FIVE SENTENCES ON NORTHERN ILLINOIS RESULT
1. Can't make any conclusions about where this thing will go, but the game management and defensive adjustments were there and created the opportunity to win in the 57th minute.
2. The passing game is unsafe at any speed right now.
3. Yes, James Vandenberg's yard per attempt (3.9 yards on 33 attempts) was an anomaly for a victorious team, but check what Iowa did to NIU QB Jordan Lynch, who is a one-dimensional QB but was held to 3.4, which wouldn't have even been close to cracking the top 100 in YPA last season.
4. Iowa used just four true freshmen yesterday and only one of those was on special teams, punter Connor Kornbrath, given the coverage and return units a little more of a veteran tilt that came up big.
5. I expect Iowa gameplans to mold to each week's result, so what you saw this week, might be totally different than what you saw last week. I mentioned the lack of a vertical attack, but it's hard to go there when the QB is sacked six times. It all has to fit, and now, coaches have a better idea of what works and what doesn't. (OK, more than one sentence.)
THREE PLAYERS WE LEARNED A LITTLE SOMETHING ABOUT
1. RB Damon Bullock -- Kinda goes without saying, right? The 5.0 yards on 30 carries was impressive. The nice feel for the receiving game was outstanding. The one caveat was the two fumbles along the sideline. They didn't matter, but can't have them.
2. K Mike Meyer -- When a kicker goes 4 of 5, it's a good day. Meyer also had three touchbacks. He had four all last season. Those 5 yards a kind of a big deal.
3. CB Greg Castillo/P John Wienke -- Combined for a downed punt at NIU's 1. Play of the game. These are two fifth-years who could be bitter about dreams and goals and life turning out how they thought, but no. This is the measure of a program. Every little bit matters.
THREE THINGS THAT NEED TIGHTENING
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1. O-line -- Yes, the Huskies blitzed a lot and one sack was clearly on TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, but six sacks and who knows how many QB hurries kept the passing game in dry dock. A lot of the time, it was a straight four-man rush. Stunts for NIU worked.
2. QB James Vandenberg -- He won't like his footwork or field vision in this video study. Correctable.
3. The start -- Iowa comes out lifeless and allows Iowa State and QB Steele Jantz to dictate tempo, the Hawkeyes again will be digging out of a hole.
1. Screen -- There will be a time when Iowa executes this -- either to the running back or wide receiver -- and it's going to look like a thing of beauty. Against NIU, a young, nervous offense never showed the patience to let the play develop. Also, there was pressure almost immediately on at least a few of them. It's as high risk as Iowa gets right now.
2. Outside zone -- That was the money play. Damon Bullock took an outside zone 23 yards for the game-winner. It was four-down desperation time. Iowa hurried out of the huddle on a third-and-9 and caught NIU's D-end crashing. For as much attention as Iowa's O-line drew for pass pro failures, it showed it can run block. Bullock missed a few reads that might've pushed him to 180 yards.
Closer look at the numbers
Closing the deal (Red zone TDs/possessions)
Northern Illinois 1-2
Take this to the 25 and Iowa would've been 1-for-6. Mike Meyer's lone field goal miss came after Iowa made it to the 23. And then Bullock's 23-yard TD run. Two of Iowa's first three possessions ended at the 17 and 23. The first faced a third-and-11 and the second a third-and-9.
Setting the tone (defensive three-and-outs)
Iowa 6 (This could technically be four, but let's reward DE Joe Gaglione's sack and fumble and the four downs that went nowhere for NIU on their final drive. Three-and-outs are for closers.)
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Northern Illinois 2 (Iowa sustained drive, the 38:24 to 21:18 advantage in time of possession is an awesome number. Iowa didn't finish drives.)
After adjustments (second-half yards and avg. yards per play)
Northern Illinios 68-2.72
Sometimes, this stat is meaningless. Not this game. Iowa's defense made two big adjustments: 1) It showed up. Seriously. The vibe in the postgame was they weren't happy with the effort level in the first half. 2) The QB draw killed the Hawkeyes, so they piled up the box in the second half.
