August 31, 2011

The Eternal Season - Week 1 Hawkeye Game Notes

Iowa’s Record: 0-0
Iowa’s Rankings
AP: 19 votes
USA Today: 41 votes

2011 Iowa Football Schedule (times eastern)

9/03/11 Tennessee Tech 12:00 pm, BTN
9/10/11 @ Iowa State 12:00 pm, FSN
9/17/11 Pittsburgh 12:00 pm, ESPN/ESPN2
9/24/11 Louisiana-Monroe TBD
10/01/11 Bye Week
10/08/11 @ Penn State TBD
10/15/11 Northwestern 7:00 pm, BTN
10/22/11 Indiana 12:00 pm, TBD
10/29/11 @ Minnesota TBD
11/05/11 Michigan TBD
11/12/11 Michigan State TBD
11/19/11 @ Purdue TBD
11/25/11 @ Nebraska 12:00 pm, ABC

Scouting Next Opponent:
UNI at Iowa State.  7:00 pm. No tv coverage, no scouting.

September 3rd 2011: Iowa Hawkeyes v. Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles, (2010 5-6, 4-4 Ohio Valley)
Prior Games: 0
Last Game:

Hawkeye Stat Pack:

Turnover Margin: +13  (2010)
Big Ten #3, NCAA #7 (2010)

Current Line: No line for FCS games

(2010 Final Stats)
Scoring Def 17.0, Pass Def 230.5, Rush Def 101.5, Picks 19, Total Def 332.1
Big Ten       #2                       #7                          #2              #1 tie              #3
NCAA         #7                      #84                         #6               #11 tie            #25

Scoring Off 28.9, Pass Off 234.5, Rush Off 148.4, Total Offense 382.9
Big Ten        #6                            #5                      #8                                #8
NCAA          #50                          #49                    #70                              #57

Depth Chart for this week:

2011 Season Outlook:

Hello Again Hawkeye Friends, both near and far!  Welcome to year 7 of Sedge’s Hawkeye Game Notes! Seven years – where does the time go?  Oh yeah…as you are reading this, I turn yet another year older.  Alas, at least my birthday weekend is full of football.*

I hope that you have had a wonderful summer time and had plenty of chances to have fun with your friends and family.  Summer ends early for the Iowa Football team, who opened camp in early August.  But now that school has started on the Iowa campus, the team has had to shift from being full time athletes back to being student athletes.  And that means the day draws ever closer, that Iowa Football will soon be here again to fill our Saturdays with thrill and elation.

So we hope.  While the 2010 season ended with a thud, there was reason to be optimistic after we found a way to finish off the Paper Tigers late in the 4th quarter.  That was the Iowa team we have come to expect.  Now we see if they can build on that game, and produce a season where that is the norm – where it’s our work ethic that is the difference when the game is on the line.

You have to pay close attention to the games, or just read my ever-more-detailed Game Notes, to know that those 5 losses were not just failures in the final minutes.  No, we had chances to make plays and didn’t at earlier points, and a football game is the sum of those full 60 minutes.  Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce our way, but sometimes players can begin to be comfortable and complacent, and when that happens, Iowa is at a disadvantage.  We will never be at a point where 10+ starters are 4 or 5 star athletes, where pure skill can sometimes overcome execution and discipline.  We must play with a chip on our shoulder to prove that we belong among the college football elite.  I now think that what happened in 2009 kind of doomed the 2010 team from the very beginning.

Because let’s face it, if Stanzi hadn’t of gone down with the 10-zip lead over Northwestern, we would have run the table, and probably finished 2nd in the country after winning whichever BCS bowl we would have played in at 12-0 (we probably would not have made the title game).

Since all the returning players knew that, they probably just didn’t quite work as hard going into the 2010 season.  It may not have been a conscious decision on their part; all athletes are at risk for that to happen when you have been very successful.  In that sense, it may be good that we have the fewest returning starters of any team in the Big Ten.

5 on offense, 5 on defense, and one kicker.  That’s it.  But it’s not as if the other 12 guys haven’t played, so we are not going out there as a team that thinks of itself as rebuilding.  It’s a team that is young, which probably means it’s hungry.  And no matter how much they have played, these players know that Iowa Football has not picked up any Big Ten hardware since 2004.  Now, there is twice as much.  But the goal must stay the same; it’s not enough to win the B1G West Division, you’ve got to win the title game too.

