October 13, 2011

The Eternal Season - Week 7 Hawkeye Game Notes

Iowa’s Record: 3-2, 0-1 Big Ten
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 WIN 31-27
9/24/11 Louisiana-Monroe WIN 45-17
10/01/11 Bye Week
10/08/11 @ Penn State Loss 13-3
10/15/11 Northwestern 7:00 pm, BTN
10/22/11 Indiana 12:00 pm, BTN
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:
October 15th: Indiana @ Wisconsin, 12:00 pm, ESPN2

October 15th, 2011: Iowa Hawkeyes v. Northwestern Wildcats, 2-3, 0-2 Big Ten
Prior Games: 72, Iowa leads 46-23-3
Last Game: 2010.  Iowa 17, Northwestern 21

Hawkeye Stat Pack:

Turnover Margin: +2
Big Ten #8, NCAA #43

Interception Battle:
Linebackers: 1
Secondary: 4

Current Line: Iowa -6.5

2011 Key Stats
Scoring Defense 21.6, Pass Def 235.4 Rush Def 152.2, Picks 5, Total Defense 387.6
Big Ten                 #8                      #10                         #6           #6 tie                         #9
NCAA                   #39                    #80                         #52         #55 tie                       #66

Scoring Offense 30.8, Pass Offense 258.8, Rush Offense 129.2, Total Offense 388.0
Big Ten                #6                             #3                                #10                                  #7
NCAA                  #51                          #40                               #78                                 #70

Depth Chart for this week:

Last Week – Penn State:

Greetings, Hawkeye Friends!

You could excuse your scribe for not wanting to see this game again on the dvr after seeing it in the flesh last Saturday.  We have lost a few games that I have attended in person over the years, but not many of them had me leaving the stadium feeling like I did after this one.  Fortunately I am so busy at work this week, I don’t have to sit through it again!

Yay, I got the 13 points Penn State would score right! 13 points – two long passes to Marvin should have been enough to win this one.  And we couldn’t do it.

From the beginning, things just didn’t look right.  The Lions started Bolden and of the 7 passes he would throw, only 3 were caught – and 3 should have been picked off by the Iowa defense.  Any one of those plays would have set us up with a short field and early score, and our failure to execute cost us dearly.

Still when the 1st quarter ended, we were only down 3-0, and had the ball.  6 plays later, we were facing a 3rd and 3 from the PSU 4 – and Reiff false starts to push us back 5 yards, where James finds Marvin, but he is hit immediately at the 5, so Meyer comes in to boot the 23 yard field goal.  3 all, still hard to believe that would be it for the Hawkeyes – at 10:51 of the 2nd.

In the ensuing drive, the Lions completed passes of 16, 12, 23, and 21 yards, and eventually had the ball at the Hawkeye 3 – where the Iowa defense finally stood up, and forced the 20 yard field goal.  6-3 Penn State.  Clearly, it was McGloin playing in this quarter for PSU.

The Hawks went 3 and out with three straight incomplete passes – although as would be the case for much of the day, some of those were not all James’s fault – the receivers had issues hanging onto the ball.

But then the Iowa defense forced Penn State to punt after 5 plays, so we had the ball back, at our 20, with 1:42 left, and two time outs.  Attack!

Nope.  Coker, the middle, 1 yard.  Knowing our tendencies to play it close to the vest, Penn State is crowding the line.  Play action?

2nd down, Coker right, 4 yards.  Time out, Penn State.  Clock :54 seconds.

3rd down, Coker middle, 5 yards, 1st down. 

Now we try throwing the ball, but James finds nothing, so he scrambles to the near side for 14 yards.  But – we can’t even get off the desperation end-of-half-pass, as James is sacked before he can release it.  Suffice to say, that last series didn’t go down well with the Iowa faithful up there in the corner of the end zone.  Still, only down 6-3, as Penn State knows all too well, you have to play 60 whole minutes to beat Iowa.


The 3rd quarter was fairly sleepy, but it sure could have started with a bang – on their first snap, the PSU tailback Redd lost the ball – but the Hawks were unable to snag it.  4 plays later, they were punting, and the Hawks had the ball at the 20.

