regardless, Kinnick rocking, Hawks on their way.

Arizona dutifully throws up a 3 and out, and now the Hawks have the ball back, ready to strike again.  Two Wegher runs net 8+ yards, and the Hawks face a 3rd and 1.5. Thanks to my Madden playing (I never did play organized football), I can think of about 53 plays to safely gain 4.5 feet.  Alas, whether it was the call by KOK, or Stanzi coming off the hot read to his 2nd or 3rd guy, I’m not sure.  What is was, the single most dangerous pass in all of football - the 15-yard out pattern, but all the way across the field (from one hash to the other sideline).  True, the Iowa wideout did run a poor pattern, rounding off his cut, not coming back toward the ball, where he would have least been able to make the tackle, had the pick still be made.  Nope, pick 6, Wildcats tie it up at 7.

This was at 6:57 of the 1st, I assume Arizona thought there would be more touchdowns to be had, but that would not be the case until 2 minutes were left in the 4th, and the game was out of reach.

Not that it was not in doubt.  After some traded possessions, the Wildcats got the ball at their 37, about 3 minutes into the 2nd.  On a 3rd and 6, Grigsby explodes for a meandering 58-yard run, but comes up a yard short, as the Hawk defense never gives up on the play (Spievey finally brings him down).  1st and goal on the 1, and Kinnick was very silent.  Here is where the game turned for good.  On that 1st down, back up safety Cato slices through the line, where the Wildcats are already slowly executing the handoff, and drops Grigsby for a loss back near the 5.  2nd and 3rd downs were passes that were nearly caught – but in each case the Hawkeyes had the receivers blanketed so they were not.  Field goal, Arizona leads 10-7.  Not for long.

The ensuing drive did not start well for the Hawks, with Stanzi failing to get rid of the ball until he was in the grasp, grounding, 3rd and 23.  Robinson gets the obligatory handoff, seems to pause for a moment (everyone around me was screaming ‘run’), and then…he found the hole.  43 yards later, first down, disaster averted.  Hawks promptly hold, but on the 2nd and 20, Stanzi finds McNutt again, this time for 34 yards, and he then is stopped just a few feet from the goal line.  But we are no Wildcats; Robinson scores his 2nd td from a yard out, Hawks up 14-10, Kinnick feeling much better.

Arizona then needs 7 plays to get to the Iowa 23, on the way completing two passes, one for 20, one for 24 yards, a big chunk of their passing total for the day.  Stopped on a 3rd and 2, they line up for a field goal that would bring them within 1 point. But they wanted the lead, and for a moment, it looked like the fake was going to gain the 1st down. From out of nowhere Greenwood emerges, and makes the tackle with a yard to spare.  Until the final drive, the Wildcats would never again move the ball into Iowa territory.

Halftime, Sedge and his friend West blow all of it waiting in the restroom line, and then in the Johnsonville brat line, where they run out of brats - OUT OF BRATS - 5 peeps in front of us.  Kinnick happy, Sedge and West, not.

The 3rd opens with 5 straight punts, but on the 5th, Chaney Jr. returns it 23 yards to just inside Arizona territory.  Hawks use a 29 yard strike to Reisner (on a 3rd down) to move inside the 15; from there we would get as far as the 3, but had to settle for a field goal. Hawkeyes lead 17-10, Kinnick now much happier that one play cannot result in a lead change.

For reasons the TV guys (and we) did not understand, the Wildcats seemed to think they were down by more than 7 points.  On 2nd down, they go deep, and there is that man Sash again, now the ball is going the other way, 42 yards to the Arizona 29.  Hawks only move it 5 yards from there, but they are already in field goal range, and now the Cats are indeed down two scores, 20-10. 

5 plays later the Arizona punt again, and the stage is set.  The Hawks get the ball with 13:11 left in the 4th.  14 snaps later the lead is now 27-10, and the clock reads 4:40.  Wegher does the honors, once again going up and over the pile from the 2-yard line.  A classic, clock killing, game ending drive, made possible by the Iowa O-line.  You knew the game was over, even if Arizona could somehow manage to score on our 2nd and 3rd team defense.