Based on all the players we lost to the NFL, most experts considered us a rebuilding team after spring ball.  The consensus among the various magazine writers was 3rd in the division, or 6th overall.  But sure enough, the young players have worked hard, and because of that, the Big Ten Network crew thinks we have made the biggest leap from spring ball to fall camp of any team in the conference.  And now we have people on ESPN saying we are going to meet either Wisconsin or Ohio State in the B1G Title Game.  So while we might not be as under the radar as we thought we would be, we are still a team that may catch people napping if they are not careful.

A young Iowa team that most people are not talking about?  Sounds like one of those Iowa teams that might kind of stumble in September, but then really start to figure things out come October, and then blow people out in November.  Then again, I don’t really think this team will be slow out of the gate.  The schedule is once again set up about as well as we could have hoped.  And if we are going to compete for Big Ten titles, we must be a team that looks like one from the opening gun.

The Schedule:

What does it mean, the schedule being set up for a run?  Let’s take a look!

Week 1 – Tennessee Tech.  5-6 in 2010.  Most notable stat – head coach Watson Brown is Texas coach Mack Brown’s brother.   Tech<Texas.  But they do return 21 starters from their 2010 team, so they might have a shot to move up the Ohio Valley standings this year.  However, this is their first meeting with a team from the Big Ten.  I’m sure the folks in Iowa City will be fine hosts – at least, until the game starts.

Week 2 – at Iowa State.  5-7 in 2010, lost 35-7 in Iowa City.  ISU is breaking in a new starting quarterback this year and has many holes on defense.  Hawk fans are expecting another 3+ year streak of no ISU touchdowns. 

Week 3 – Pittsburg.  8-5 in 2010, 5-2 in the Big East.  They did finish the season with a  27-10 Compass Bowl win over Kentucky.  This will be a good test, but the game is in Iowa City, and Pitt had major offseason coaching chaos.  Payback for our visit to the Steel City.

Week 4 - Louisiana-Monroe.  5-7 in 2010, 4-4 in the Sun Belt.  I do believe the Hawks are giving the Warhawks $900,000 for the pleasure of playing in front of 70,597 fans.

Week 5 – Bye Week.

Week 6 – at Penn State. 7-6 in 2010, 4-4 in the Big Ten.  Lost 24-3 in Iowa City.  They are Penn State.  We are Iowa.  Our little sliver of yellow in the corner, chanting ‘we own Penn State.’ 

Week 7 – Northwestern. 7-6 in 2010.  3-5 in the Big Ten.  Beat Iowa 21-17 in Evanston. Persa is back after his surgery, but may not be ready to start the season.  NU is hyping him for the Heisman.  As you will learn later, our defense is better suited to stopping him and other running QBs in 2011.  Plus, we are overdue for a 52-10 beat down of these guys.

Week 8 – at Minnesota.  3-9 in 2010.  2-6 in the Big Ten.  They have Floyd.  If we don’t beat them by 5 touchdowns, it’s a loss.

Week 9 – Michigan.  7-6 in 2010.  3-5 in the Big Ten.  Lost 38-28 to Iowa in the Big House.  This presents us with another opportunity to beat Michigan three times in a row, for the first time, ever.  Michigan is installing a pro-style offense with Denard Robinson at quarterback.  Results – tbd. But defense is still their weakness.  He is not going to outscore us by passing the ball 35 times a game.

Week 10 – Michigan State.  11-2 in  2010,  7-1 in the Big Ten.  Lost 37-6 in Iowa City. And they get to come back!  Kirk Cousins is back as the senior QB.  They are a trendy pick to make another run. 

Week 11 – at Purdue.  4-8 in 2010.  2-6 in the Big Ten.  Didn’t play Iowa in 2010, but now we always will, as they are our protected rival!  Much more on that as the Big Ten season comes up.

Week 12 – at Nebraska. 10-4 in 2010, 6-2 in the Big 12.  Lost 31-30 to Iowa State in 2010. Now trading the Big 12 North for the Big Ten West.  B1G West>Big 12 North.  We trade the pro style death match with Wisconsin for just another spread/option offense in Nebraska.  As we now see this almost every week, we should be real good at stopping it come week 12.

So, as you can see, the weeks set up for the Hawkeyes to make a run. And it’s not just we Kool-Aid drinkers who believe it, the paid media also agrees that our path is the easiest in the conference.  How are we going to get there?  By playing Iowa Football.  Prepare, execute, and outwork.  We don’t have a lot of starters back, but we are not lacking for players.

The Players:

Who will be the ones to step up, and lead us to the promised land? It’s a team game, and each and every part of it is important.  So we talk about all of them, starting with the big boys up front.  As they go, so goes the Iowa offense.  The Iowa two-deep was released last Friday, so we can assume the starters are set for this week, as you want your first and second teams set as you begin the normal game week schedule.

