September 18, 2014

The Eternal Season - 9/18/14 - Sedge's 2014 Hawkeye Football Game Notes, Week 4: Iowa @ Pitt

Sedge’s Hawkeye Football Game Notes - 2014 Edition
Iowa’s Record: 2-1, 0-0 Big Ten, 0-0 B1G West 
Iowa’s Rankings:
AP: hope to return
USA Today: soon

August 30th v. Northern Iowa, 12:01 pm, WIN 31-23
September 6th v. Ball State, WIN 17-13
September 13th v. Iowa State, Loss 20-17
September 20th @ Pittsburg, 12:00 pm, ESPNU
September 27th @ •Purdue, 12:00 pm, TBD
October 11th v. Indiana, 12:00 pm, TBD
October 18th @ Maryland, 12:00 pm, TBD
November 1st v. •Northwestern, TBD
November 8th, @ •Minnesota, TBD
November 15th @ •Illinois, TBD
November 22nd v. •Wisconsin, TBD
November 28th v. •Nebraska (Black Friday), TBD

•Big Ten West Division Game

*Times Eastern

Scouting next opponent:
Southern Illinois @ Purdue, 12:00 pm, BTN

Wondering which BTN channel we are on? Click, enter, find.
September 20th, 2014.  Iowa @ Pittsburg Panthers, 3-0. 0-0 ACC
Previous Meetings 5, Pitt leads 3-2
Last Meeting: 2011 Panthers 27, Iowa 31

Current Line: Iowa +4

Turnover Margin: 0,  B1G #6, FBS #75

Current Week 2 Deep:

Hawkeye Stat Pack - 2014
Total   377.0  Pass  246.0  Rush 131.0  Scoring 21.7
B1G    #11            #8                #11                  #12
FBS    #89            #61              #92                  #99
Total   320.3  Pass  254.7  Rush 65.7    Scoring 18.7
B1G    #6              #9                  #2                   #6
FBS    #27            #82                #7                   #30 
The New Big Ten:
West                             East
Iowa                              Michigan
Nebraska                      Michigan State
Minnesota                     Ohio State
Wisconsin                     Penn State
Illinois                           Indiana
Northwestern               Maryland
Purdue                         Rutgers

Big Ten West Standings:
Nebraska 3-0, 0-0 B1G, 0-0 B1G West
Iowa  2-1, 0-0 B1G, 0-0 B1G West
Illinois  2-1, 0-0 B1G, 0-0 B1G West
Minnesota  2-1, 0-0 B1G, 0-0 B1G West
Wisconsin  1-1, 0-0 B1G, 0-0 B1G West
Purdue  1-2, 0-0 B1G, 0-0 B1G West
Northwestern  0-2, 0-0 B1G, 0-0 B1G West

Week 3 Recap: Iowa State

Lucky for you and your scribe, we have been too busy this week to recap this heartbreak play by play, so you will be spared from reading it.  I could have done the 1st half, with us leading 14-3, but more than one half a game makes.  And Iowa let us down big time in the 2nd.

So then, as we are now one quarter of the way through the 2014 season, we shall spend the time recapping the team’s performance through the first three games of 2014.  And hope that this is one of those Iowa teams that rebounds from a September loss, and gets stronger through October, and then shows no mercy in November.  

We will start, with the offense.

When considering what we had coming back from 2013, this is by far the biggest disappointment through the first 3 games.  From struggling to put away UNI, to having to score two touchdowns in the last 5 minutes to put away Ball State (who just lost to Indiana State, who went 1-11 in 2013), to the 2nd half debacle of last Saturday.  The Iowa offense only managed 102 yards in the 3rd and 4th quarters, when our lead of 14-3 turned into the 20-17 loss.  And you see above where our offense ranks in the Big Ten and the FBS as a whole.  

And from the utter train wreck that the Big Ten has been in the non-conference season - those numbers are even worse.

We will begin up front, where offenses live and die.

To date, the Iowa offensive line has generally played well, although they probably had their worst game against ISU, when they allowed Jake to be sacked 4 times.  And as bad as our running game has been to start the season, maybe the line play is part of it.  But the offense has many parts to it, and some of them directly impact the perception of the line.  

Namely, the passing game.  With so many dump offs and so few deep passes, defenses can sell out to stop the run, and that is what the Hawkeyes have faced in each of the three games.  The only time we have had sustained success going down the field, were the last few minutes of the Ball State game, when their defense was gassed.

And then there is the rotating of the tailbacks.  Yes, you want to keep guys fresh and healthy.  But like many things, a rhythm can develop when a tailback has enough carries.  Look at what Shonn Greene did in 2008, a one man wrecking crew.

If these Hawks are going to turn things around offensively, the line is going to have to stay healthy, as it will all start there.  They just need the other parts to do their job better.

Up next, the Quarterbacks.

Jake, having played all but one series, is 80 for 117, for 718 yards, with 4 tds, and just one interception, but it was very costly in the Iowa State game.  That is a completion percentage of 68.4%, which we would take to the bank of he could keep it up.  But too many of those passes have been the dump off type, and that has allowed the defenses to keep 8 or 9 guys in the box.  His yards per completion average against ISU was just 6.1, almost 3 yards lower than his average so far. Jake has got to make defenses pay, and the only way to do that is to throw the ball over their heads.

