October 20, 2011

The Eternal Season - Week 8 Hawkeye Game Notes

Iowa’s Record: 4-2, 1-1 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 WIN 41-31
10/22/11 Indiana 12:00 pm, BTN
10/29/11 @ Minnesota 3:30 pm, BTN
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 22nd: Nebraska @ Minnesota, 3:30 pm, ABC

October 22nd, 2011: Iowa Hawkeyes v. Indiana Hoosiers, 1-6, 0-3 Big Ten
Prior Games: 72, Iowa leads 41-27-4
Last Game: 2010.  Iowa 18, Indiana 13

Hawkeye Stat Pack:

Turnover Margin: +3
Big Ten #6, NCAA #36

Interception Battle:
Linebackers: 1
Secondary: 5

Current Line: Iowa -23

2011 Key Stats
Scoring Defense 23.2, Pass Def 253.2 Rush Def 152.3, Interceptions 6, Total D 405.5
Big Ten                 #8                      #11                         #7                  #7                           #9
NCAA                   #43                    #97                         #61                #49 tie                    #79

Scoring Offense 32.5, Pass Offense 253.0, Rush Offense 133.5, Total O 386.5
Big Ten                #4                             #2                                #11                         #8
NCAA                  #35                          #38                               #77                        #67

Depth Chart for this week:
Last Week – Northwestern

Greetings Hawkeye friends!  Much more fun writing the Notes this week, they should be more fun to read as well!

Sure, it wasn’t the Hayden-worthy beatdown of the Cats we wanted, and it was a strange game if you just look at the stats, but it was a win, and it was especially great to see the offense put up 41 after only managing 3 the week before.  Ok, the offense got 34 – and it sure would have been nice if the defense could have scored against Penn State.  Alas, that is in the past, and we are looking forward.

It was a beautiful night in Kinnick, and the faithful once again dazzled us with the striping, and the card display before the game.  We would soon learn that two defensive starters would miss the game, Morris and Nardo, but as is almost always the case, the Iowa offense had the ball first.

At the 40, thanks to a kicking gaff by the NW kicker.  We’ll take it!  Knowing that the Cats were susceptible to a good passing attack, KOK comes out aggressively, with a play action fake, and James fires it to Marvin past the far hash – he makes the catch, but goes down in the process, so it goes for 11 and a Hawkeye 1st down right out of the gate.  On the next snap, Marvin runs a quick out, and turns to find the ball has arrived –the catch is made, and he steps out of bounds for 7 more. 

Still no sign of the running game, James fires one to KMM on the near side, and that nets the Iowa 1st down.  Another throw, this time he finds Davis on a crossing route, and this catch is made for 9 more.  Finally Marcus gets the handoff, and he bursts through the line and lays the lumber on the safety who emerges to meet him – after 12 yards. 

James runs another fake to Coker, and rises up and fires it to Marvin in the end zone, but the connection cannot be made.  Marcus now, going left, gets only 2 to bring up the 3rd and 8.   The Cats blitz, but it’s not a pass, Coker gets the handoff and heads for the far corner – which he makes, but is then brought down after 7 yards.  The Iowa fans are clamoring for Kirk to go for it, but the kicking team comes in, and Meyer boots the 27 yarder home.  3-0 Hawks, great, but touchdowns are better!

Meyer’s kickoff lands at the 6, and Lowery pops the Cats return man at the 19.   Persa comes out to a 5 wide formation, and the pressure arrives soon after the snap, but he escapes and fires it to his back up QB, Colter, for 8 yards.  Surprisingly, it was then Colter who was under center, and he rolls right after the snap, and hits his underneath man Ebert for 5 yards and a 1st down.  But three plays later Persa would have to step up under heavy pressure, and his pass over the middle was no good, so the Cats had to punt.  It landed at the Iowa 29, where Hyde made the fair catch.

But the Hawks quickly go three and out after picking up 5 yards on the wideout screen to Davis on 1st down.  The Iowa punt from the 33 lands at the NW 32, fair catch.

Persa is again in the game, and he hands it to his tailback Green, who nets 4 yards up the middle.  Persa then tries a screen pass to Green, but Daniels is not fooled, and he flies in and levels the tailback for a 3 yard loss.  3rd and 9, Kinnick raises the noise level as the Cats come to the line.

Persa drops back, and quickly floats the ball deep down the near sideline – it looks like it might be overshot, but Colter dives as the ball arrives, and makes the catch – for 32 yards, to the Iowa 36.

