September 15, 2011

The Eternal Season - Week 3 Hawkeye Game Notes

Iowa’s Record: 1-1
Iowa’s Rankings
USA Today:

2011 Iowa Football Schedule (times eastern)

9/03/11 Tennessee Tech WIN 34-7
9/10/11 @ Iowa State Loss 44-41 3OT
9/17/11 Pittsburgh 12:00 pm, ESPN2
9/24/11 Louisiana-Monroe 12:00 pm, BTN
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:
ULM @ TCU 2:00 PM, The Mtn.

September 17th, 2011: Iowa Hawkeyes v. Pittsburgh Panthers, 2-0, 0-0 Big East
Prior Games: 4, Pitt leads 3-1
Last Game: 2008.  Iowa 20, Pitt 21

Hawkeye Stat Pack:

Turnover Margin: +3
Big Ten #3, NCAA #18

Interception Battle:
Linebackers: 1
Secondary: 1

Current Line: Iowa -3

2011 Key Stats
Scoring Defense 25.5, Pass Def 217.5, Rush Def 167.0, Interceptions 2, Total Defense 384.5
Big Ten                 #10                       #8                         #10                   #2 tie                         #8
NCAA                   #67                     #65                         #82                  #31 tie                       #73

Scoring Offense 37.5, Pass Offense 226.5, Rush Offense 153.0, Total Offense 379.5
Big Ten                #4                            #4                                 #9                                  #9
NCAA                  #38                          #60                               #60                                #74

Depth Chart for this week:
Last Week – Iowa State:

Hello again Hawkeye friends, be you in Gotham, the 2nd City, or wherever the Notes find your inbox.

Yup, a rough week here in Hawkeye Nation, but the good news is that another Saturday lurks, and with it, these bad feelings can be washed away.  At least you didn’t have to watch the Iowa State game again, slowly, play by play, and then type around 4,500 words about it, as I do.  Be grateful.  :)

You had to wonder about the Hawkeyes state of mind on Saturday, as it had been just 24 hours since word broke that Brett Greenwood had what appeared to be a heart attack while working out with his old high school football team.  He is now at the U of I Hospital, where it sounds like he is recovering, although in a medically induced coma. 

When I wrote that a young Hawkeye team could be susceptible to a September slip up a couple weeks back, it was this game that I had in my mind.  But then the way ISU struggled to put away UNI, I though we would see much of the same on Saturday.  At various tines, they did look that bad – botched field goals, dumb penalties, and turnovers.  But the Hawks couldn’t make them pay for each one, and that was our downfall.  In previous years, I have noted that if the Hawks were to kick more than 2 field goals we would lose.  Didn’t think it would matter last week, but of course, it did.

You knew we were playing Iowa State when they won the coin toss and took the ball.  As expected, there was a lot of energy at the start.  The Clones came out in the shotgun no huddle, and marched down the field on a ten-play drive that had them at our 5 yard line.  The Iowa bend don’t break defense finally worked.  Jantz couldn’t handle the snap, and as it roll behind him, a scrum ensued, and Binns emerged with the ball at the Iowa 17.  Disaster averted. 

Pretty obvious right from there that we would need to control the ball for long stretches.  And so, Coker up the middle, 4 yards.  Play action, James finds nothing, and keeps it, 4 more yards.  3rd and 2, KOK opens things up a bit.  James, in the shotgun, gets the snap and floats it deep down the far sideline – where the ball falls perfectly over Davis’s shoulder and into his arms, as he cradles it and dives to the ground (beating very good coverage).  32 yards, first down Iowa at the ISU 43!

James tries a flip to Herman, but it’s no good.  On 2nd down, he tries Marvin, and that pass is caught, and the tackle broken, 11 yards, 1st down.  Back to the ground and pound. Coker left side, 3 yards.  Again, 5 yards.  Coker, up the middle, 5 yards, 1st down.  Coker right, 2 yards.  Coker right, no, he cuts it back inside, 15, 10, 5, then hit and dropped at the 1.  1st and goal Hawkeyes, here we go!

Hawks come out in the Power I, and Marcus gets the ball, but gets nothing.  On 2nd down, Herman false starts, so now we face the 2nd and goal from the 6.  James, happy, as that means a likely pass.  And it is – at the snap, he steps back, and then fires a rope to Kevonte Martin-Manley on the goal line – he hauls it in and steps across, and it was 7-0 Iowa.  So far, so good.

Meyer kicks the ball to the goal line, and on this occasion, the Iowa kick coverage is good.  They drill the returner at the 16, and the Clone offense took the field.

