November 24, 2011

The Eternal Season - Week 13 Hawkeye Game Notes

Iowa’s Record: 7-4, 4-3 Big Ten, 2-2 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 Loss 22-21
11/05/11 Michigan WIN 24-16
11/12/11 Michigan State Loss 37-21
11/19/11 @ Purdue WIN 31-21
11/25/11 @ Nebraska 12:00 pm, ABC

Scouting Next Opponent:
Bowl Game TBD

November 25th, 2011: Iowa Hawkeyes @ #21 Nebraska Cornhuskers, 8-3, 4-3 Big Ten
Prior Games: 41, Nebraska leads 26-12-3
Last Game: 2000, Iowa 13 Nebraska 42

Hawkeye Stat Pack:

Turnover Margin: +4
Big Ten #5, NCAA #32

Interception Battle:
Linebackers: 1
Secondary: 8

Current Line: Iowa +9.5

2011 Key Stats
Scoring Defense 23.5, Pass Def 234.0 Rush Def 153.8, Picks 9, Total Def 387.8
Big Ten                 #7                      #12                    #7                  #6 tie                    #8
NCAA                   #45                    #69                    #63                #68 tie                 #67

Scoring Offense 30.6, Pass Offense 247.3, Rush Offense 147.8, Total Off 389.1
Big Ten                #4                             #3                                #11                             #5
NCAA                  #41                          #50                               #69                            #60

Depth Chart for this week:
Last Week – Purdue

There we go – the first road win for James in his Hawkeye career, and a victory over our rival in the process.

Well, semi-rival – with the win, we move on to the Friday showdown with what will become a genuine rival in the years ahead.

The Purdue game had its ups and downs, with the Iowa offense looking very fluid and unstoppable for times, while at others, losing focus, and the ball.  Namely McCall, who finally got back into a game, and on his second carry, lost the handoff, and the ball, inside Purdue’s 10 yard line.  7 points, off the board.  And then, there was the fumble by James, who failed to throw away the ball, and was then sacked and fumbled, that Purdue recovered on the goal line to score and tie the game up at 14. 

But to the Hawkeyes credit, they responded to that turnover with an 11 play, 70 yard drive, killing nearly all the remaining 2nd quarter, and then having Marcus take it home with a 2 yard TD and 21-14 Iowa lead. 

So ended the 2nd, and the 3rd just had Meyer converting a 38 yard field goal (after he again hit the upright, and missed, in the 1st half).  Iowa pushed the lead to 31-14 when James found Marvin from 51 yards out to start the 4th, and from there, the Hawkeye defense held on.

Though it could have been much closer, as Purdue got a TD with 11:58 left to make it 31-21, and then almost got one with 1:28 left when QB Marve nearly got the corner turned to score a TD, only to lose the ball, which hit the pylon (in bounds), and then rolled out of bounds.  A touchback!!! – Iowa ball, disaster averted, and the victory formation killed off the final 88 seconds to end the game 31-21, which I appreciated, as they made me look like I kind of know what I am talking about!

For the game, James, 22-32 for 273 and 3 tds, the opening drive strike to a wide open McNutt, and the 2nd quarter strike to CJF, who is going to find more and more passes coming his way in the games ahead.  Then of course, the dramatic bomb to Marvin to open the 4th and salt the game away.  Most importantly, no interceptions on the day.

Catching those passes, Marvin with 9, for 151 yards, and the two tds – meaning he also now holds the Iowa single season record for td receptions.  With two games left, a near certainty that he will catch DJK for the all time reception lead as well.  But he also proved that he was human, with one very costly, careless drop that hit him right in the hands.  One that cost us a 1st down.

Marcus responded to his off week with a 30 carry, 139 yard effort, and one more rushing td, giving him 14 on the season.  I think McCall will see more action this week; it is tough to come back after so long and be mentally sharp right out of the gate.  I trust he will wow us with his speed and agility on Friday.  Having two fresh tailbacks will be very key for this final game.

A pretty effective day for the Iowa defense, which allowed just two touchdowns, and held the Purdue rushing attack to 101 net yards, with 181 passing yards, but at just over 5 yards per completion.  The Iowa, bend don’t break defense, at work. 

A generally good day for the Iowa special teams, Guthrie killed two punts inside the 20, and Meyer righted the ship with the field goal that pushed Iowa to a two score lead.  And of course, there was the Iowa punt team sniffing out the attempted fake – and then, block the kick, when the punter realized he could not run for the 1st down.  But, that was the possession of the McCall fumble, so the punt team was probably wishing they had taken that ball home themselves. Perhaps they will get a chance this week.

So the Hawks did what they had to do, that was be focused long enough to get past the Boilermakers, and then as soon as the clock hit 0:00, I’m sure they turned their gaze west and began game planning to take down the Huskers on their home turf.  It can be done.

THIS WEEK: Nebraska

This is of course, the first annual Heroes Game.  This trophy, not bad.

Before the season started, the Nebraska fans and players seemed to think a cakewalk through the Legends Division, and into the Big Ten title game, was a birthright.  Alas for them, they are not in the Big 12 anymore, where defense is optional to downright ignored.

