November 3, 2011

The Eternal Season - Week 10 Hawkeye Game Notes

Iowa’s Record: 5-3, 2-2 Big Ten, 1-1 B1G Legends
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 WIN 45-24
10/29/11 @ Minnesota 3:42 pm, BTN
11/05/11 Michigan 12:01 pm, ESPN
11/12/11 Michigan State TBD
11/19/11 @ Purdue TBD
11/25/11 @ Nebraska 12:00 pm, ABC

Scouting Next Opponent:
November 5th: Minnesota @ Michigan State, 12:00 pm, BTN

November 5th , 2011: Iowa Hawkeyes v. Michigan Wolverines, 7-1, 3-1 Big Ten
Prior Games: 56, Michigan leads 40-12-4
Last Game: 2010.  Iowa 38, Michigan 28

Hawkeye Stat Pack:

Turnover Margin: +3
Big Ten #6, NCAA #40

Interception Battle:
Linebackers: 1
Secondary: 5

Current Line: Iowa +4

2011 Key Stats
Scoring Defense 23.1, Pass Def 238.6 Rush Def 163.6, Picks 6, Total Defense 402.3
Big Ten                 #9                      #12                    #8                  #8 tie                         #9
NCAA                   #40                    #81                    #69                #83 tie                       #76

Scoring Offense 32.6, Pass Offense 243.5, Rush Offense 159.1, Total Offense 402.6
Big Ten                #4                             #3                                #10                                  #5
NCAA                  #36                          #50                               #60                                 #57

Depth Chart for this week:

Last Week – Minnesota

Hello Again Hawkeye Friends,

Well, I hope the sunrises and sunsets that have elapsed since Saturday have begun to ease the pain of last week.  First, the bad news – between a cold ridden head that makes me want to sleep all the time, and working a lot of hours this week, I haven’t had time to watch the Rodent game again for the drive-level detailing.  Then again, that’s the good news – as I really didn’t want to watch that debacle again, and you probably don’t want to read the bitter details.  And so, some comments, and then we’ll move on to Michigan.

Last week I wrote that the risk of the Hawkeyes looking ahead to this week should be minimized because the Rodents had Floyd, and we had to atone for last year’s loss.  While I don’t think the Hawks were mentally overlooking the Rodents, it sure kind of seemed like it when it was all said and done.  Sure, the Hawks were up when we scored TDs, but the Rodents were much more enthused whenever they made a good play.  Somehow, they seemed to want it more.

Which sure seems odd now, as when the Hawks took the field, they already knew that they were in a tie for 1st in the Big Ten West, and had their fate firmly in their hands to win the division and reach the title game.  Even with the loss, we can still get there, but we have to win out to have a shot.

So knowing where we stood, you would have thought the Hawks would have come out to bury the Rodents and leave no chance.  Some of them, tried.

Namely Marcus Coker.  32 carries for a career high 252 yards (that, the 3rd best day in Iowa history) and 2 TDs.  Knowing that they could not stop him probably paid a major factor in the onside kick with about 8 minutes left.

James, not one of his better days, 16-24 for 177 and the one TD to Marvin – a great pass.  But his fumble on a blitz sack at the Rodent 14 cost us at least 3 points in the 3rd, and the Rodents got 3 on the ensuing possession – and we lost, of course, by 1.

That has been the one ongoing weakness with his game to date – failing to recognize blitz formations when doing his line reads, and then audible(ing) out of them, or getting rid of the ball after a 3-step drop.  The Rodents only had 5 sacks the entire season coming in, and they got James 3 times – all of them when the Hawks were threatening to score.  I trust that major time in the film room is going on this week to help correct this problem.

Of course, the way that Meyer missed two very easy field goals (for him), perhaps James was trying to force things a bit.  You can excuse a kicker for having a bad game here or there, but when those 6 points would have meant a win, it makes it a lot harder.  There better be no such issues in Kinnick this week – we are going to need all the points we can get.

And the defense is not off the hook this week either.  Sure, 22 points on the road isn’t terrible, but they were unable to get off the field on the two critical Rodent drives in the 4th – much the result of the 178 ground yards they gave up.  And even after calling timeout, they couldn’t stop the 4th down run by Gray that won the game. 