This would be come a main theme of the day – the Iowa D forcing the 3rd down, but Northwestern finding a way to convert, usually with underneath throws.  The next pass for Colter is no good, and then Alvis nails Persa as he tries to pull it down, and the Cats faced a 3rd and 11.  But Persa has time, and he has 5 receivers out in the pattern, but he throws it for Ebert, and his out route gets him 16 yards and another Northwestern 1st down.

The Iowa D would force another 3rd down, this time for 6, but Persa would beat it with another quick toss to Ebert, and Northwestern had 1st and goal at the Hawkeye 8.

Persa comes to the line in the gun, with his tailback by his side – at the snap, it’s the read option, and Persa keeps the ball.  He looks downfield, but soon begins to flow to the near sideline – mainly as Binns has beaten his block and is racing toward the NW QB from the far side of the field.  Alarmed, Persa picks up the pace – but it’s too late, as Binns dives forward to grab the Cat QB by the legs – but he doesn’t go down!  Binns sort of twists him half way around, and then another Hawkeye arrives to put on another hit, and amazingly, Persa releases the ball!  It’s a duck from the moment it leaves his hand, and a second later, it lands in the arms of Iowa safety Tanner Miller!  Kinnick erupts!  And now, he’s racing down the near sideline, the former state champ in the 400 hurdles, with Prater and Hyde to his left providing cover, but he doesn’t need it!  50, 40, 30, 20, touchdown Iowa!!!  98 yards, matching the longest pick-6 in Hawkeye history!  10 zip Hawks, the ultimate sign of the Iowa bend but don’t break defense!

Now Northwestern really begins the cat and mouse game with their quarterbacks.  This drive starts from the 18 with a handoff that nets only 2 yards.  Colter then lines up in the pistol, and he runs the option route but keeps it, 4 yards, 3rd and 4.  Persa returns and sure enough, fires a quick strike for Ebert that gets one more than they needed.   Colter back, he hands it off and it goes for 4 yards.  He again lines up in the pistol, and this time, he pitches the ball, but the Iowa D has it strung out and it goes for only 3 feet.

3rd and 5, Persa comes back in.  It’s another quick, short pass, but this time to the tight end, 1st down Northwestern.  The starter again departs, and Colter now runs the option read, but as he keeps the ball, he gets the corner turned, and then cuts it back toward the middle of the field – it goes for 37 yards before the Hawks can get him down, and the Cats were at the Hawkeye 22.

Persa, a quick screen to Ebert nets only 4.  He stays in, and this time, decides to pull it down and try for the near corner – which he almost makes, but Daniels is able to get a finger on him and bring the QB down for a loss of 2 yards.  So ends the 1st quarter, with the Cats facing a 3rd and 8.

Norm must have said something during the break, as when the game resumed, Persa had only gotten as far back as his drop back when Daniels arrived again, and the QB had nowhere to go but down, a 9 yard sack.  This brought in the field goal unit, and whistles blew as the 47 yard field goal came up short – false start, Northwestern.  The 5 yards is enough to bring in the punt team, and they promptly boot it into the end zone to only net 14 yards on the exchange.

This Hawkeye drive starts with a bang – Marcus got the ball and explodes through the line, 25 yards, the last 5 dragging a Wildcat tackler along for the ride.  Now James is dropping back , and he hits Rogers – yes, Brad, welcome back, for 7!  Coker again, 2 yards, bringing up a Hawkeye 3rd and 1. 

Instead of handing it to Marcus, James tries throwing it to him, and this does not work, so the promising start turns into a punt, and this time, the Iowa coverage team can’t get to it, as it lands at the 1 and then the end zone.

But the Cats quickly go 3 and out, as their long 3rd down pass is close, but the coverage by Castillo is good, and Ebert can’t make the catch.  The NW punt rolls dead at the Iowa 28.

James comes out throwing, or intending to, but the pressure comes, and he is hit as he steps up to lose a yard.  Flags fly, and the Hawks are called for holding.  1st and 20 from the Hawkeye 18, we start with a handoff to Coker that gets 4.  But KOK is greedy – James drops back, and pumps the ball aggressively – where on the far side, that pump sells the out, but it’s an out and up, and James fires it down the hash where a wide open Davis makes the catch, 31 yards, 1st down Iowa, at the NW 47!  The replay clearly shows the NW cornerback flailing for nothing as Keenan embarrasses him with the double move. 

And Keenan would not be done.  James sells the play-action fake to Marcus, and rises, and then fires the ball down the middle of the field – where once again, Davis is wide open (a post route), and he makes the catch and steps into the end zone, touchdown Iowa, 47 yards!  17-0, we are not messing around this time Cats!

