2-Minute Drill: Iowa vs. Iowa State

40 carries is a key number for the Hawkeyes; getting rush game in gear top priority for ISU

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The Gazette’s Iowa beat reporter Marc Morehouse and The Gazette’s Iowa State beat reporter Dylan Montz collaborated on this week’s 2-Minute Drill. It’s a walk around everything Cy-Hawk game this Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium.

IOWA STATE RUSH DEFENSE VS. IOWA RUSH OFFENSE

Iowa State’s rushing defense wore down over time against Northern Iowa’s tandem of QB Aaron Bailey and RB Tyvis Smith. Iowa’s one-two punch could pose similar problems.

ISU linebacker Reggan Northrup had 13 tackles with 2.0 tackles for loss in week one. Nose guard Demond Tucker had just two stops, but soaked up a lot of the contact in the middle and contained UNI rushers early. Defensive end Mitchell Meyers was disruptive on the edge at times, but Iowa’s options could keep the Cyclones guessing too much.

Advantage: Iowa

— Dylan Montz

Everything worked in the Hawkeyes’ running game last week. Junior running back Akrum Wadley piled up 112 yards on just 12 carries. Senior LeShun Daniels added 83 yards on 10 carries. The duo scored two TDs apiece. Iowa finished with 212 yards on 29 carries (7.31 yards per carry).

According to Pro Football Focus grades, tight end George Kittle graded as Iowa’s best run blocker, with guard Sean Welsh, fullback Brady Ross and tackles Ike Boettger and Cole Croston also grading well.

The Hawkeyes took care of business against a middle-of-the-road Mid-American Conference defense. They did what they were supposed to do. The five explosive runs (four from Wadley) and no negative yardage plays on called running plays were the bonus points.

Advantage: Iowa

— Marc Morehouse

IOWA STATE PASS DEFENSE VS. IOWA PASS OFFENSE

C.J. Beathard is an upgrade as a passer from what Iowa State saw in Bailey, but the Cyclones were able to limit the Panthers with a loaded secondary. D’Andre Payne and Thadd Daniels weren’t available last week due to injury, but ISU coach Matt Campbell said they will be ready to go Saturday night along with Evrett Edwards, who was banged up in game 1.

Beathard also doesn’t make many mistakes. He was 13-for-20 for 192 yards and a touchdown. He threw 17 touchdowns to five interceptions last year.

Matt VandeBerg led Iowa with four catches for 99 yards against Miami (Ohio) and will see either Brian Peavy or Jomal Wiltz on the other side. Safety Kamari Cotton-Moya had 11 solo tackles against Northern Iowa and is a three-year starter in the back end. He provides the counterpoint to Beathard’s experience for the Cyclones.

Advantage: Iowa

— Dylan Montz

One kind of underrated factor from last week was the number of times Miami blitzed Beathard. The Hawkeyes saw 13 blitzes, and Beathard still completed 6 of 12 with one sack. Iowa State will bring heat. Center James Daniels was tagged with allowing the blitz sack, but mostly because he stumbled over another rusher who broke free on Welsh.

Iowa tried three passes of 20-plus yards, with Beathard completing one. On passes of 0 to 9 yards, Beathard was 7 of 9 for 92 yards, thanks mostly to beautifully blocked bubble screens. Ball placement there is key. Beathard consistently put the ball in front of receivers, allowing them to catch and run in one seamless motion. Senior WR Matt VandeBerg benefited from this, with 78 of his 99 receiving yards coming after the catch.

Sophomore wide receiver Jerminic Smith wasn’t supposed to start this game. Sophomore Jay Scheel edged ahead of him on the depth chart, but wasn’t able to play last week. Scheel is a maybe this week. Smith played with a purpose, finishing blocks and catching three of his four targets for 51 yards, including a 12-yard TD on a fourth down that he beat two defenders to secure.

Beathard is Iowa’s run-pass option. He didn’t show that last week. Of course, he fought through a sports hernia last season and had that operated on in January, so you wonder if he can punch that gear.

Iowa State cornerback Nigel Tribune will remain suspended for this game, ISU coach Matt Campbell announced Wednesday. Tribune was arrested for an OWI in July and has been suspended for the Cyclones’ first two games.

Advantage: Iowa

— Marc Morehouse

IOWA STATE RUSH OFFENSE VS. IOWA RUSH DEFENSE

Mike Warren went underused in week 1. It was part UNI defense and part self-inflicted mistakes from Iowa State. Still, the stats remain — 12 carries and 30 yards for a running back who went for 1,339 yards with six single-game 100-yard rushing performances last year. That’s not enough production.

Read more: Warren leading charge for running game improvement

Iowa State gets redshirt freshman Julian Good-Jones, who was suspended last week, back at right tackle. He hasn’t played in a college game, so how much that helps remains to be seen. At a minimum he provides another big body and gives the Cyclones some depth to build off 51 rushing yards.