Right Tackle: #56 Marcs Zusevics, senior.  6-5, 300.
Back up: #70 Brett Van Sloan, sophomore.  6-7, 292.

Right Guard: #73 Adam Gettis, senior.  6-4, 280.
Back up: #72 Woody Orne, senior.  6-5, 295.

Center: #53 James Ferentz, junior.  6-2, 284
Back up: #59 Conor Boffeli, sophomore.  6-5, 290.

Left Guard: #60 Matt Tobin, junior.  6-6, 290.
Back up: #68 Brandon Scherff, redshirt freshman.  6-5, 310.

Left Tackle: #77 Riley Reiff, junior.  6-6, 300.
Back up: #78 Andrew Donnal, redshirt freshman.  6-7, 302.

Not as big an Iowa O line as we have had in the past, but what they are is very active and versatile, and should work perfectly for our zone blocking system.  Reiff is expected to be an NFL first rounder after THIS year, let’s hope he decides to stay for one last go around.  This is the offensive line, and we are the Iowa Hawkeyes.  One of the best in the nation by the end of the season, to be sure.

Quarterback #16 James Vandenberg, junior.  6-3, 212. 
Back up: ##17 A.J Derby, redshirt freshman.  6-4, 232.

Full Back: #35 Matt Meyers, redshirt freshman.  6-2, 220.
Back up: #92 Jonathan Gimm, junior.  6-3, 240.

Tailback: #34 Marcus Coker, sophomore.  6-0, 230.
Back up: #3, Jason White, junior.  5-10, 205.

Receiver: #7 Marvin McNutt, senior.  6-4, 215.
Back up: #83 Steven Staggs, junior.  6-3, 195.

Receiver: #6 Keenan Davis, junior.  6-3, 215.
Back up: #11 Kevonte Martin-Manley, redshirt freshman.  6-0, 205.

Tight Ends: #39 Brad Herman, senior.  6-5, 255.
Back up: #86 C.J. Fiedorowicz, sophomore.  6-7, 265.

The Vandenberg Era begins, and what a ride it can be over the next two seasons.  You don’t hold 12 Iowa high school qb records without being able to throw the ball, and now he has had the entire offseason to work with his weapons.  On the outside, Marvin needs 6 td catches to break the Iowa all time mark of 21.  I say he gets it by early October.  On the other side, we have seen small flashes of brilliance from Keenan Davis, but now as the starter, he needs to step it up to the next level.  Expect to see the back ups and other youngsters early, we need to have a bucket of solid wideouts to start the B1G season. 

It was Kirk’s presser today (Tuesday) where he said Derby had moved into the number 2 spot.  He is next, hoping to get him some quality minutes in mop up duty this season. 

It’s another era beginning at tailback.  Give Coker the ball 25 times per game, 5.5 per touch, that’s 1650 yards for the season.  Even some of the ESPN guys are thinking Marcus could be a dark horse to lead the Big Ten in rushing.  Shine a light on this, if he stays healthy, it will be done.  There are other tailbacks that we will want to get a look at this year, but the ball belongs to Marcus as far as he can take it.

And then, there are the tight ends.  Herman has patiently waited his turn to be the starter, look for him to have a great senior season that propels him into an NFL camp.  And then, there is our 6-7 target in C.J..  Earned his chops on special teams last year, but he will become a very focal part of the offense this season.  And why not – toss the ball up there; let a linebacker or safety try to go up with him to get it.

How good can this offense be?  I certainly think they can get to the 28.9 average we had in 2010.  What are opposing defenses going to do?  Put 8 in the box to stop Coker?  That leaves single coverage on the likes of Marvin, and you generally lose sight of tight ends when you are so focused on stopping the run.  We have the playmakers in the places they need to be, James just has to get them the ball. 

As we are Iowa, our success will once again require very solid special teams play.  Don’t want to be giving away that hidden yardage!

Kicker: #96 Mike Meyer, sophomore.  6-2, 180.
Back up: #8, Trent Mossbrucker, junior.  6-0, 204.

Punter: #6 Eric Guthrie, senior.  6-6, 245.
Back up: #15 Johnny Mullings, redshirt freshman.  6-3, 210.

If our punters ever get into a fight with the other team’s kickers – we’ll win.

Meyer was thrown into the fire last year, as the season started he was just going to do kickoffs you may recall, but then he stepped up and stole the job.  14 of 17 in field goals last year:  that should ease the minds of those who are in a constant state of worry over the Iowa kicking game.  You know who you are. J

The two deeps don’t list who the kick returners are going to be.  Here we might see one of the young tailbacks that we are eager to see on the field – out of Troy, NY, #33 Jordan Canzeri.  There is also a very good chance Micah Hyde will be back there, owing to his excellent skills in the open field when snagging a pass.