The next drive starts a bit ominously, as the kick lands in the end zone, but the returner breaks out of a tackle at the 20, and takes it out to the 35 yard line.  Northwestern then starts a 13 play drive, converting two more 3rd downs in the process, and they soon land at the Iowa 6.  Persa is in, and yes, he throws it to Ebert, a quick toss that the Hawks can’t stop, and Northwestern scores to make it 17-7.

Joradan brings the next kickoff out to the 34, and the Hawks are in business with a
Coker run that churns out 8.  But, on 2nd down, James tries a pass over the middle that is not long enough, and KMM falls down when trying to break back to the ball – but the Cat defender is able to dive and make the snag, a turnover, and the feeling of unease again begins to settle over Hawkeye Nation.

The Cats get one 1st down, but then Persa is again sacked, this time by Bigach, and that ends up killing the Northwestern momentum.  The Hawks soon force the 4th and 7, but they don’t call any timeouts, and Northwestern is able to bring the clock down to 13 seconds before they call timeout.  There is grumbling in Kinnick, and in the Iowa bars, as Iowa takes the ball and kneels down to bring the 1st half to an end.

The 10 point lead feels good, but as the halftime crew and broadcast crew point out, it’s been the 2nd halves that have done Iowa in during the recent 3 game losing streak to Northwestern.  No points in any of the 4th quarters over that stretch.  Would this week be different?

The most telling of the halftime stats- 3rd down, Iowa 0-3, Northwestern, 8-12, and more worrisome, time of possession, the Cats at 20:58 of the first 30 minutes. 

With that in the back of everyone’s minds, the Iowa defense took the field after the NW kicking team fumbled the kickoff, but was still able to get it out to the 33. 

The drive starts with Persa running the option pitch, and the Hawks string this one out for no gain.  But on 2nd down he fires a strike to Ebert, and he steps out of a tackle at about 10 yards, and gets 11 more, and Northwestern was at the Iowa 46.

Persa runs a keeper that gets him 6, and then he pitches the ball back to Colter, who raises as if to throw it, but he pulls it down and tries for the near corner – but Alvis makes the diving stop, and it brings up a 3rd and 3 at the Iowa 39.

It’s not to Ebert, but Persa still connects on the quick pass, 1st down Cats. 

Now the Cats try to get tricky – on the snap, Colter quickly fires it to Ebert behind the line of scrimmage – he then immediately fired the ball back to Colter, but Binns is not fooled, and he plows into the Northwestern QB just as the ball arrives, and it falls to the turf.

A few plays later the Cats are called for holding, but on the 1st and 20, Colter rushes for 10 yards, and two more passing plays by Persa have the Cats in a 1st and goal at the Hawkeye 4.

Colter comes back in, and he runs the option to the near side this time, but the Hawks can’t contain the pitch man, and he falls into the end zone to make it 17-14.  More uncertainly falls onto Hawkeye Nation.  The offense needs to respond.  Now.

Jordan brings the kick out to the 25.  A pass to Marvin on the near side, 6 yards.  Another to KMM – he has it, no, dropped,  3rd and 4.   Instead of a short throw, James opts for a deep fade to Marvin – and he raises up to make the catch, but then the Northwestern defender gets his arm in there and knocks it away.  The Hawks have gone 3 and out  - and Kinnick is very silent as the Iowa punt is downed at the Wildcat 30.

The Cats run 7 plays that get them to the Iowa 30, but the key play of perhaps the entire game is on the 8th one.  Colter is in to face the 3rd and 1, an he tries another option play to the far side, but Daniels will have nothing of it, and he slices his way into the backfield to drop the Cat QB for a loss.  Northwestern lines up, and this time, they hit the 47 yard field goal, and the game was tied at 17 all.  Kinnick, like a cemetery.  Iowa offense, your time has come.

Jordan brings the kick out to the 36.  A good start.

Coker, left side, 5 yards.  One more, with feeling, 4 yards. 3rd and 1.

Coker, the middle, 3 yards, a 1st down.  First Iowa 3rd down conversion, 2:50 of the 3rd.

James, seeing the NW secondary creep up, fires the ball for Marvin, caught on the far sideline, 12 yards. 

Coker gets the ball, but is then hit in the backfield, -2 yards.

Back to the air, the out route to Marvin is open and James throws a rope in there, 16 yards, 1st down Iowa at the Cat 25!

Cats, reeling, Coker up the middle for 8.  Same spot, 3 more, another Iowa 1st down. 

