Stat Pak: Can't win with calamitous special teams, period

Caption: Iowa Hawkeyes punter Connor Kornbrath (center) winds up to kick before the punt is blocked by Tyris Jones (not pictured) during the third quarter of their NCAA game at Ryan Field on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 in Evanston, Ill. Northwestern won, 28-17. The ball was recovered by Northwestern on the Iowa four yard line. (SourceMedia Group News/Jim Slosiarek)
Caption: Iowa Hawkeyes punter Connor Kornbrath (center) winds up to kick before the punt is blocked by Tyris Jones (not pictured) during the third quarter of their NCAA game at Ryan Field on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 in Evanston, Ill. Northwestern won, 28-17. The ball was recovered by Northwestern on the Iowa four yard line. (SourceMedia Group News/Jim Slosiarek)

1) Northwestern maximized its best athlete in Kain Colter and put him in position to make reads and isolate Iowa's defenders on the perimeter.

2) Iowa's current roster has holes, and a true freshman going into the rotation at defensive end in week 8 points that out vividly.

3) Iowa went for it on fourth-and-3 down 11 in the fourth quarter: 1) Good idea, sitting just fourth-and-3 and having had so few opportunities in NW's red zone or 2) Bad idea because there's no such thing as an 11-point play?

4) The most shocking element of Iowa’s defeat was Northwestern rushing for 349 yards, especially when Iowa has seen this offense and these athletes.

5) Is this roster capable of producing standard special teams, which is simply "quiet" for Iowa on its good days and calamitous on its bad?

1) Running back Damon Bullock -- The sophomore rushed for 107 yards on 22 carries. He saw his first action since Sept. 15 and, obviously, brought an elusive element that Mark Weisman lacked. His route back from the concussion sounded brutal. Read more here. One thing we don't have a clue on, especially here, are those dark moments in dorms or apartments where a player is alone and in pain. This sport draws us in because it's an incredible physical and mental challenge.

2) Cornerback Micah Hyde -- He came from the wide side of the field and prevented NW's Venric Mark from a 99-yard TD. Came up with a fumble later. The senior is playing solid football.


3) WR Kevonte Martin-Manley  — The sophomore set a career high with seven receptions for 46 yards. He remains the only Iowa receiver to log a 100-yard game this season with 101 against UNI. The passing game still is wearing compression shorts.

1) Defense — When a team allows 349 rushing yards and loses a game when the other team tries just nine passes, it is lacking something. Everyone Iowa insisted there wasn't any one call or personnel group that could've saved the Hawkeyes from NU QB Kain Colter. So, where do you go from there?

2) Roster — Can't put it all on attrition. Some of it goes to recruiting. Either way, when you need to burn a redshirt on a D-end in week 8, it's a sign of desperation. I've written that Drew Ott looks like a Jared DeVries starter kit and I think he has a chance to be a good player. He might even turn out to be a 265-pound blaster who comes off the edge and evokes visions of Matt Roth and Howard Hodges. Right now, he's a 245-pound true freshman who's going into the mix in week 8. Iowa's roster is one of necessity right now, not development. Development is what won Iowa a share of two Big Ten titles and put it in two BCS bowls. It will also has to be what again makes Iowa a contender in the Legends.

3) Special teams — Since 2010, Iowa special teams have been a minus more than a plus (take Mike Meyer out of this equation for this season, he's been a steady contributor). Time for a new approach.

1) Blocked punt — This play was a disaster waiting to happen. Northwestern lined up eight on the line of scrimmage with one other player a step off the LOS. NU's Tyris Jones, a 6-0, 220-pound senior running back, lined up in a three-point stance across from tight ends Jake Duzey and Zach Derby. They hooked up with NU players when the ball was snapped. Up-back John Lowdermilk never saw Jones, instead looking for someone to block on the outside and drifting that way. Personal protector James Morris kept his eyes straight ahead. Jones split them and didn't even have to dive to block Connor Kornbrath's punt, staying on his feet and getting his hands on it. This didn't appear to be schemed, other than a block call on NU's part. It appeared to be a blown assignment, one that led to a first down at Iowa's 4, a TD and a 21-3 deficit.

2) Colter 47 TD pass to Christian Jones — This was Northwestern picking its spot. The Wildcats lined up three receivers to the field side, with corner B.J. Lowery running with the outside receiver and strong safety Tommy Donatell taking the inside WR after a glance from Morris. This left outside linebacker Christian Kirksey one-on-one with WR Christian Jones, a 6-3, 225-pound sophomore. Morris, linebacker Anthony Hitchens and free safety Tanner Miller played option. Why wouldn't they? Colter faked a handoff to running back Venric Mark, who had 98 rushing yards at that point. Colter had already sliced Iowa for 72. Jones got a step on Kirksey down the seam and made a nice over-the-shoulder catch. Kirksey was right there, but Colter put the ball exactly where it needed to be. It was just Northwestern's eighth pass during the game. This came on top of the blocked punt and made it 28-3 with 10:43 left in the third. It was Northwestern's longest pass play of the season. When you rush the ball like the Cats did, you can pull out this kind of play-action pass.

– QB Nate Sudfeld came off Indiana's bench to throw for two touchdowns and the Hoosiers defense throttled Illinois on Saturday in a 31-17 win. The win ended a five-game losing streak for the Hoosiers (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten) that included tight losses to Ohio State, Navy and Michigan State. It also ended an 11-game Big Ten drought that dated to 2010.

– The Hoosiers went into last week's game with 12 sacks all season. They sacked Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase seven times to stamp this victory.

-- The Hawkeyes have won four straight over Indiana since a 38-20 loss at Kinnick Stadium in 2007.

Iowa 2-for-2

Northwestern 3-for-4

It's a good number for Iowa, but it didn't come until it was down 28-3.


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Iowa 1 — B.J. Lowery's interception stopped one drive after two plays. The Cats also had another one die on downs after seven plays. There was a knee before half, but that doesn't count. Iowa did get its one stop in the fourth quarter. Contain was a problem. So was shedding blocks. Iowa lost a lot of individual matchups.

Northwestern 2 — These came after halftime with a 14-3 lead. One turned out to be the blocked punt. The other preceded the 47-yard TD pass.

Iowa 169-4.02

Northwestern 211-6.59

That's 411 yards against Iowa in the second half of the last two games. Iowa's offense plodded, while the Cats' sprinted.

Iowa 0 — First time this season with a zero here.

Northwestern 4 — Big part of the shape of this game.

Iowa 0 — This hasn't been a relevant stat the last two weeks for the Hawkeyes.

Northwestern 0 — On the game program, there was a drawing of Northwestern's planned indoor athletics facility. The Wildcats will be moving from . . . let's face it . . . dumpy Ryan Field to right off the shore of Lake Michigan, in the heart of the NU campus. NU coach Pat Fitzgerald is quoted, saying "This completely changes the landscape of Big Ten football."

This facility? In downtown Chicago? A Northwestern education? I don't know about changing the landscape, but Fitzgerald could certainly argue that this puts his program on the same footing as Stanford.




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