Lots of those youngsters that we will see taking on prominent roles in the future will refine their craft on kickoff and punt coverage this year.  When we have success that is something we are good at.  So it is something we have to watch as the season goes along.

And then, there is the rebuilt Iowa defense.  Much maligned for late game failures last year, Norm’s health issues probably didn’t help the situation much.  But for now, he seems fine, and by having him around we may just see the Iowa D return to norm.

What is most interesting about these guys is this: this is probably the fastest, in terms of raw speed, defense that Iowa has ever had.  Seeing as we now face a predominance of spread/option type offenses, you begin to wonder if the Iowa coaches might start tinkering with our 4/3 look.  By tinkering, that means much more liberal use of blitzes, the nickel and dime in obvious passing situations, and potentially, even shifting out of the 4/3 to get four speedy linebackers onto the field.  Now, even in what seemed an ‘off year’ our D only gave up 17 points per game, so I am not advocating wholesale change just for the sake of it.  But in the modern era of spread/option football, having speed on the field to contain it may be the best way to stop it.  We’ll see.

End: #58 Lebron Daniel, senior.  6-2, 256.
Back up: #79 Dominic Alvis, sophomore.  6-4, 255

Tackle: #87 Thomas Nardo, senior.  6-3, 277.
Back up: #71 Carl Davis, redshirt freshman.  6-5, 310.

Tackle: #93 Mike Daniels, senior.  6-1, 280.
Back up: #99 Joe Gaglione, junior.  6-4, 255.

End: #91 Broderick Binns, senior.  6-2, 261.
Back up: #54 Steve Bigach, junior.  6-3, 282.

Now, part of the late game problems the D line had in 2010 was the fact we used nothing more than really a 5, sometimes 6, man rotation.  Per his presser today, Kirk says that is going to be more like 8 men this year.  So all these guys, and others, are going to see critical time in the trenches.  I like it, having 8 guys to chase those running QBs around will only help.  We need Binns to play like he did his sophomore year – last year was a disaster, but he can make up for it by being a leader and regaining his fire.  Can’t wait to see Davis stuffing the run, and I think we can count on Lebron, Thomas and Mike to go out with a bang.  This will be an Iowa D line like we have come to expect. 

The back 7.  Here is where the speed begins to come into play.  A couple years ago, our linebackers where in a contest with our back 4 to see who could pick off the most passes.  It may be that way again in 2011.  Good reason to think we will once again be among the national leaders when it comes to swiping. 

Outside Linebacker: #45, Tyler Nielsen, senior.  6-4, 235.
Back up: #13 Tom Donatell, senior.  6-2, 205

Middle Linebacker: #44 James Morris, sophomore.  6-2, 227.
Back up: #57 Bruce Davis, senior.  6-0, 232.

Weakside Linebacker: #20 Christian Kirksey, sophomore.  6-2, 215.
Back up: #31 Anthony Hitchens, sophomore.  6-1, 224.

Strong Safety: #10 Collin Sleeper, junior.  6-2, 200.
Back up: #4 Jordan Bernstine, senior.  5-11, 205.

Free Safety: #18 Micah Hyde, junior.  6-1, 185.
Back up: #49 Tanner Miller, sophomore.  6-2, 201.

Left Corner: #28 Shaun Prater, senior.  5-11, 185.
Back up: #4 Jordan Bernstine, senior.  5-11, 205.

Right Corner: #2 Greg Castillo, junior.  5-11, 182.
Back up: #18 Micah Hyde, junior.  6-1, 185.

As you can see above, the secondary is still a bit in play, and will probably be that way for a few weeks into the season.  Praying that Jordan can finally have a healthy season and show the potential we knew he had 4 years ago.  You can see here why we might be more inclined to use the nickel and dime, to get all these guys on the field when we know a pass is coming. 

Yes, a lot of new faces on the defense.  Might be a few rough patches early, but with snaps come skill and confidence.  And they most certainly want to atone for 2010.  The kids will be all right.

So that’s who we know will be seeing the field on Saturday, but with a young team and a few games to get things tweaked before the B1G season starts, things will be subject to change.  Kirk and Co will get the best guys out there, to be sure.

When you add it all up, sure, there are a lot of holes to fill, but this is college football – it happens all the time.  With a young team, it is definitely hard to look four months into the future with any clarity.  But that doesn’t stop me from trying.  Clearly, if we are a candidate to play in the Big Ten Title Game, we can’t do any worse than 7-1 in the conference, maybe 6-2.  Stack the four non-conference wins onto that, and voila, 10 or 11 wins.  Is there a chance we could slip up and blow a game we have no business losing?  Always possible, but after last year, I am sure the players, coaches, water boys, everyone is playing this year one game at a time.  And if we can do that, the young team will get better every week.  Hop on now before the bandwagon fills up!