And then, some of the coaching decisions.  Namely, with the ball at 2:48 in the 4th and 2 timeouts  - needing only a field goal (yes, I know, iffy), and Marcus already having amassed his 252 yards, the Hawks come out throwing – 3 straight that fail, and then a false start by Zusevics forced the Hawks into a 4th and 15.  James was back again, and if he had pulled the ball down immediately and run for it, he had a shot – but he waited, and was only able to get 9 of the 15 he needed, and that was it. 

And last, the failure to have the hands team on the field during the deciding kickoff.  Of course, with 8 minutes left, that’s not the standard play – but as the team had 1 win, and hadn’t stopped Marcus all game – it was hardly surprising.  Even then, with the regular kick team on the field, they were more like 15 yards off the ball, and made the critical error of turning to run back before seeing that the kick was deep.  Coaching, and executing errors – one of the worst days for Iowa special teams in recent memory.

The game had been done for about an hour when the Iowa message boards were aflame with ‘worst loss under Kirk’ threads and more than a few postings saying that the Ferentz era had run its course.  Both counts, ridiculous, in my opinion.  For starters, the Rodents are a Big Ten team – a bad one we should have beaten, yes, but one of those rivalry games that can often trip up superior teams.  I’d put the Western Michigan loss that kept us out of a bowl – in a game where the players were clearly not interested – as the worse loss of Kirk’s tenure.  And there is the fact that is was by a point – so there were many plays in the game what could have decided it in our favor.  Coaching questions aside, the players have to execute.

With the games that we have coming up, you can understand how a loss to the Rodents could send some Hawkeye fans over the edge.  It certainly isn’t getting any easier the next 4 weeks – but it’s the Big Ten.  And that’s the way it always is.

There is one upside to last week – it certainly got the players’ attention in practice this week.  Ånd being 7 days later, we could have some people back that we missed last week – namely Keenan Davis, who was missed on some of those pass plays that failed.  We will certainly have more of our offensive parts that were putting up nearly 40 points a game, and the home cooking, and home support, that we are going to need on Saturday.

THIS WEEK: Michigan

Can the Hawks fall to the Rodents and then somehow beat Michigan?  The conventional wisdom– and the spread, say no.  But this is college football, where the CI can often be wrong, and the odds makers are often very nervous with games with a spread this close.  Course - in a push game the home team is usually -3 – so with us being +4, it says we are going to fall by a touchdown.  We’ll see.

After the disaster that was the RichRod era, things seem to be looking up for the Wolverines.  They got a Michigan Man in Brady Hoke, and to shore up their dreadful 2010 defense (worst in school history in many categories, and bottom 10 in the nation in the major ones) they brought in longtime NFL assistant Greg Mattison – most recently of the Ravens, but a guy who was in Ann Arbor as defensive coordinator back in 1995 and 96. 

In the short term, the changes seem to have worked.  The Wolverines are 7-1 with the only loss to arch-rival Michigan State, 28-14, which was three weeks back.  In the past three seasons, the loss to the Spartans sent Michigan in a 2nd half free fall - so far, they have only played Purdue, who they beat 36-14 last week.  So let’s take a look at the Michigan schedule so far to see how it looks.

They opened against Western Michigan, and won in the Big House 34-10.  The Broncos are now 5-4 on the season.

In week 2, the Irish came to visit, and allowed Michigan to score 28 points in the 4th quarter – including the game winning TD with 2 seconds left – to fall 35-31.  The Irish are 5-3 with losses to South Florida and USC.

Week 3, Eastern Michigan came in, and lost, 31-3.  The Eagles are 5-3 on the season.

Week 4, San Diego State came calling (all Big House to date) and left with a 28-7 loss.  The Aztecs, 4-3 in the Mountain West.

Week 5 – the Big Ten opener, also at home, saw the Rodents come in and leave with a 58-0 pasting. 

Michigan finally went on the road the in Week 6 and took down the Mildcats 42-24.  But then, the trip to East Lansing which was the 4th straight defeat to their ‘little brother’, and last week, the rebound against the Boilermakers  - who are 4-4, 2-2 in the Big Ten (Michigan had their bye week after the Spartan game).