Game-changers (offensive plays of 20-plus yards)
Iowa 3 (Bullock had two of these, a 19-yarder and a the 23-yarder that was the winning points. The other was a 20-yard pass to Keenan Davis before half.)
Northern Illinois 2 (Lynch 73-yard TD run and 25-yard pass to Martel Moore. This game didn't have a lot of jazz to it.)
Two-minute magic (points, final two minutes of half)
Iowa 6 (Yes, it came with 2:15 left, but let's shrug that off because it was do-or-die and first-year OC Greg Davis called an outside zone on third-and-9. Points for bravery, set up and execution.)
Northern Illinois 3 (The 25-yarder to Moore set up Mathew Sims' 28-yard field goal with 1:16 left in the first half. NIU was a team that went for it.)
WHAT DID FERENTZ SAY?
On the game in general…
“We expected this to be a very tough game. Northern Illinois is an excellent football team, and they were a year ago (as well). It seemed like once Dave [Doeren] and his staff got settled in after the first three, four, five games they just took off and did a really great job. We played a team that was really well-coached. We certainly knew this was going to be a challenge, and it certainly proved to be. I’m really proud of our effort and the way the guys really hung in there. There were things that were disappointing at times and those are things that are correctable with time, hopefully.
On how Iowa’s play on special teams impacted the game…
“Overall, we were pretty good. Mike [Meyer] missed that one field goal, and I know he was disappointed in that, but then he bounced back, did a good job on his kickoffs, and certainly hit that 50-yarder. I don’t know how he pulled that one off actually -- he was slipping a little bit. That was a huge play. Overall, a lot of good things; there were a lot of positives.”
On difficulties moving the ball through the air on NIU’s defense…
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“We had a tough time. We had a tough time protecting at times, and we certainly had a tough time getting open. It just didn’t seem like we were in great sync throughout the game. I give them an awful lot of credit. They had a good game-plan. The mixed the pressure up with coverage, and did a good job. They made it very tough on us.”
On the play call on Damon Bullock’s game winning touchdown run….
“It was a play we talked about at halftime based off of something that happened in the second quarter. Greg [Davis] pulled it out of his pocket at an opportune moment, obviously. It was a huge play because clearly up until that point our biggest issue was getting into the end zone. We didn’t have much success doing that. I think the other big issue to me was that it seemed like we kept getting into a lot of second and really longs. Not getting yardage on first down, that makes it tough because the next thing you know it’s third and long.
On the challenge of stopping Jordan Lynch on the ground…
“Obviously we didn’t do a great job of that for a while. They had a great play on a third and seven or third and eight there on the touchdown run in the second half. We expected him to be a really tough competitor. He’s a guy that did a really great job here at Mount Carmel [High School], and the guy’s a winner. We knew that was going to be a challenge for us, and they did a nice job with a game-plan for him spreading us out and running him. We’re going to see more of that down the road, so it’s something we’re going to have to keep getting better at. I do think we got better defensively in that second half; it’s encouraging.
On Damon Bullock’s production running the football…
“I didn’t know what to expect. He’s a very young player, a second year guy on campus. I don’t think he had many yards last season, period. First of all, for him to play almost the entire game, for him to carry the load out there -- it was muggy and I was worried about that. There are a lot of things he’ll do better in time I think, but I think he did a lot of good things, too. He did miss a couple reads on some runs, a couple protections, and you know, part of that’s experience and keeping his eyes up, being more patient, but it’s going to come. I thought he made some really tough runs too, and did some good things. I’m certainly pleased with this being a first step for him, but as much as anything, him playing the entire game the way he did.
On sticking with Bullock instead of playing three backs as he said he would….“Our plan was to play all three guys, and at some point we will. It won’t be a big surprise. You know, Greg [Garmon] looked a little young out there, but it was good for him to get on the field. Mike [Malloy] will be next. Certainly, Damon did a lot of good things there, and I mentioned the touchdown run. You know, he did a nice job there getting us the first down at the end of the game, too. Those are tough, hard yards. Those are things he hasn’t done probably since he was a junior in high school, so that’s a positive step there.”