Aided by a false start on 1st down, and then a great stuff of the running back on the 3rd and 1, the Hawks force the quick 3 and out and get the ball back at our 26 after the punt.

KOK attacks.  Play action, James looks, waits, and then floats a pass to the near sideline, where CJF is all alone, and he makes the catch, 24 yards, mid field we be.  Coker now, running through a tackle for 7.  Headed right, he cuts it back for 4 more.  3 straight Coker carries up the middle gain 13 yards and end the 1st quarter with the Hawks at the ISU 33.

After the break, Marcus ties going to the left side, but he never gets the corner, and falls for no gain.  James tries throwing him the ball in the right flat, but that nets only 4.  On the 3rd down, James has time and surveys the field, but then he comes back underneath and fires a strike to Herman – who has the ball, but is then drilled, and he loses it.  No good.  There was grumbling, but after watching the replay, the pass was up by his head, just one of several passes that were a bit off Saturday.  4th down, Meyer has plenty of distance on the 42 yard kick, where it bounces off the left upright, and through.  10- zip Hawks, on the way!

Meyer, apparently not focusing after the field goal, bounces the ball at the 8, and it rolls out at the 10.  Flag, ISU ball at the 40.  Hidden yardage, friends.  Bout 20 of them, right there.  And they would loom very large in the coming drives. 

The Hawk defense does the job, Binns knocks down the 1st down pass, a run to the left gets 3 yards, and on 3rd down, Norm unleashes a blitz, and this time, Jantz has no escape – Kirksey drills him for a sack, and the Hawks have forced another 3 and out.

But on the exchange, the good ISU punter keeps it away from Hyde, and he watches the ball roll to the 5.  Hidden yardage.

Predictably, the Hawks do not come out in a four-wide offense.  Coker gets 5 yards on 1st down, that’s good.  But then he tires to get the left corner, and fails, to lose 3.  3rd down, James drops back, he is in the end zone and feels pressure, steps up, and is felled at the 3.  4th down, as Iowa lines up for the punt, they forget to look at the clock, flag, delay of game.

We do get the punt off, but from the back of the end zone, it only goes to the Iowa 38.  Defense, do it again.

On 1st down the Clone tailback races through a couple weak tackles and gains 15 yards, and a flag flies.  Nope, not holding, personal foul Iowa, hands to the face.  Ball now at the Iowa 12. 

The tailback got the ball again, but as he got near the 5, he is drilled by Nardo, and loses the ball.  Nielsen falls on it, and the Hawkeye defense has once again risen to snuff an ISU drive on the verge of success.

Sadly, on own disaster was soon coming. 

From the 5, Coker gets the ball, and heads right, 4 yards.  He gets it again, and seems to have another 5 or so gained, but then a safety flies in and hits the ball as Marcus is going down – he loses it, and ISU has it at our 12.

The Iowa defense makes a great effort from here – a handoff, no gain.  Another, 1 yard.  3rd and 9.   But they can’t stop the 3rd down pass, Castillo is beaten on the far side, touchdown Clones, 10-7 Iowa.

The Hawks can only manage one 1st down on the ensuing drive; that first down comes via a QB sneak.   By my count, 5 for 5 on them this season.  The drive then dies, and ISU gets the punt at the 22, but Iowa can’t get him down, and the return comes all the way out to the 43. 

The Clones then run 8 plays that only get them as far as the Iowa 33 – a holding, and then a false start flag, didn’t help.  The 3rd down is finally killed when Prater pops a scrambling Jantz and the hit flies him back about 4 yards.  The Clones call timeout, and then come out and boot a 54 yard field goal.  10-all, 41 seconds left in the half.

The kick is a touchback, and as we could guess, one Coker run ends the first half.  

So, after a 10-zip lead, the 10-all tie didn’t sit too well with Hawkeye fans.  A quick look at the halftime stats showed that we had a 17:09 to 12:51 advantage in TOP.  That, we thought, we allow us to wear down the Clones in the 4th quarter. 

Rarely do we have the ball to start the 3rd, and sadly, we don’t know what to do with it, and throw in a quick 3 and out – the 3rd down, another shaky pass to Marvin, too high, and into blanket coverage.

The punt though, excellent; 60 yards, it lands at the ISU 10, but it also leaves the converge team far behind, so the return comes out to the 28.  No wait, flags, holding ISU, ball now on the 5.  Defense, your time has come.