So, they have won the games that they are supposed to win, and they finish with Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio State.  The Wolverine fans and alumni should not be breathing easy quite yet. 

Once the new coaching staff was announced, the main questions were how Michigan would use Denard Robinson in what was supposed to be a pro-style offense, and just how much better could the defense be after the disaster that was 2010. 

The defense, better, though it could be argued they haven’t played a real good offense yet - even the Spartans are having major trouble running the ball this season.  So Michigan’s 7th Big Ten, 35th national ranks (in total defense) have yet to face a major test.  The Hawkeye offense we have seen in all the home games could be that test.  It’s going to need to be.

The offense, not the pro-style the Hoke wants to run, but that’s because of the players that he has currently.  Of course at QB, Denard Robinson, now a junior, who continues to be his electric self when he pulls the ball down, or runs it off the option read.  He has rushed for 779 yards on 127 carries – at 6.1 per attempt, and 10 rushing touchdowns.  That, compared to 76 completed passes (out of 142 – not a good percentage) for 1325 yards and 11 passing TDs.  But also – 11 interceptions.  Still the same old Robinson – make him throw the ball, and that is where the Iowa defense can pounce.

To spice things up a bit, the Wolverines have been using another QB of late, sophomore Gardener, #7.  Denard, he is not, and often, he is in there with Robinson, who will be in the slot or backfield to try and confuse the defense.  As is the case with Denard, the Hawkeye defense must pound him into the ground when they get a chance. 

At tailback, they have been using a committee approach, but seem as of last week to settle on sophomore Toussaint, #28.  To date, 71 carries for 423 yards (6.0) and 4 TDs.  Add it all up, it comes out to 253 rushing yards per game - #8 in the country.

To that, the Wolverines average 209 passing yards per game – at 17 yards per completion, which is evidence of teams selling out to stop Denard, and he being able to get passes downfield as a result.  That is, when they are caught by his guys.

In light of what has been going on with the defense this season, there is not much hope that we can stop this offense for long stretches of time.  But I’m sure the Iowa defensive players are sick and tired of hearing that through the Iowa message boards, so we’ll see if they are the emotional leaders this week.  They know what they have to do – contain, and suffocate the Michigan rushing attack – then pick off bad passes.  Prater, Hyde – we need your best game to date, and a pick-6 would be monumental. 

On the flip side, the Iowa offense has got to sustain drives – we must be well above 50% in 3rd down conversions, to keep our own drives alive, and give our defense time on the sideline to recover.  To do this, Marcus is going to have to have another monster game  - at least 130 rushing yards, plus another 50 or so from the backups.  Michigan gives up 144+ on the ground, so the yards can be there if the Iowa line plays well, and the passing game is clicking to keep the Wolverine defensive front honest.

James must do a much better job on his pre-snap reads, and when he finds his wideouts or tight ends in single coverage, he has got to make Michigan pay.  Keeping the Iowa crowd in this will be critical, and some long passes to Marvin or Keenan will certainly help in that regard.  It goes without saying, we must be + on the turnover battle – so be smart with the ball, and throw it away of there are no options.

The Michigan field goal team is 6-8 on the season, so that’s a push. Meyer should bounce back this week, but if we kick more than 2 field goals, we are in trouble.  We must have touchdowns when we get into the red zone. 

Punting, however, is another issue.  The Wolverine’s net of 32.71 yards is last in the conference and 111th in the country.  As you recall, some of Iowa’s signature wins over the Wolverines have resulted from their inability to successfully punt the football.  And so it must be this week – we are way overdue for a special teams touchdown, and in a game like this, the resulting momentum can be critical.  Get it done boys.

If the Hawks can play like we know they can on offense – and the defense can play like a unit that has rolled into November, and therefore, improved – it can be done.  We have never beaten Michigan three times in a row in our history, and we have the chance to do it again this year (the last time, 2004).  It’s Michigan – the Hawkeyes should have no trouble being ready when they take the field to the roar of the Kinnick faithful and AC-DC.  We can’t make mistakes, and we must take advantage of every one that Michigan commits.  In other words, play Iowa Football.  Being at home will be the difference – this time, the defense will make the stand to seal the victory.  Michigan 34, Iowa 38.



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

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