The 3rd quarter ends, with the Hawks on the Northwestern 14 yard line.

During the break, we are left to wonder if the timeout is going to kill the Hawkeye momentum.

It does not.  It gives KOK time to draw something up.

At the snap, James turns and pitches the ball to Marcus – he starts right, but then cuts it back inside, and is down at the 8!  Another carry, this time, conventional, Coker is plowing through helpless Cat defenders, almost there – down at the 1.

The Hawks line up in the Power I – no wideouts on the field.  At the snap, James turns and hands it to Marcus, and he follows his fullback into the hole, and into the end zone, touchdown Iowa!  There is the response!  24-17, now time for some defense!

Well, it starts with Meyer booting the kickoff out of bounds.  Hidden yardage.

Persa, a pitch to tailback Smith, 9 yards.

On 2nd down, Persa just gets back to his throwing position when Alvis arrives – another sack!  3rd and 4.

Persa, 11 yards underneath to yes, Ebert.

3 plays later – 3rd and 7 and yes, a pass to Ebert.

Colter is now in, and he keeps the ball but gets only 2.  Persa back, a pass underneath, caught, but drilled by Nielsen, 3rd and 5.

Persa out, Colter in.  He once again tries optioning the ball to the far side, but the Iowa pressure causes him to lose focus, and he ends up throwing the ball well behind his tailback, and it rolls out of bounds and loses 6 yards.  That means that the field goal is coming from 47, and this one ends up just short – no good!!!  Who is wilting in the 4th this time?

James, attacking.  A rope to Davis on the near side, caught, 18 yards. 

Coker, feeling it, plows into the center of the line and emerges, 13 yards, another Iowa 1st down!

Wait, flags fly – holding?  No, sideline interference on Northwestern!  A 5 yard penalty, one you don’t see, well, ever.

Ball now on the NW 35.  After a penalty, it’s a good time to strike.

A play action pass – James sells the fake, and rises up and fires the ball down the middle of the field, where the camera catches Marvin alone, Kinnick and Hawkeye Nation hold their breath, but there is no doubt, it lands in his arms and he strolls across the goal line, touchdown Iowa!!!  31-17!  #21 for Marvin McNutt, equaling the Iowa all time record!  Not this time Northwestern!!!

The Iowa kickoff is brought out to the 30, but the Cats, unnerved, false start to begin the drive going backwards.  Colter is in, and his pass is no good.  Persa back, he drops back, and never sees that Man again  - Binns plasters him from the backside, and the ball is out, a Wildcat lineman is falling on it – no wait, he’s a lineman, he loses the ball and Bigach snags it!  Fumble!!!!  Iowa ball at the Northwestern 20!  Kinnick is shaking!!!

This drive fizzles from the start, eventually the Hawks false start themselves, and then Reiff is called for holding.  On the 3rd and 27, James just dumps it off to Coker, and he gets the ball all the way back to the 22.  Meyer comes in, and his 40 yard kick is never in question, 34-17 Hawks, clock at 4:50 of the 4th.

The Cats bring this kick out past the 30, but only because they blocked a Hawkeye in the back – ball at the 6 after the penalty.

Northwestern rather easily moves the ball down the field, with a mix of passing by Persa and Colter, and in 7 plays they go 94 yards, the last 18 on a pass from Colter that made the score 34-24.

The Cats line up for an onside kick, but Iowa knows it’s coming, and has the hands team in there.  The front line is for blocking, and they do the job, as the ball comes down into Marvin’s hands, but he doesn’t down it, he carries it to the Wildcat 24 before going down!

James, back, likes nothing and runs, 2 yards.  Timeout NW.

Coker, up the middle, 7 yards.  Timeout NW.

Coker, middle, just 1 yard.  4th and 1, timeout, NW.

The break allows KOK to reach back into the Hawkeye scrapbook.

At the snap, there is no fake, James bootlegs the ball to the far side and gets the corner turned! 10, 5, touchdown Iowa!!!  No, wait, reviewed, his knee was down at the 1.  Fine, once again, the Power I, and Coker just steps into the end zone, touchdown Iowa, 41-24, clock at 3:56.

The Iowa coverage team allows this one out to the 41.  Persa seems to be favoring his hand, so the Cats insert the 3rd string QB. 

Who looks more like 1st string, at least against the tired Iowa defense.  7 plays, the last one a 35 yard strike that beats Prater cleanly.  41-31, clock at 2:34.