Week 1 Tennessee Tech

Here we are again, opening against a Div 1/AA team, so there is no official line for this week.  Haven’t been able to find much on the Golden Eagles, but as they return 21 starters, we can go to the stats page, which provides some good insights for Saturday.

We hope to get Marcus and the running game going early, that will obviously open up the downfield passing game.  In 2010, TT allowed a rather terrible 215.6 yards per game on the ground – good for 110th out of 126 FCS teams.  So, even a year older, you don’t get the impression they are going to contain Coker or any other Iowa tailback.  Keep in mind this is their first game against a Big Ten school. Much bigger offensive linemen, tight ends, and faster wideouts.  They allowed 31.7 points per game, which had them at 98th in the FCS rankings.  They won’t be able to routinely stop the Iowa offense.

When it comes to offense, the Eagles rushed for 158 yards per game (47th) and passed for 168 yards (85th).  So they have balance.  This added up to 22.1 points per game, ranked 71st.  The Iowa defense routinely takes team’s scoring average and cuts it by about two thirds.  So we’ll give the Eagles a touchdown.

That would be an improvement over their loss to Arkansas to open 2010 (44-3), though I think the points they give up will be about the same.  

Now, the Eagles are probably going to employ a hurry up type of offense, so we’re going to see the D line rotation right from the start.  This might work in the Ohio Valley, but it’s more likely to just give the Iowa offense more possessions as they quickly go three and out.  And it’s virtually certain the if the Hawks can get the run going, the Eagles will be ground down to a pulp in the 2nd half.  So their offense will press, and we’ll get a head start on our race for the NCAA interception lead. 

As we can expect, Iowa will not look to run the score up on an overmatched team, and we won’t want to show much in the way of new wrinkles to ISU or Pitt scouts anyway.  Pretty much run, and then get the ball to the playmakers on the outside as the linebackers and safeties come up.  With those extra possessions, the Hawks should be able to pile up 6 touchdowns.  42-7 Hawks.  Two rushing for Coker, one for another tailback, and James with td passes to Marvin, Davis, and Herman.

That will be the start we are looking for, and it will strike fear into a rebuilding Iowa State.  There is a fair chance they could lose to UNI on Saturday night – and then we’ll come calling 7 days later. 

*And now, as a public service, I am here to explain to you how to cram as much college football into this weekend.  Real football Thursday night, Friday night, all day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Times eastern.

Thursday Night:
Start with Murray State at Louisville, 6:00 pm, ESPNU.
Then switch to a game we care about, UNLV at Wisconsin, 8:00 pm, ESPN.
Then the last kickoff that has national coverage is Western Kentucky v. Kentucky, 9:15 pm on ESPNU.  Go there when the Badger game ends.

Friday Night:
Just two games, Youngstown State at Michigan State, 7:30 pm on the BTN.
Then at 8:00, TCU at Baylor on ESPN. 

Guess – yes!  Tennessee Tech at Iowa, 12:00 pm, BTN.

Post Iowa game, the 3:30 kickoffs.  Choices:
USF at Notre Dame, NBC.
Western Michigan at Michigan, ABC/ESPN2 (regional).
Minnesota at USC, ABC/ESPN2 (regional).
 Chattanooga at Nebraska, BTN.
Arkansas State at Illinois, BTN.

Between 7 :00 and 8:00, have some food and water to refuel.

8:00 pm kickoffs:
Oregon at LSU, from Cowboy Stadium.  ABC – a top 5 showdown.
Boise State at Georgia, (from Atlanta), ESPN.
Finish the night with Colorado at Hawaii, kick 10:15, ESPNU.

Bethune-Cookman at Prairie View A&M, 12:00 pm, ESPN.
Marshall at West Virginia, 3:30 pm, ESPN.
SMU at Texas A&M, 7:30 pm, Fox Sports Net

Miami at Maryland, 8:00 pm, ESPN.

During the times that there are head to head games, you will want to find yourself in a sports bar with lots of tvs.  By my count, you can watch 11 entire games over the 5 days, minimum. 

All right friends, when these Game Notes find their way into your inbox, we will be just hours away from the kickoff of a new football season.  There is nothing quite like it on the sporting calendar.  Join us as we begin the ride to more January bowl game glory!



Dave Sedgwick           
Vice President
New York Metro Iowa Club

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