Which, was very sad that they did, we fans in Kinnick, and I suspect bars around the country, were hoping the Hawkeye defense could pitch another touchdown shutout.  Consider the things they did do right, and there were many.  Grigsby, 11 carries for 75 yards, but 58 of those came on the one long scamper.  QB Scott managed 39 yards on his 7 carries, but 27 were on one touch.  And it was not his arm that helped him out; completing only 4 passes, for 50 measly yards.  He was in fact benched in the 3rd, and his backup did a wee bit better, completing 6-10 for 55 yards.  Add it up, 10 passes complete, 105 yards.  Your Hawkeyes now lead the Big Ten, and rank 11th, nationally, in the critical yet mysterious stat, Pass Efficiency Defense.

The Hawks cut Arizona’s rushing average in half, and when you back out the few big gains, the average per touch was barely over the line of scrimmage.  You may recall Clayborn, running from the opposite side of the D-line, to catch the speedy Grigsby from behind for no gain.  On the day, the Iowa defense gives up a mere 8 first downs, and allows the Wildcats to convert just 2 of their 12 3rd down chances. 

They were will rested, as the Iowa offense held the ball for 4 seconds short of 38 minutes.  We converted 10 of 19 3rd downs, so back to back weeks now above 50%, which bodes well for the future.  Yes, Ricky did have a few other passes that were nearly intercepted, but fell harmlessly to the turf.  Robinson is your 100 yard rusher for week 3; 18 for 101.  Wow, Wegher is in fact 48% human; he just 46 yards on 17 carries.  But I chalk that up to the pick 6 occurring on his 1st series, so he was never able to get out of the gate. 

Special teams, again, well, special! 2 for 2 on the filed goals, the snuffed out fake field goal, and then - Donahue.  5 punts, 51 yards per kick.  He leads the Big Ten, and is 4th nationally, in punting net average (the yards after the return).  To date, the opposition has 5 net return yards.  The results this week could lie squarely on his big leg.

So, 3 weeks, 3 wins. We can’t really ask for much more than that! The defense is now at mid-season form. The special teams are as well.  The offense most certainly showed glimpses that they were there; it is now just a matter of doing that with a bit more consistency. 

Week 4: Penn State

 And now, for the first time since your humble scribe was actually attending Iowa, I will be there in Happy Valley (Kinnick East) on Saturday night.  Back to back Hawkeye games, in the flesh, and I cannot wait!

Sure, Penn State is ‘ranked’ in the top five. Somehow, we are not, despite being ranked before the season started, yet to lose, and plenty of teams that have are in the polls. True, I am of the thinking that rankings have no business coming out until the first month is over, but they do.  And in this case, we can use that to our advantage.

I would hope that KF instructed the equipment staff to paste the AP and USA Today polls onto each and every Hawkeye locker this week.  Washington – beats USC, who always loses a bad Pac 10 game of late.  Washington, who prior to this season lost 15 straight games. In the polls.  Michigan, off a 3 win season, in the polls.  BYU, still in the polls after being doubled up by FSU, at home no less. Meanwhile, the Hawks are tied with Texas for the 4th longest winning streak in Division 1, at 7 games.  Still, not in the polls. 

Yeah, that will change after we win this week.  I guess it will take the entire country seeing us on ABC to make the voters notice.  Of course, then after we beat Arkansas State next week, they will probably drop us, for beating an overmatched team.

Oh yeah, ESPN College Gameday is in town (we are 0-4 in such games, that will end), an 8:00 eastern kickoff means the place will be crazy, and the Lions will be foaming to avenge last year’s heartbreak.  The chip on our shoulder is a push against their rage; usually in games like this, once we hit a big play, the emotions will settle down, and it’s just a regular football game after that.

And no, the Hawks will not be fazed by the 108,000 plus.  You might recall the Lions have only beaten us once in this decade – the game at their place in 2007.  With that loss, it broke our 4 game winning streak in Happy Valley.  We just don’t have the bad history there to weigh on the player’s minds, and so much good history of late to give us the mental advantage before kickoff.