Handoff, 3 yards.  Another, 3 yards, 3rd and 4.  Jantz somehow completes a pass over the middle between about 5 Hawkeye defenders to gain the 1st.  But from there, the Clones commit another penalty, holding, so they are soon facing a 2nd and 13 from their 18 yard line.

Jantz drops back, but has nothing downfield, so he comes back underneath to his tight end – he makes the catch for about 4 yards, but is immediately drilled by Kirksey, and the ball pops out, and Kirksey makes the fumble recovery.  It’s reviewed, and upheld – Iowa ball at the ISU 21.

James fires a quick strike to Davis, it’s good, 1st down Iowa at the 9.  James then rolls out to his right and tries finding Derby in the end zone, no good.  From here, KOK rolls the dice.

At the snap, James hands the ball to Marcus, who then flips the ball to Davis, who is reversing from the near side.  But this doesn’t fool the ISU defense, so they are waiting as Davis gets to the far side.  He does well to just lose a yard.

3rd and goal, James hit KMM at about the 5, and he can get only to the two, so Meyer comes in again to boot the 20 yard field goal.  It’s good, 13-10 Hawkeyes, but not scoring the td there would loom very large in the outcome.

Meyer then boots the kick to the 6, but the coverage team allows the return to go right up the middle, and it comes all the way out to the Iowa 44.  Disaster.

ISU gains one 1st down but their drive dies at the Iowa 24.  In comes the field goal team, who boots the kick wide left – the first of their special team to screw ups.  Still 13-10 Hawks, Iowa ball at our 24.

On first down, Marvin must see that he is single covered on the outside, in his eagerness to get off the line, he false starts.  James then hits Davis for 7, and then he comes right back to him over the middle, for 22 more, 1st down Iowa – but wait, flags!  Personal foul, Iowa State, 1st down Iowa at the ISU 38!

From there, only 5 yards, so Meyer comes in to attempt a 50 yard field goal of his own – it’s with the wind, and it’s good!  16-10 Hawks.  But we have just kicked our 3rd field goal, and we are just one play away from tailing.  Sure could have used more touchdowns.  But, a long way to go.

Though it didn’t take long for Hawkeye Nation to curse those field goals. Meyer’s kick lands at the 2 and is returned to the 27.  The Clones with a handoff, he is drilled by Daniels for no gain.  But on 2nd down, the Clones run a bubble screen, and as the runner comes back inside, one of the Iowa linebackers has a good shot at him – and misses.  It goes for 57 yards, before he is forced out of bounds at the Iowa 16.

Two handoffs get 3, then 4 yards.  3rd and 2.  In the formation, the Clones have 3 wideouts on the right side – at the snap, they cross, and the Iowa secondary loses track of one in the back corner of the end zone.  Jantz doesn’t, and the catch is made, and just like that, the Hawks trail 17-16.  Clock at 2:02 of the 3rd.

The ISU kick goes a yard or two deep, and Davis bring it out, and gets to the 20.  No wait, flags, and WHAT????  ISU is called for offsides on the kickoff!  (they actually had been TWICE before that, but it was never called).  Iowa has the choice and opts for the rekick, which lands then at the 13, and Davis takes it out to the 36.  +16 on the hidden yardage scorecard.

Sadly, we can do nothing with it, the 3rd down pass to Davis is another one that is just not quite right.  We down the punt return at the 20, but yes, another flag – a block in the back on ISU, their ball, at the 9.

ISU then goes on a 13 play drive that gets them as far as the Iowa 20.  No penalties in this one, but it is noteworthy, as so begins the period where we seem to have Jantz dead to rights, only to have him escape and run, or complete a pass.  This happens at least twice on critical downs in this drive, but we finally kill it at our 20 by unleashing a two man blitz.  We don’t get Jantz, but his hurried pass is no good.  In comes the field goal team to boot the 38 yarder.

We knew it right from the kick, and so did the ISU kicker.  Wide right, still 17-16.

So the Hawks have the ball at the 20 with 10:20 left in the game.  James looks for McNutt on the far side, its caught, 14 yards. He goes right back to him, but it’s no good.  Coker now, he starts right, but then cuts it back inside, shedding tacklers along the way, 18 yards!  Timeout, Iowa State.

After the break, James fires one deep for Marvin – he has the coverage beat, but the pass is just overthrown.  Coker now, to the right for 6.  James runs a QB draw that gains 6 more, 1st down Iowa at the ISU 36.  Marcus now, right side for 4, then up the middle for just 1.  3rd and 5, timeout, Iowa.