Their pre-season went well enough, with a 40-7 win over Chattanooga (name the mascot) to open the season, followed by 49-29 wins over Fresno State, a 51-38 win over Washington, and then a 38-14 win at Wyoming to finish out the non conference slate.

But then the Huskers had to open their Big Ten schedule in Camp Randall.  Nebraska lead 14-7 about 5 minutes into the 2nd quarter when the Badgers woke up, and the next 5 touchdowns would belong to Wisconsin, in building a 41-14 lead that finished at 48-17.  The Badgers rushed for 231 yards on the Husker defense, and converted 3 Taylor Martinez picks into scores.  Welcome to the Big Ten.

A week later, Ohio State came to Lincoln, and built a 27-6 lead midway through the 3rd quarter when Buckeye QB Braxton Miller went down.  His sub, Joe Bauserman, could do almost nothing, and in the end, it was the biggest comeback in Nebraska football history, 34-27 Huskers.

A week later, the Rodents were host and went down 41-14.  Michigan State then came calling, and the Huskers took them apart 24-3.  But then Nebraska went back on the road to Northwestern, and lost 28-25, despite knocking Dan Persa out at halftime. 

That was their first loss in the Legends division, and a week later they hung on to beat the listless Penn State team playing their first game without Paterno, 17-14.  They were still in the mix for the division title.

Last week, they had to visit the Big House, and if they thought that would be easy when it started, things took a turn for the worse after halftime, when a 17-10 Michigan lead turned into a 45-17 final.  That knocked the Huskers out of the Legends division race.  Michigan ran for 238 yards and forced 3 Nebraska turnovers, leaving the Huskers in a position where all that is left is bowl position seeding.

This sometimes prolific, yet also careless Nebraska offense is lead by sophomore QB Martinez, #3.  Pro style, he is not.  He was 9 of 23 for 122 yards last week, and for the season completing just 56% of his passes.  But he is not running a pro style offense, either.  Another week, another variation of the read/option attack, where the QB has carried the ball 169 times for 817 yards, and 9 rushing tds – but none in the last 5 games.  He has 11 td passes, but also 7 interceptions – a bad ratio.

When Martinez does hand the ball off, it’s most often to junior tailback Rex Burkhead, #22, with 222 carries for 1108 yards, and 14 tds.  But against Michigan, just 10 for 36.

As one would expect with this option attack, the passing totals don’t look good when looking at the total numbers – 166 yards per game, #10 in the conference, and #104 in Div. 1.  Conversely, the rushing total of 224 per game is 3rd in the B1G and #14th overall. 

This will be another week where the Iowa defense must walk the very fine line of staying disciplined to contain Martinez, and then attack the ball carrier once the decision is made on who it will be.  We might even seen Norm leaving the wideouts single covered on the outside so Jordan can spy on Martinez from inside the box.  His arm is not the threat, and susceptible to mistakes – the Iowa defense must make him use it.

Of course, when tasked with this kind of offense, the biggest aid the defense can get is from a ball control offense.  The Huskers give up 167 yards per game on the ground, and there is late word that it looks like Coker will have to be the main man – McCall broke some team rule and won’t be making the trip, and Canzeri seems less than 50/50 with his various bumps and bruises.   Not that KOK won’t be having James see what the Huskers are doing at the line, and then changing the play if they give up the plan.  Clearly the Huskers can be had for some points, so don’t be surprised to see James firing for Marvin and CJF right out of the gate should he find too many Huskers in the box.  Quick strikes would be great on the road, but if they are not there, long drives are just as good.  I think we have to be above 50% on 3rd downs to keep the ball control in our favor.  We should be ahead of the chains with smart play calling, as the Huskers are last in the conference in tackles for a loss. 

Once again, to win the road battle, the special teams are likely going to have to play a role.  Nebraska is right behind Purdue in kickoff return yardage, at #6 in the country.  If needed, starters are going to have to be in there making sure the lanes are clogged.  The Huskers actually lead the conference in net punting, but they have also given up 222 return yards (Iowa, 60).  Hyde, it’s time – take one home!

The special teams were a problem for Nebraska last week, so any advantage that the Hawks can gain in this area could really have a major effect on the moods of the teams.  Nebraska is obviously down after getting hammered last week, while the Hawks have to be feeling very good that they got James his first road win, and now they would like to show the nation that it wasn’t a fluke.  And by nation, I mean all of it – national coverage on ABC.

A win here would have the Hawks finishing at 8-4, then getting a month to prepare for the bowl game, and we know how well the Iowa coaches have done with that of late.  9 wins with so many players lost, especially on defense, would go down as a great building block for 2012.  The Iowa defense may have just begun to turn the corner last week – while the Iowa offense will want to send Marvin out with a blaze of glory.  Nebraska is probably thinking this will not be that tough – until the Hawks take the field, and punch them in the mouth.

Marvin with two more scores and another 140+ yards, Coker with two, but in the end, it will be a Martinez mistake – an interception – that sets up Meyer with the game winner.  Iowa 31, Nebraska, 30.



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