James starts with a 5 yard pass to Gimm, but then two more incompletions force the quick 3 and out. 

Penn State puts Bolden back in – and they now go, 3 and out.  Hyde fumbles the punt, but Prater recovers it at the Iowa 16.  Disaster averted.

Hawks start with a penalty – illegal procedure. 

Thanks to a Penn State personal foul, we would get this drive to the PSU 41 – but two more dead passes kill the drive, and Guthrie does not punt the ball into the end zone as the PSU punter does, and the Hawks kill it at the 4 yard line.  This was the end zone where the visitors are sitting– and we rose up, waiting to see who on the Iowa Defense was going to make the play.

But it doesn’t help.  PSU starts with a 3 yard run – but then a 19 yard pass (McGloin is in), another 14 yard pass.  Soon rushes of 12, 15, 18 yards, all by Redd, and the Lions were soon at the Iowa 6, facing a 3rd and 5.

McGloin drops back, surveys, and finally floats the ball to the near corner of the end zone – where Hyde has baited him perfectly, and he leaps into the air and snags the pass, there it is!  But he falls down, so it’s just a touchback, and he can’t return it 107 yards.

Ok, 1:42 left in the 3rd.  Coker, 3 yards.  Again, 5 yards, tough running up the middle.  James drops back and hits – Marvin!  24 yards, 1st down Iowa at the PSU 48 as the 3rd quarter comes to an end!  Here we go!

But then – well, the game was on ABC.  Long tv timeouts.  Momentum, killed.

The 4th starts with a handoff to Coker, and he gets 3 yards.  Then, a pass to Davis is no good, and on the 3rd and 7, the Iowa line can’t hold up and James is drilled, and he loses the ball, and Penn State falls on it at the Iowa 49.

Through all of this, we are still just down 6-3.  Someone, make the play to turn the game.

Some of the quick drives by the Iowa offense were now having an effect on the Iowa defense.  Penn State calls 10 straight running plays, and they are able to overcome a 3rd and 4 and a 3rd and 5, the 2nd one giving them a 1st and goal from the Iowa 2. 

Based on the previous 10 plays, the Iowa defense sells out to stop the run, but guess what, it’s a play action pass – and McGloin raises up and flips the ball to his tight end, catch made, touchdown Penn State.  13-3, clock at 8:08 of the 4th.

From this point on, things got very hard to watch.

The Hawks get from their 20 out to the 41 in 3 plays – great.  But then passes to Davis and KMM are no good, and on a 4th and 4 play from the 41, James’s pass is tipped by a defender and picked off by the Lions, drive dead.

The Hawkeye defense makes the stop from there, and the offense got the ball back at the Iowa 15 with 4:32 left.  We can get two scores in that amount of time, just ask Pitt!   Come on Hawks!!!

James to Derby, the Elder, caught, 5 yards.

But now James is focusing on Marvin the whole way, and Penn State has about 3 guys on him, the pass, no good.

Another one, catchable, but not.

On the 4th and 4, James finds KMM for 8 yards, 1st down Iowa.

But it was not to be  - James fires it down field, where a leaping defender again tips the ball, and in the swarm of Lion defenders, it is they who grab it.   Clock at 3:42.

To be honest, this is when our group departed from the stadium.  Our previous trips to Happy Valley have often had us stuck in traffic – that was not the case this time, one of the bright spots on an otherwise dismal day.

Iowa would get the ball back at the 3:18 mark, but then 3 consecutive sacks of James have the Hawks facing a 4th and 39 from the Iowa 2.  He does find Marvin on this pass, but it only goes for 25 yards, not the 39 we needed.  Penn State kneels down, and the game ends, soon after we got to our car and started heading east.  A somber ride, to be sure.

We lost a game 13-3.  The offense that was averaging almost 38 points a game finished with 253 total yards – 169 in the air, 84 net on the ground.  James, 17-34, but his successes averaged just 5 yards – nowhere near the downfield attack we expected.  Coker, 18 carries, for 74 yards – a 4.1 average, but he was never able to break anything major – a long of 16.  Nobody else got any carries in this one – it would have been nice to see if the change of pace backs could have found any more success.