At the snap, Marvin is on the far side.  James drops back, the protection is good, and he finds McNutt flashing across the middle – it’s a crossing route!  You can’t cover Marvin on crossing routes!  He makes the catch and eludes the diving tackle; he turns up field 20, 15, 10, 5 and he is finally dropped at the 2.  29 yards, 1st and goal Iowa!

We now interrupt your Game Notes with a technical problem. Never mind the fact it’s 75 degrees and sunny in Ames.

What happened from there, was Coker gained one yard on 1st down, and then walked, untouched, into the end zone to make it 22-17 Iowa.  We went for 2.  James dropped back, had time, and finally found Davis just short of the line, he made the catch and dove across it, 24-17 Hawks, clock 5:50.

We still don’t have the visual, which is probably a good thing.

Meyer’s kick lands at the goal line, and once again, the Iowa coverage team is asleep at the switch.  It comes out to the 41.

This drive starts with yes, another ISU penalty.  False start.  1st and 15.

Handoff to the tailback, no gain.

A pass over the middle, no good.  3rd and 15.

Jantz drops back, but is soon pressured by the D-line, so he rolls to his right – but the Hawks fail to see one of the wideouts on the other side of the field, who has come back to the play, and Jantz finds him for 20, and a 1st down.

Two more stuffed plays and a holding call place ISU on a 3rd and 20.  Somehow, the secondary now falls asleep, and they allow the deep pass down the near sideline to drop in, it goes for 40 yards to the Iowa 15.  Had Bernstine been the safety coming over on that play, the ball would have been dropped. 

The Iowa defense would soon force ISU into a 4th and 1, but we can’t stop Jantz as he takes it himself for 2, after an ISU timeout.  1st and goal from the 4.

The Hawks tip the 1st down pass, and it falls incomplete.  On 2nd down, Jantz tries coming over the middle – and it looked for a second like Kirksey has picked it off – but as he falls down, the ball comes out. 

3rd down, the pressure is right up the middle, but they can’t get to Jantz, who rolls right, and the time allows a player to flash open at the near side of the end zone – he floats it there, and the receiver makes the catch and gets one foot down, touchdown Clones, all tied up at 24.  Clock at 1:17.

We then drop the ball on the kickoff, so it goes for a touchback.  From there, Coker right for 2 yards, we line up quickly, but false start ourselves.  Another run brings the clock down to 0, and for the first time in history, the ISU/Iowa game goes to overtime.

We started with the ball in OT, and after 4 plays Coker took it in from 4 yards out.  31-24 Hawkeyes.

The Clones possession starts with a run and a personal foul on Hyde, and just like that, ISU is at that 5.  But from there, the Iowa defense stiffened, and ISU was soon facing a 4th and goal from the 4. ISU calls timeout.

After the break, it’s a quick snap, and quick pass, the Iowa defender on the far side just needed to turn around to knock it down, but he doesn’t  - it’s caught, 31-all.

ISU gets the ball right back, and the Iowa defense soon had them in a 3rd and 9 from the 14.  But on the dropback, the Iowa line once again seems to have Jantz nailed, only to lose him, and he scrambles all the way down to the 1.  One more handoff does it, ISU now leads 38-31.

Our turn, Coker for 2, then a halfback pass by Marvin for Davis is no good. 3rd and 8, James drops back, and then finds Davis on the far side, he catches it at about the 3 and scoots in for the touchdown.  38-all.

We now have the ball, in the possession where you have to start going for two.

1st down, a pass for Davis that is broken up.
2nd down, James to KMM for 4 yards.
3rd down, a pass for Davis is no good.  4th and 6.
But wait – flags fly.  ISU called for having 12 men on the field.  5 yard penalty, 4th and 1.

We know what happens next – the field goal by Meyer is good, and the Hawks lead 41-38.  It takes ISU 6 plays to run the option flip that gets the ball into the end zone.  And so it ends, 44-41.

In retrospect, we had not stopped the ISU offense in OT or the end of the 4th.  Why didn’t we run a QB sneak on the 4th and 1?  We were 5 for 5 doing it in 2011.  How about a play action pass to a tight end, ala Stanzi to Reisner to finish off the Paper Tigers?  And with 1:17 left and 2 timeouts, why didn’t Iowa play for the field goal to win the game in regulation?  Every kid knows this by age 10 – you play to win on the road, and take overtime at home.  We were on the road.  Is Iowa incapable of coming out in a 4 wideout set to run a two-minute offense?  James must have felt like OSU 2009 all over again.  Just need a field goal – one that would win it.

