Stat Pak: The 'Tightening' might be picking nits
1) Kirk Ferentz talked about this critical five-week block that began Iowa's season before the upcoming off week, but was it a success at 3-2?
2) The Iowa passing game is a complicated deal with a lot of hands involved and no easy answers, but to exclusively point the finger at James Vandenberg is short-sighted.
3) Minnesota was overrated and not ready for its closeup.
4) Mark Weisman for something, probably Big Ten offensive player of the week this week.
5) I asked in this space last week if this team was over-coached, and that still stands in regard to the passing offense, but hey, the hands team is now 1-for-2 and that showed that the suggestion box is still open.
1) OL Brandon Scherff/Matt Tobin — These guys were tremendous. Maybe the quintessential snapshot of this game was Tobin locking up with a UM linebacker and driving him some 15-plus yards down the field while running back Mark Weisman booked around his side for a 17-yard gain. These two should be Big Ten co-offensive players of the week, but that never happens (I think maybe the Badgers did it once, correct me if I'm wrong?)
2) LB James Morris — The junior linebacker had 10 tackles, a sack and a pass breakup against UM. Kirk Ferentz quietly mentioned before Northern Illinois that he though Morris had turned the corner (Ferentz's words). This week on his radio show and during Tuesday's press conference, that was rather prominent in Ferentz's thoughts. It's the open-field tackles that impress me.
3) DT/DE Steve Bigach — The senior was credited with three tackles, including one for loss, and a forced fumble against UM. He started the game at tackle and was flipped out to end. He does whatever he's told to do as hard and as tough and as well as he can. He talked earlier this season about struggles keeping his pad level down and how that was job 1 for him as he transitioned from end to tackle. This is a cerebral player who squeezes every drop of talent out of his body. He's not a superstar, but he is a survivor. He also looked OK in coverage during the couple of zone blitzes Phil Parker threw into the mix in the second half. (I think there were two.)
1) Passing game — When Vandenberg says the opportunities missed in the passing game will haunt the Hawkeyes when the Big Ten schedule ramps up, he couldn't be more correct. Same page, gotta get there if this team wants to play interesting football in November. Or even in October. The book is out: Blitz Iowa, make the Hawkeyes beat you through the air. Michigan State and Penn State have read this book.
2) Closing — Iowa ran the final 6:31 off the clock in the second quarter and took a 24-0 lead into halftime. In that regard, the final drive of the half was a success. It was the Hawkeyes' third-longest drive of the season and two minutes longer than anything they put together against Central Michigan. Still, points here and that Gophers are burying their dead in the second half.
3) Getting Rudock in — I'm totally trolling here. For the record, the redshirt freshman did have his helmet on and if Iowa would've gotten the stop instead of the UM TD on the Gophers' final drive, he would've gone in with Connor Boffeli as center. Alas, it didn't happen. I'm sure this is last on the list of things Kirk Ferentz gives a rip about. Get over it.
1) Inside zone left — On second-and-11, running back Mark Weisman took an inside zone to the left, behind Tobin, Scherff and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (Tobin is from Dyersville, is not a farm kid, but definitely knows how to plant judging by the way he stuff #92 into the Kinnick FieldTurf) and went 27 yards to Iowa's 42. Next play, same play. This time Fiedorowicz flipped to the wide side. Fullback Brad Rogers got a kick out on the linebacker and WR Keenan Davis rooster'd a DB old school for a 44-yard gain. Two carries, 61 yards. No chicanery, straight-on power.
2) Flea Flicker — "As soon as he [Jordan Cotton] brought it in, there was a lot of excitement," Vandenberg said. It was the perfect play and it was called at a perfect time. It made it nearly impossible for Iowa to pass more than 5 yards down field the rest of the game, because Minnesota was dropping and staying dropped, but it was a home run for a segment of Iowa's offense that needed it.
– It's not a bye week.
– Iowa is 2-4 since 2002 coming off idle weeks, with a win at Michigan in 2010 and a loss at Penn State last season.
All about timing here. The Hawkeyes' two red-zone TDs came during a 21-point blitz in the second quarter. Minnesota's came while trailing 24-0.
Iowa 4 — Probably about average, but three of these came in the first half when Iowa built its big lead. There also was a four-play drive that ended with Tanner Miller's pick. Iowa's defense was dominant in the first half, allowing the Gophers to collect just three first downs and backup QB Max Shortell no room to breathe.
Minny 2 — Iowa will have to put together two halves at some point. Probably Oct. 13 at Michigan State. It squandered a pair of turnovers and average starting field position of Iowa's 44 during a scoreless second half (for the offense, anyway).
Horrible number for Iowa. If the passing game would've been able to click once in the face of double-corner blitzes, the Hawkeyes would've had at least one TD in the second half and I probably wouldn't have written the "Opportunities" post. Minnesota's yards were empty calories. Ding Dongs. Man, I loved Ding Dongs, which now are on the list of things I can eat along with beer.
Iowa 8 — On the second play of the game, James Vandenberg hit TE C.J. Fiedorowicz for a 45-yard gain, the longest play of his career. Six of these came in the first half. Weisman put up three (27, 32, 44 runs). Cotton's flea flicker reception was the longest of his career and first TD. TE Ray Hamilton had his first catch of the season, a 20-yarder. I'm throwing in LB Christian Kirksey's 68-yard interception return.
Minny 2 — The Gophers had a 24-yarder that helped along a fourth-quarter TD drive.
Iowa 0 — I still think the 6:31 drive to end the first half was a success. Showed this offense can play the four-minute game. It preserved a 24-0 lead and was a whiplash from the end of the first half from the CMU game.
Minny 6 — Iowa still needs to shut the front door. The trend is giving up points in the final two minutes. Of course, it didn't hurt yesterday, but it might later on.