C.J. has gotten in for just that one series against Ball State, when Powell bobbled that touchdown pass that C.J. perfectly dropped in there.  This week the Iowa message boards have erupted with people complaining that he did not get any action in the ISU game, which considering how bad the offense was in the 2nd half, they have a valid point.  There are even many who think he should start this week at Pitt, being more of an apparent gunslinger, just what the offense would appear to need.  We shall see.  

The receivers and tight ends, of course, depend a lot on the quarterback’s play.

Well, at Iowa, the tight ends also must learn to run block and sometimes pass protect.  If they can’t do that, they can’t get on the field.

To date, KMM has the most catches, 19 for 148 yards, 7.7 per catch, with a long of 19, and no tds.  He is the classic possession receiver, who will get the 1st down when you need it, but does have not elite speed to run past people on his patterns.

Second on the team in catches is Bullock, with 14.  That has added up to 87 yards, 6.2 per catch, and no tds.  Most of those are the aforementioned dump offs, passes that Jake has come off his main targets to take the safe throws.  But when they are so close to the line, the linebackers and safeties don’t have to focus on the receivers on the outside nearly as much.

Smith has 13 catches for 110 yards, with 1 touchdown.  He appeared to be visually upset with one of his dump off catches in the ISU game.  He needs to be a deep threat.  

Then there are the tight ends, Duzey with 10 for 60 and 1 td, Hamilton 4 for 64 (he had the one downfield pass caught in the ISU game, the wide open seem throw).  

Hillyer has 4 catches for 37 yards, then Canzeri with 3 for 66 - with that long of 50 yards down the far sideline that almost went the distance.  

But these stats are what have many Hawk fans ticked off.

Willies, 3 catches for 65 yards, and the one td against Ball State. That’s 21.7 per catch, a deep threat.   Then Powell, 3 catches for 42, and 1 td, the tunnel screen play.  

 But neither one of them was targeted once in the Iowa State game. 

Powell, universally regarded as the fastest guy on the team, and Willies, almost as fast and 6 feet 4 inches.  A nightmare for most cornerbacks to cover. The whole premise of the Greg Davis offense is to get explosive plays by getting the ball into your playmakers hands.  

There has been some speculation this week that Willies departed in the 3rd due to the flu, but the point is, you get the ball to those players from the start.

Jake attempted two long bombs to Vandeberg in the Ball State game - neither connected, and both were just a bit too far.  Faster and or taller wideouts - maybe not.

The receivers, aware of the fact the run game has been struggling, have to be verbally getting on the coaches and quarterbacks this week in practice.  Iowa has to start using them more, and it has to start this week.

Then, there are the tailbacks.  The four headed monster, that we thought would lead Iowa to rushing dominance in 2014.  

Mark, 32 carries for 102 yards, an average of 3.0, with the two short tds.  

Jordan, 15 for 68 yards, a 4.4 average.  Against Iowa State he had 3 carries, but for 18 yards, 6.0 per touch, and that was by far the best of the day. But there is speculation he was a bit dinged up, and that is why he didn’t have more.  Too bad, we really could have used him.

Damon, 18 for 54, just 2.7 per attempt.  He has been the biggest disappointment in the running game, he just seems too anxious to take off, and is not reading his blocks to get the most yards he can.  Far too many carries for no gain.  Against ISU, the booth even telestrated a play where he went for about 5 yards, but had he cut the ball inside, he had clear sailing for about a 55 yard touchdown.  

Daniels Jr has 12 carries for 45 yards, 2.9 per touch, also below average, but against the run susceptible Iowa State defense, he never got in the game.  

Then there is Parker, with 4 carries for 26 - but after his fumble on the jet sweep, not likely to see carries for a while.  But he was back in on kickoff returns last week.

Of course, the leading rusher for Iowa after 3 games?  

Jake Rudock, 23 carries for 115 yards, and 1 touchdown.

Yeah.  Iowa has run the read/option a couple times, but it was the tailback that got the ball.  There are no designed running plays for Jake, unless its 3rd or 4th and 1 yard or less.

That then, is how you get the offense that could have had Iowa 0-3 after three weeks instead of 2-1.  

You may recall in my week one preview, I said the Iowa offense could average 30 or better with the weapons we had coming back.  If we were, we would be 3-0, and feeling much better about the games coming up.

And then there are the special teams.  

The punting, by Kidd, has been decent, he could just get his average up about 5 yards to make people happy.  

Part of the kicking has been fine - the kickoffs, pretty much all deep end zone touchbacks from Koehn.  

Of course, there were the 3 missed field goals against Ball State, and 1 for 2 against UNI.

This past week, with Iowa trailing 17-14, and facing a 4th down with a 44 yard field goal looming, the field goal team went onto the field - without the kicker.  They were fanatically signaling the bench as your scribe and just about every other Hawkeye fan was yelling ‘call time out’, but finally Koehn ran onto the field.  He barely had time to do his backwards step off before the ball was snapped with about 1.5 seconds on the play clock - it started out wide right, and then it hooked dead center between the uprights to tie the game up at 17 and give the Hawkeyes new life.  It clearly has all been mental with the kickers - let’s hope that one kick turned something on inside, and they will be ready going forward.