The Iowa Defense only gave up 164 passing yards – but it was the rushing attack we needed to kill, and we were unable to do it.  For the game, Penn State averaged 5 yards a carry –231 total - and of course, the drive that really decided it was all on the ground.   We have got to do better in the weeks ahead, get back to what Iowa football is supposed to be.

So we lose to Penn State, making them 2-8 against us in the last 10 – hence the lack of comments we heard leaving the stadium.  The question then, is can this young team flush the memory of this game, as they prepare to face our own nemesis this Saturday? 

THIS WEEK: Northwestern

If the Hawks can’t come out firing in this one, then you know that something is amiss.  Three straight, and three straight in Kinnick.  We are overdue for a major beatdown of the Mildcats.

You recall, when we last saw them, Persa leaping to make the game winning pass, and then rupturing his Achilles when he landed.  During the offseason it was expected he would be back by the opener, and Northwestern began promoting him as a Heisman candidate with Rose Bowl dreams.

But, Persa didn’t return until week 4.  In weeks 1 and 2, that didn’t matter much – starting with a 24-17 win at BC.  A week later, they handled Eastern Illinois 42-21.  But then in week 3, they travelled to West Point, where they gave up 381 rushing yards to Army’s triple option offense and lost, 21-14. 

Persa finally returned for the Big Ten opener, when the Cats visited Illinois.  And, he didn’t appear to have any rust, going 10-14 for 123 and 4 TDs – although on the ground, he had 9 carries for -3 yards.  Northwestern had a 28-10 lead in that game, but it wasn’t the offense that made the difference, it was their defense, which allowed the Illini to score three 4th quarter touchdowns and win the game 38-35. 

Last week the Cats were host to Michigan – the Wolverines struck first, but Northwestern held a 24-14 lead at halftime, largely on the three 1st half interceptions thrown by Denard Robinson. 

But Denard rebounded in the 2nd, and once again it was the Wildcat defense paying the price – as they would go on to lose 42-24. In that game, the Cat defense gave up 362 passing yards – 337 of them from yes, Denard Robinson.

That’s a three game losing streak, and in the last two, Persa has been the starting QB.  So, the Heisman run is over, and the Rose Bowl run is in serious jeopardy.

The higher level stats confirm the obvious about the Wildcat defense.  In total defense, dead last in the Big Ten, and #104 nationally.  Pass defense, last and #97.  Scoring defense, 11th (only the woeful Gophers are worse) and #73rd.  Iowa can score points on the Northwestern defense.  But we can’t make mistakes to give them easy chances – the Cats are #1 in turnover margin in the conference. 

Through two games, Persa has not shown the downfield running ability that he has had in the past – last week, 9 carries for -5 yards.  But he is still elusive and very accurate when moving side to side, so containing that will be a major key for the Iowa defense.  I am wondering if we will see the dedicated 3-4 look more this week, with the idea being to have a faster linebacker in there to help with the scramble containment, along with pass coverage.  

Whatever the look, the Iowa defense must do a better job stopping the run, where the Cats average about 187 yards a game.  Binns, Daniels, and the rest, you must step up – you are the Iowa Defensive front.  Play like it.

We are going to need our excellent punt team to be on alert this week, as the Cats are ranked #6 nationally with an 18.0 return yards per game average.  The Cats have only attempted 4 field goals this year, where they are 50%.

So when it’s all said and done, this has the makings of a shootout kind of game, where Iowa should have the advantage passing the ball against Northwestern’s suspect defense.  The Iowa defense must have their best game of the season, by far.  Aiding in this will be the night atmosphere, the beautiful striping of Kinnick, and the fact the Hawkeyes are 8-1 in our last 9 night games – the loss being at Arizona in 2010.

And then there is the fact that the 4 year seniors have never beaten Northwestern.  No Hawkeye wants that to be his legacy.  Can the players forget last week to focus on ending this streak?  I think they can, and they will.  The Hawks will start fast, and though there will be some rough patches, the Kinnick faithful will help pull them through.  Marvin ties and sets the Iowa td reception record, and Marcus regains the momentum with 130+ yards. Iowa 38, Northwestern 27.



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