But there would be no comeback for the Cats this time.  They try the same onside kick, and the same result happens, but this time Marvin goes down after he makes the catch.  The Hawks run out the clock, and that was all she wrote, and the Beer Song rang out in Kinnick and Hawkeye bars across the country!

Yes, the Iowa defense did give up 495 yards to the Cat offense.  But, it was the two Persa turnovers – the pick 6, and the fumble, that were the difference in the score.  And both turnovers were the direct result of pressure from the defensive line.  So they are improving, and we can expect to see more signs of it in the weeks ahead, as we won’t be facing QBs who can run and pass like Persa can in the near future. 

James, 14-22 for 224 yards, 2 tds and the one interception, that throw really the only bad one all day.  Marcus, 22 tugs for 124 and the two tds, at 5.6 per touch.  He felt especially bad after the Penn State game and swore to do better, and he did.  Expect more of the same from him to come. 

Davis, 5 grabs for 109 and the td, and Marvin, 6 for 87, and the record.  No catches for the tight ends in this one, but I think that will change in the weeks going forward, as CJF seems to be getting more and more snaps with each game.

So, we have excised our greatest demon of late, and can now focus on tightening up some of the defensive cracks, kickoff coverage holes, and fine-tuning the offensive attack.  Thanks to the Big Ten schedule, we should be able to do that over the next two weeks.

THIS WEEK: Indiana

The Hoosiers made a bit of a splash in the offseason by hiring Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson to be their new football coach.  With the Sooners, he ran one of the most explosive offenses in the country.  Alas, getting football players to Indiana is not like getting football players to Oklahoma.  At least, in the short term, and I’m guessing, the long one as well.

And so, the results for the first season are pretty much what most expected.  Well, maybe not this bad.

The Hoosiers started with a 27-20 loss to Ball State, then a 34-31 loss to Virginia week two.  They got a 38-21 win over South Carolina State, but then lost 24-21 to North Texas.  Not exactly a murders row of football.

Then the Big Ten season opened, and the Hoosiers almost beat Penn State before falling, 16-10.   But, things didn’t get any easier after that.  They went to C-U, and fell to the Illini 41-20, and last week, had no answer for the Badgers onslaught, 59-7.

To add injury to insult, the Badgers knocked out the Hoosiers top wideout (Belcher) and starting center (Matte).  The have other wideouts with some skill, but the backup center is a redshirt freshman – making his first start in Iowa City.  In front of an improving, and hungry, Iowa defensive line.

That line could end up chasing another QB carousel this week.  Both sophomores, the QBs are Kiel, #8, and Wright-Baker, #7.  W-B has played more and got all the snaps last week, where he was 6-15 for 54 yards.  When it came to the running, it was just for his life.  It’s pretty much the same story with Kiel.

The rushing attack is lead by sophomore Houston, #12, who carried 19 times for 135 yards against the Badgers, one of the few bright spots on the day.  So, taking him away is going to be the key for the Iowa defense, which still needs to work on slowing up the rushing attack.  Having Morris back in there Saturday will certainly help.

Coker’s quest for momentum should be helped by the Hoosiers inability to stop the run themselves, allowing 227.4 yards per game, which has them dead last in the conference, and 117th in the nation.  So it goes, Coker gashing holes, will open up the downfield passing attack.  They are not terrible in pass defense, rated a bit higher than we are, but it will still be there if the O line plays well and the rushing game is clicking.  Those rushing numbers push their total defensive rank down #105. 

Another week, another suspect punting situation from the opposition, which only averages just over 34 yards net per punt.  They have also have the most punts of anyone in the B1G – 46 (Iowa, 22).  So, they should be better at it. 

This is a game that on paper should not be close.  But we need only remember the last couple meetings with Indiana, where last year we should have lost when Belcher dropped a TD with a minute left, and two years ago was the crazy 28 point 4th quarter game.  So Iowa must be disciplined, focused, and looking only at this week.

What should happen then is Coker gets to 140 himself, with others chipping in, Marvin will have the TD receiving record by halftime, and I think CJF will be rewarded for his good blocking of late by snagging his first Hawkeye touchdown pass.  Indiana won’t be doing anything to stop the Iowa offense for long.

And the Iowa defense found some inspiration in their hunt for Persa, where now they can worry a little bit less about the QBs getting loose, and focus on taking out the run, and then taking down the QB when passing situations present themselves.  I think the Iowa defense we have been waiting on will emerge this week.

When it’s over, then the Hawks can begin to focus on bringing Floyd home.  That is next week, Indiana is this week.  Start fast, bury, and leave no doubt.  Hawks 38, Hoosiers 10.



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