Then, there is the Iowa defense.  

Still work to do on the pass defense.  Iowa almost never uses nickel or dime coverages, so the linebackers have to be able to play pass coverage, and they have to do a better job.  It has improved since the week 1 toasting by UNI.  Let’s hope it continues each week.

That said, the Iowa linebackers have been excellent in run support, as you see above, 7th in the nation in the rush defense stat.  That is good, cause we are about to face a power rushing team that has been on fire through 3 weeks this Saturday.

The line, in particular Davis, LTP, and Ott, have been wreaking havoc with regularity, but they definitely had trouble with the Iowa State QB in the 2nd half.   Way too often he escaped for crucial 1st downs.  And even when we blitzed the linebackers, we never really put a good hit on him.  

The secondary has generally played well, King is basically bored on his half of the field, and Lomax is leading the team in tackles at this point, which is even more impressive considering the time he missed in the Iowa State game due to the completely bogus targeting call. And the call is even worse because Lomax will miss the 1st half this week.  

That was hardly the only bad call by the Big 12 crew in that game, the defensive holding call that gave Iowa State a 1st down when they should have been punting -  the replay clearly showed contact between the defense and the receiver, but it was not close to holding, and the play was within the 5 yards that you are allowed to chuck receivers off the line.  Two terrible calls that both played a direct part in the outcome of the game.

So defense, stay the course, just button up coverage on tailbacks out of the backfield.  You keep doing what you have been doing.  If the offense can turn the light on - things could get interesting.

Week 4 Preview: Pitt

Sometimes, history repeats itself.  

Let’s go back to the 1st game in this 4 game, 6 year series with Pitt.

Like this one, the Hawks travelled to Heinz Field to face the Panthers.  

There, Iowa had a returning quarterback, another Jake even, Christensen, who was not preforming well to start the season, and so Iowa had played the backup quarterback some - Stanzi.

They both played in the Pitt game, but Jake played the entire 2nd half in a game Iowa lost 21-20.  The general consensus of Iowa fans after the game - Stanzi should have played more.

After that, it was all Stanzi.

After that season, Christensen transferred away to play his final year, and we all know what happened with Stanzi at QB in 2009 and 2010.

Now, our current Jake has not played anywhere near that badly.  Still, if the Iowa offense is again struggling to find rhythm on Saturday, don’t be surprised if C.J. gets a chance to show what he can do.

Because we are probably going to have to score some points in this one.

Pitt is coming into week 4 at 3-0, having no trouble with Delaware to open the season, 62-0, had a bit of a tougher time in week 2 with Boston College, but Pitt won that one, 30-20.  

Last week, they want on the road to Miami to face FIU, and fell behind 16-0 at the end of the 1st.  Pitt got the score to 16-14 by halftime, and then the Panthers pulled away in the 2nd half, winning 42-25.

Something has to give this week.  Iowa’s top 10 rush defense - against Pitt’s 5th ranked rushing offense.

Yup, to the tune of 344.3 yards per game.  

To get there - tailback Conner, #12.  At 6’2 and 250 pounds, he is quite a beast when he gets a head of steam.  So far, he has 81 carries for 544 yards - 6.7 per touch - and with 8 rushing touchdowns.  You can do the math for 3 games.

In fact, that 3 game yardage total is an all time Pitt record for the first three games to open the season - a record formerly held by Tony Dorsett, who you may have heard of.

He is not the only threat to run the ball however.  Another week, another running quarterback.

This one, Voytik, #7.  Against FIU he carried the ball 12 times for 114 yards - these were not scrambles, but called running plays for the QB.  The dual threat.

Although, not so much a threat when he puts the ball up.  To date, a mere 101.3 passing yards per game.  There is only 1 team in Division 1 that is worse.

So, if there is any selling out to stop the run this week, it should be done by the Iowa defense.  Make this sophomore and first year starter put the ball up.  

There is one interesting stat when it comes to special teams.  Pitt allows an average of 11 yards per punt return - #94 in the country.  Maybe, just maybe, we could see an Iowa special teams touchdown this week.

On paper, when you look at what Pitt has been doing, compared to the way the Hawkeye offense has been plodding along, it looks like Iowa has no chance.

But I think finally going on the road is going to be good for the players.  It can help them hone their focus.  And you know the players hear enough of the outside noise, the doubts that are starting to take over.  Some of them may not be too happy about it.  And all they can really do is take it out on the next opponent.   

Pitt has not faced a defense like Iowa has. 

If the Panthers had a well balanced offense, a passing attack to go with that rushing skill, we could be in trouble.  But they don’t. 

Iowa picks off 2 Pitt passes and holds the Panther rushing attack to 40% of their total.  Jake throws 3 TD passes, one longer than 60 yards, and the Iowa rushing game finds some legs of their own, topping 200 for the first time this season.  The sky has not fallen.  Iowa 31, Pitt 23.


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