December 28, 2010

TES - 2010 Hawkeye Football Game Notes - Insight Bowl

Iowa’s Record:  7-5, 4-4 Big Ten
Iowa’s Rankings
USA Today:

2010 Iowa Football Schedule

9/04/10 Eastern Illinois WIN 37-7
9/11/10 Iowa State WIN 35-7
9/18/10 @ Arizona Loss 34-27
9/25/10 Ball State WIN 45-0
10/02/10 Penn State WIN 24-3
10/09/10 Bye Week
10/16/10 @ Michigan WIN 38-28
10/23/10 Wisconsin Loss 31-30
10/30/10 Michigan State WIN 37-6
11/06/10 @ Indiana WIN 18-13
11/13/10 @ Northwestern Loss 21-17
11/20/10 Ohio State Loss 20-17
11/27/10 @ Minnesota Loss 27-24

12/28/10 Insight Bowl 10:00 pm, ESPN

December 28th, 2010: Iowa Hawkeyes v. #14/#14/#12 bcs Missouri Tigers, 10-2, 6-2 Big 12
Prior Games: 12, Missouri leads 7-5
Last Game: 1910.  Iowa 0, Missouri 5

Hawkeye Stat Pack:

Turnover Margin: +13
Big Ten #3, NCAA #7

Current Line: Iowa +3

Scoring Defense 16.4, Pass Def 213.6, Rush Def 103.5, Interceptions 17, Total Defense 317.1
Big Ten                 #2                       #6                          #2                          #1 tie                         #2
NCAA                   #7                      #55                         #6                          #11 tie                       #15

Scoring Offense 29.1, Pass Offense 237.4, Rush Offense 142.0, Total Offense 379.4
Big Ten                #6                            #5                                 #9                                #8
NCAA                  #48                          #45                               #75                              #61
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!

Insight Bowl:

Hello again to my Hawkeye friends, near and far.  I know many of you are on the road as I type this, I am really hoping that the weather doesn’t screw up your travel plans, and you get to your destinations safely and on time.  Ah, the simple joys of home cooking and family, it’s almost enough to make us forget about the 2010 football season.

Which had been oven for about one hour when the Iowa message boards were flooded with threads about players on this team who had just given up, not tried, mailed it in.  Well, when the cameras found Coker alone on the bench as the Rodents killed the clock, it sure looked to me like he cared.  As it did on the other players faces as the Rodents ran across the field and picked up Floyd.  It wasn’t the lack of effort, it was just execution.  Look above at how close all five losses are; it’s a matter of a single play in most of them.  Some years we make them, some we don’t. 

The general theme of why can be summed up in our inability to run effective two-minute drives on offense, and stop them on defense.  Such was not the case in 2009.  Football is of course a 60 minute game, and there were always things going on earlier in the game that put us in those situations. 

The injuries hurt, especially on defense – how many 3rd and 15 passes, right up the middle, did we give up during the last month?  Not having our experienced linebackers in there cost us time and time again.  All those drives that should have died kept going, that played a major role when the defense seemed gassed in the last 5 minutes. 

Little did we know that with that last loss, it would kick off a 4 week stretch the likes we have not seen in some time.  It started with what seemed to be a near-lock to kick off the annual blood bath with Nebraska 11 months early, but then those January 1st bowls opted for teams that were not on losing streaks, and word finally came that we had slipped down to the Insight Bowl.  Back to Arizona, though this time into the Valley of the Sun, to play in ASU’s home stadium.  

And the bowl seeding gods heard my prayers and finally lined us up against the Missouri Paper Tigers.  You can run, but you can’t hide.

You might recall that we were supposed to play Missouri in a 4 game series, starting in 2005.  That deal was signed back in the late 90s, when we were not very good.  But then, in the 2002-2004 seasons, we won 31 games.  The Paper Tigers didn’t like the prospects of an out of conference loss, so in the winter of 04/05, they decided they we going to instead play a cupcake, Arkansas State.  They liked the idea of this so such much they then decided to play the Red Wolves again in 2006.  Meaning the Hawkeyes had to find teams to fill those spots on what was a set schedule.  Justifiably pissed off, the Iowa athletic department just cancelled the whole series.  And so, these two schools that are just 4 hours apart by car, will have gone a full century since they last met on the gridiron. 