But it’s not about the past, winning streaks, or voodoo as to why I think we will win.  It’s about…yes…the players.

Namely, that Penn State returned so few of them.  11, total, counting the punter, 6 on the offense, and just 4 from the defense that could not stop us with the game on the line last year.  Normally when you have to replace so many starters, you would like to have some serious competition to see just where they stand.  Ummm, nope. All three games at home, against the heavyweights Akron, Syracuse, and Temple.  I would venture that UNI could beat two of those three, and quite possibly all of them.  We went on the road to face a bitter in-state rival.  And last week, shut down a good and getting better Pac 10 team.  There is no comparison to the level of competition that we have played, and the Lion offense will know that real quickly when the Iowa defense smacks them squarely in the mouth.

As was the case last year, the Hawkeye defense must shut down the Penn State running game.  Royster is back at tailback, but in front of him are 3 new starters, and all has not been smooth for them so far.  Yes, he did top 130 rushing last week, but that was against Temple.  Also back is the senior QB Clark, who at times can look good (like the 1st half last year), and times pretty bad (like the 2nd half last year).  He can run, though the Lion staff seems to want him to stay in the pocket more.  Fine, Clark 10-24 for 109 yards in 2008, if we can make him have to pass, advantage Iowa defense.  Besides the O-line, they were also hit hard by wideout graduations.  Ball hungry Iowa secondary, be ready.

Meanwhile, when the Hawks have the ball, they face two guys up front who returned, and two linebackers.  Nobody returned in the secondary, look for Stanzi to test their backfield early to see how they respond.  He will need to play better from the start this week, to get the momentum on our side, shut up the crowd, and begin to put doubt into their hearts from early on.  Obviously, if Robinson and Wegher can get things going, that will be easier, and a successful running game can also render a hostile crowd mute.  Reisner, off a good game, should be able to find some holes behind those linebackers.  And we still don’t think Bulaga can go, though the Iowa O-line has seemed to come together with Reiff in that spot, so I think they will be able to generate some space for the running backs, and give Stanzi time (though he must learn to get rid of the ball when the heat is on).  Still unknown with both DJK and Moeaki, should either return, it will not only make the offense that much more dynamic, but also give a lift to the whole team.   

The Lions have some injury issues of their own, namely to two starting linebackers, including Sean Lee, who was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the week after last Saturday (knee).  I know, they are Linebacker U, but when starters go down, there is a drop off.  As the Iowa O-line gains strength throughout the game, that puts more pressure on those linebackers…I think we could see Wegher break a long td run in the 2nd half this week.

Other than kickoffs, we need the kickers to stay on the sidelines.  Red zone must equal touchdowns.  As mentioned before, expect our punter to be making the Lions go a long way to get any points, and on both punt and kick returns, the Hawks must be at their best, because a long return can flip the momentum and energize the crowd in a hurry.  Kickoffs, in particular, are the concern. Both schools are at the bottom of the Big Ten for kickoff coverage.

For the 9th time in 11 seasons, the Hawks open the Big Ten on the road.  So be it, winning on the road is a great way to kick off our quest for greatness.  The Hawkeye coaches have pumped some seriously loud music onto the field in practice this week, to get the offense ready for the silent snap counts.  But we have the tools needed to keep the crowd out of it, and if we can execute to our potential, it should be just another happy day in Happy Valley for the Hawkeyes.

I am sure that you have heard the Nittany Lion fans will be doing a ‘white out’.  Keep in mind, what color flag do you wave when you are surrendering?  That’s right. 

Oh, and remember, us going in there and winning is not an ‘upset’.  This is a new era rivalry that the Hawkeyes have dominated for a decade.  You, I, and no one else who follows college football should be surprised when we win. 

Going to the game? We want all the Hawks to wear gold – it should show up better under the lights within all the white.  Going to the bar, wear whatever you want, provided it’s Hawkeye covered!  Have a blast at Opal, Matt, I and the rest of the crew will return for the game next week!