So, the Hawks are left to ponder what they could have done better, as they must quickly regroup to welcome in another BCS conference team, Pitt.  In light of how things went on Saturday, all the position coaches have their work cut out for them this week.  We need to tackle better, pass better, lockdown receivers better, and cover kicks better.  No one is off the hook for this one.

And you have to wonder about the future as we ponder the prospect of many more option running QBs.  It makes sense that a very mobile QB will be able to elude defensive lineman.  Who then, to chase them down?  Linebackers?  I.E. a 3-4, so you can have two speedy linebackers coming off the edges to keep those guys in the pocket?  I’m not a coach so I don’t know these answers, I can just ask them.  I do know that it’s not something we can just install midseason.  But as the nature of football has changed, it may be time for the Iowa defense to do the same.

Iowa Football returns to the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium, with a bad taste in their mouths.  They are probably ready to hurt someone.  Welcome, Pittsburgh.


What’s this, a team that hands the ball off to a running back, and just has the QB throw it?  But it’s another hurry up offense type of attack, that aims to snap the ball every 15 seconds or so.  Because this is both a new offense and new defense (running the 3-4), the process has had its bumps in the early going.  Now things get a lot harder on the other side of the line for Pitt.

The Panthers are off to a 2-0 start, beating the powerhouses of Buffalo 35-16, and then Maine, 35-29.  Both those games were at home.

As you can see above, the Maine game was a bit of a struggle.  So much so, they benched their junior QB after the 3rd for a true freshman who didn’t even have a scholarship until two weeks ago.

The key to stopping Pitt is, surprise, stopping the running game.  Theirs is pretty good – well, we shall see.  In fact, their tailback, Ray Graham, #1, is leading the NCAA with his 161 yards per game average.  This comes via 209 against Buffalo, then a more normal 122 last week, on 28 carries.  He has 6 rushing touchdowns to date.

The junior QB, Tino Sunseri, #12, got the pine by tossing two interceptions, and hanging around the pocket long enough to be sacked 7 times.  He has one passing td in the two games.

The freshman was 5 for 7 when he came in, for 33 yards.  But he did engineer a drive for a td, which obviously made the difference in the end.  Not sure if you would call it a quarterback controversy yet, I just know you don’t want those kinds of questions as you head out on the road for the first time - to finally play a BCS conference team.

That Maine QB kind of had his way with the Pitt secondary, tossing for 334 yards and 3 tds.  So the passing downfield should be there if the Hawks can get the running game going.  To date, Pitt is giving up about 82 yards per game on the ground, but they have yet to face a team with Big Ten lineman, obviously.

So the Iowa offense should be able to move the ball, and the Iowa defense should be able to finally find a reward for the pressure they have been able to generate.  And while Jantz didn’t make any major mistakes throwing the ball, we’ll hope that Sunseri will, as going on the road before 70,597 is a lot different from your nowhere close to sellouts at home (sucks to be a college team in the Steel City).

If our kick coverage boys play like they did last week, we could have a problem.  Pitt averages a good 26.6 on kickoff returns, and 10.8 on punt returns – both good for #2 in the Big East, and mid 30s nationally.  If it comes to it, we might have to use starting linebackers and secondary guys covering kicks.  Far from ideal, but the way games can change on special teams, you do what you have to do.

Also of note, Pitt’s net punting is only 30 yards per attempt (ours, 40).  So the chances for an Iowa punt return go up, as does the opportunity to get in there and wreak havoc before the punt gets away.  And when it comes to field goals, advantage – Iowa.  Pitt is 2 for 5 on the season.  Not that we want field goals.  Oh, and their kicker missed an extra point last week.

Can the Hawkeyes rebound from the heartache to play like a contender this week?  The conventional wisdom says young teams have short memories.  This I know – we can play better defense, we can see a more efficient passing game, and we can find guys who want to blow people up on kick returns.  There is the home cooking and Kinnick backing.  And in Pitt, there is also a young team with a new coaching staff, new game plans, and no true test to date.   If the Hawks play smart ball and don’t turn it over (Coker), there isn’t much reason to think Pitt can overcome the road and lack of intensity from the first two games.  31-14 Hawks.

That will have us, and the Iowa Football team in a much better frame of mind, and they can then work on perfecting things over a two week stretch before the trip to Happy Valley.  We’ll be much better by then – be ready Penn State!



Dave Sedgwick           
Vice President
New York Metro Iowa Club
Class of ‘95

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