Which requires a brief history lesson as to why:  Missouri was a state filled with racist idiots, and being good and decent Iowans, we detested them.  As you know, the University of Iowa was one of the first public universities to allow an African American onto a varsity athletic squad, in 1895.  The Civil War had been over for 30 years at that point, but that didn’t mean the slave states had all started being good and decent.  Before the 1896 game (in Columbia), the Paper Tiger staff and alumni had warned Iowa about bringing our black player.  We did, and won it 12-0, but it was immediately obvious that the Paper Tigers would use every dirty play in the book – aimed primarily at him, but also to any Hawkeye whenever the chance emerged.  To top it off, routine chants of ‘kill the nigger’ filled the stadium.

Upon our return to Iowa City it was decided we would not play the Paper Tigers again until 1902.  The series resumed, but then in 1910, we were due for another visit to Columbia, and the staff there again warned Iowa not to bring our current black player.  That was enough; we complied in the interest of not getting him hurt, but once it was over, the Iowa coach swore we would never play Missouri again.

Just for the point of comparison, an African American was not allowed to play for the Missouri football team until 1957.

When Iowa went 10-2 we got the Orange Bowl.  Missouri goes 10-2, they fall down to the Insight.  During the whole Big Ten expansion chaos of last year, the Paper Tigers made no secret of their desire to ditch the Big 12 and join the Big Ten.  I can’t say that the fact that all the Big Ten schools are in what used to be ‘free’ states made any difference when we opted for the Cornhuskers, but it’s a good story and I’ll go with it!

Even if we do end up at 16 teams, it seems highly likely that we will go east, to more fully capture the huge media markets out here on the coast.  Sorry Missouri, the Big Ten does care a lot about things like say, history – and you are on the wrong side of it.

Of course, the pairing with Missouri soon took a back seat to the wild fury of rumors and incidents flying throughout the Iowa football world.  It started with an ICPD drug bust of DJK’s roommate – but ended up ensnaring Darrell as well.  When it became obvious that he was in possession of some very powerful prescription drugs that he had no scripts for (these were so powerful they are not even used for football type injuries, experts said), Ferentz wasted no time, and DJK was off the team.  He will not be adding to his Iowa records in the bowl game, and it surely cost him in terms of draft status and money.  But America loves the second chance, and he is a good football player, so he will find his way into the NFL, let’s just hope he does a better job at finding roommates in the future.

Then, it was announced that Wegher was indeed going to transfer, and we had released him.  There was immediately speculation that he would go to Nebraska – but his release deal specified that he could not go to a Big Ten team.  And even if he wanted to go to Lincoln, he would have to sit out a year with the Div. 1 transfer rules.  Where he will end up, I don’t think we know yet.

This started another round of thread mania, and soon enough emerged the potential for something like 21 Iowa players who were positive on drug tests, including 10 starters.  This was all swirling around and it then reached fever intensity when speculation started about Adam and Jewel.  Finally, Iowa called a press conference to clarify these things.

Jewel has decided to leave Iowa, no word on where to at this point, but there is some question after back-to-back knee injuries on how good his prospects are for a return.  In addition, Adam was suspended for the bowl game – the Kirk-speak was not exactly clear on why, but it was soon determined to be class-attendance related.  He can rejoin the team in January.  Of course, with his two concussions, he must be very careful in the seasons ahead.

Kirk said that was it – everyone else was making the trip to Phoenix, that as far as he was concerned everyone else would be good to go at kickoff.  So, disaster averted, but in that press conference, they also said the Iowa drug testing program probably needs to be tweaked.  Reading between the lines, that seems to me that the old one didn’t really work.  Players, be smart, don’t blow you chances to help Iowa rebound from this disappointing season.

And then, as the Hawkeyes recently boarded the plane to head south, word emerged that three highly rated recruits had given Iowa verbal commitments.  So the news was positive and the outlook was getting brighter as the players began the outside practices in the warm glow of the Arizona sun.  Everyone there wants to be there, and I am sure each and every one of them wants to put an end to this losing streak with an emphatic statement in front of the nation on Tuesday night.

So, now a look at the Paper Tiger’s 2010 season, with the scores, and final season records of the teams they played.

Week 1.  Illinois, win 23-13 (6-6)
Week 2.  McNeese State, win 50-6  (6-5)
Week 3.  San Diego State, win 27-24 (8-4)
Week 4.  Miami (OH), win 51-13 (9-4)
Week 5.  Bye
Week 6.  Colorado, win 26-0 (5-7)
Week 7.  @ Texas A&M, win 30-9 (9-3)
Week 8.  #1 Oklahoma, win 36-27 (11-2)
Week 9.  @ #14 Nebraska, loss 31-17 (10-3)
Week 10.  @ Texas Tech, loss 24-17 (7-5)
Week 11.  #24 Kansas State, win 38-28 (7-5)
Week 12.  @ Iowa State, win 14-0 (5-7)
Week 13.  Kansas, win 35-7  (3-9)

All in all, a successful season for the Paper Tigers; highlighted by the home stadium field-rushing win over the top ranked Sooners.  But they had to regain their focus to head to Lincoln the following week, and that did not go as well as planned.  Before the first quarter was over, Nebraska was up 24 –zip, and when it was all said and done, Missouri had allowed Husker tailback Helu Jr. to rack up 307 rushing yards on 28 carries. 

A week later they had to go back on the road.  At Lubbock, Missouri was able to jump out to a 14-0 lead, but Tech’s defense shut down the Paper Tiger offense after halftime to seal the 7 point win.  3 more wins ended the season, including the sloppy 14-0 shutout of the Clones, in a game where ISU was without QB Arnaud, who had blown out his knee the week before. 

Missouri even had a shot to play in the Big 12 title game going into week 13 – but they needed Colorado to beat Nebraska, and the Buffalos could not get it done, falling 45-17.

Those last wins over ISU and Kansas didn’t really help them much in the BCS standings, and that’s how they fell down to the Insight Bowl, where they are probably thinking they have a cakewalk on Tuesday night.  At #12 in the BCS, they are the highest rated team to compete in history of the Insight Bowl (formerly, Bowl). 

The Paper Tiger offensive attack is lead by junior QB Blaine Gabbert.  He completed 62% of his passes for 2752 yards, with 15 tds, and 7 interceptions.  He is not a running quarterback like we have seen with OSU and Michigan, but in the last month of the season, Missouri did work carries for him into the offense – against Nebraska he had 22 carries for 74 yards, K-State 14 for 89, and Kansas 11 for 31.  Interestingly, as that happened, the Paper Tiger passing attack suffered some, with only 3 passing tds and 3 picks in the last 4 games.  With a month of rest, I think the Iowa defense will be able to contain Gabbert’s ability to run, and focus then on the Paper Tiger tailbacks.

They do not employ a number 1 type of system with those tailbacks, the top one (Moore) had 93 carries for 485 yards.  3 different guys have rushing touchdowns of over 60 yards.   Clearly, we cannot allow any runs like that to happen.

When Gabbert is throwing the ball, he targets two guys the most, Moe and Egnew.  Moe, a receiver, hauled in 77 for 893 yards and 6 tds. Egnew, the tight end, 83 catches for 698 yards and 4 scores.  That’s a ton of catches for a tight end, but if any defense is schooled in limiting tight end damage, it should be us, since we use them more than most schools. Two other wideouts had three receiving touchdowns each.

This is not a downfield passing attack as Missouri has employed over the past few seasons – it’s more of that run and methodical quick pass style offense, the one where we need our corners to make tackles in open space on the outside.  It looks like Hunter and Johnson will man the outside LB spots, with the freshman Morris in the middle.  With the month off, we can certainly hope that those down the middle passes will now more likely find Iowa hands.

Don’t underestimate the emotional lift that the Iowa defense can have by knowing that Norm is not only there for the bowl, but plans on coaching well into the future if his health allows it.  They need only review the Orange Bowl tape to see how he was able to make a dynamic offense look terrible.  In this case, we have already seen multiple variations of the offense Missouri runs.  And Norm has had a month to work on the nuances of how they do it.

Too bad our offense is not matching up against the 2009 Missouri defense, which was bad enough to be ranked over #100 in the nation.  They were especially miserable in the passing defensive stats, but they were much improved in 2010.  The 15.2 points allowed in scoring defense is 6th best in the country this season.

But, all defenses can be broken if you have balance and execute properly.  Through all the chaos of the tailback news, we have Coker and his 5.0 yards per haul this season.  He will be the primary back, 20+ carries a good possibility.  Some reporters asked if that would be an issue, and Kirk said ‘not really, there is just one bowl game, he can rest a long time once it’s over.’  If he can produce those kinds of numbers Tuesday, it will open up the passing game. 

I know it did not translate into the number of wins we all hoped for, but Ricky’s 25 td and 4 interception season is one of that great stories of the 2010 campaign.  All offseason we heard that he was a slave to the film room, watching, learning, preparing to improve over his 2009 performance.  He did, and there is reason to think he has done the same with the month off, and he will come out firing downfield if the Paper Tigers put too many men in the box.

No DJK, true, but we can still throw (and catch) the ball.  Expect McNutt to get a couple more thrown his way – Sandeman, Nordmann, Davis, all most work hard to pick up the slack.  The good news here is that the DJK news broke so early in the month, so all the practice time has gone to the other guys. 

Defenses can also have trouble with elusive, pass catching tight ends.  Hello, we are the Iowa Hawkeyes.  We run a pro-style offense.  We are about to send another tight end to the NFL draft (Reisner).  I am expecting a big game for him – a tight end is the QBs security blanket, Ricky will find him often if the Paper Tigers are focusing on the outside receivers.

When it comes to special teams, well, we know what we have on the punting side – which should be even better in that desert air.  When it comes to kicking, that’s a bit more concerning.  Not that our field goal kicker had a bad season, but Missouri has actually blocked 5 of them this year, and they only allowed teams to drill them through the uprights at an anemic 44% rate.  True freshman Meyer – we many be counting on you.  But we know you can do your job if everything is done right up front.  I trust the Iowa special teams staff has been dissecting those blocks, and designing ways to stop the Missouri attackers.  

The loss of DJK also hurts on the kick return side, and that is an area where Missouri was a bit suspect.  Chaney takes over DJK’s spot, with Davis.   They just have to be smart and take what the return gives them.

It’s been a month now since the Hawkeyes took the field, and in that time, there have certainly been lots of distractions.  Can the Hawks push those aside to be focused on this game?

Probably – we are gunning for our 3rd straight bowl win – and think about our near-miss to Texas after a very bitter ending season.  After the first Orange Bowl failure, the Iowa staff figured out how to use the extra month of practice and prep to max effect.  Missouri, well, they got blown out by Navy in their last bowl game.

The bottom line is, we have a team that stays in every game.  Sure, we are down a couple top playmakers, but football is a team game, and in the case of DJK, someone was going to have to take his place next season anyway.   And the way things look now, Coker is going to be a major part of the offense in 2011.  We are just getting a sneak peak in late 2010. 

Reports from the desert have the Paper Tigers all loose, relaxed, and confident, while the Hawkeyes seem determined and resolute by comparison.  Missouri probably thinks their 11th win is going to come easy.  Unfortunately for them, they are playing a team that needs to take two months of frustration out on somebody.  And since you can’t do that by pile-driving students as they walk through the deserted Ped Mall, that leaves the Iowa players only one choice.  Flush away the memories of a disappointing 2010 season by planting your shoulder pad right into Gabbert’s chest, each and every chance you get. 

I think the Hawks will be prepared to get a good night out of Coker, an error free effort from Ricky, and an overdue 2.5 sack game from Clayborn.  The players might just want to win this game to close out the season with better thoughts, but some of them probably know the history behind the 100 year lapse, and I’m sure that all of them want make the Paper Tigers decision to duck us in 2005 look like a real good idea.  No 4th quarter collapse this time, in fact, the Hawkeyes will score late in it to lock up the game.  Paper Tigers 21, Hawkeyes 31.

I hope this winter wonderland is not screwing up your travel plans – please get to your destinations safely, and get a good night of sleep tonight, because tomorrow will be a very long day.  It’s on ESPN, so even if you are stuck somewhere, you should be able to see it!  When it ends, we will once again have good feelings for Iowa football, and the prospects for a successful 2011 season.  Only one more day to kill, enjoy the game, and have a Happy New Year and wonderful start to 2011!



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