Until Iowa State’s offensive line shows it can adequately run block and eliminate some unforced mistakes, the Cyclones might be somewhat one-dimensional.

Advantage: Iowa

— Dylan Montz

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz thought Iowa’s rush defense was too easily run on last week. Miami put up respectable numbers, 158 yards on 41 carries. That was enough to keep Iowa honest and allow RedHawks QB Billy Bahl to do damage through the air.

Of course, Iowa’s rush defense was without its best player, middle linebacker Josey Jewell. He was ejected for targeting just one series into the game. Sophomore Jack Hockaday went in and had struggle moments against the run and solid plays vs. the pass.

Jewell is but one man. How much difference will he make? Probably a lot. Last week’s performance still opens the door to the questions about run defense. If you’re going to say Iowa’s rush offense took care of business against a middling MAC team, then you have to say the rush D didn’t. Ferentz said this, “It seemed like we were thinking a little bit too much. Just kind of overanalyzing. It didn’t seem like we were letting it go the way you needed to let it go.”

Miami hurt Iowa with the read option. Iowa State can do this. QB Joel Lanning rushed for 330 yards in 11 games last season. Warren can get his. ISU’s O-line has questions after it generated just 51 yards on 25 carries last week. It will have to find itself in week 2 to give the Cyclones some light at the end of the tunnel here.

Ferentz said on his radio show Wednesday night that sophmore DE Parker Hesse (hamstring) will be severely limited if he’s able to play at all Saturday night.

Advantage: Iowa

— Marc Morehouse

IOWA STATE PASS OFFENSE VS. IOWA PASS DEFENSE

Joel Lanning made throws last week that made him look like a three-year starter at quarterback. Others made him look like he’s starting just the sixth game of his career — which he did against Northern Iowa.

 

Iowa State’s junior quarterback didn’t have a dismal stat line, he was 18-for-28 for 256 yards and three touchdowns. It was his fumble, two interceptions and safety that brought down his performance. Lanning does show promise and has plenty of weapons on the outside.

The premiere matchup will be receiver Allen Lazard and cornerback Desmond King. King is at a size disadvantage against Lazard — 5-foot-11 to 6-foot-5 — but has shown that doesn’t always matter. What will help the Cyclones is there will be other options.

Iowa State was serviceable in pass protection against Northern Iowa and Lanning on occasion was able to show his quick release. Lanning hit eight different receivers against the Panthers, with Dondre Daley and Hakeem Butler, a 6-6 redshirt freshman, catching a touchdown apiece.

Trever Ryen, Deshaunte Jones and Marchie Murdock in the slot give Iowa State a threat underneath. Mike Warren and David Montgomery are capable of catching passes out of the backfield too.

Advantage: Iowa State

— Dylan Montz

Yes, Iowa played a simple, plain defense last week. Phil Parker used one personnel package (dime with extra corners Joshua Jackson and Manny Rugamba). Iowa didn’t blitz and ran just a few stunts.

With the offense pumping out explosive plays, the defense could live with a performance in which it gave up 424 yards. It knows it won’t live for long if it gets stuck there.

Iowa State should try to make a living on short throws and keep Iowa honest with a few deep passes. In Kinnick, Lanning probably will have a quick-pass mentality. He won’t hold the ball long. If Iowa doesn’t find a way to disrupt that, Lazard will operate. King said this week that he will follow Lazard in coverage, regardless what side of the field Lazard lines up on. Ferentz was asked about that afterward and he didn’t seem to quite be there with that plan.

Keep an eye on outside linebacker Ben Niemann. He nursed a hamstring injury in camp and had offseason shoulder surgery. He sat out for a series last week, so there’s that. After freshman defensive end Anthony Nelson (Big Ten freshman of the week with 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles), Niemann was Iowa’s best defensive performer last week. Forget that the No. 2 OLB is walk-on junior Kevin Ward, who switched from safety last spring, Niemann is key vs. run and pass.

Advantage: Push

— Marc Morehouse

SPECIAL TEAMS

Iowa State has capable punt returners in Trever Ryen and Allen Lazard. Kene Nwangwu was the lone kickoff returner as a true freshman. Ryen led all returners with three opportunities for 40 yards.

ISU punter Colin Downing averaged 39.1 yards on seven kicks against Northern Iowa. He boomed a 51-yard kick, but also had a 15-yarder. Kicker Cole Netten had no field goal attempts, but missed one of his three extra points despite a clean look

Advantage: Iowa

— Dylan Montz

Iowa opened a whole bunch of new toys on special teams last week. Senior punter Ron Coluzzi averaged 41.7 yards on three punts, with an average hang time of 4.6 seconds (according to Pro Football Focus). Coluzzi booted seven of his eight kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

True freshman kicker Keith Duncan, a native Texan who attended high school in North Carolina, hit everything put in front of him (22 FG and six PATs).

Jewell’s targeting ejection wiped out what would’ve been a 69-yard punt return for King, who did have a 48-yard kick return.

Advantage: Iowa

— Marc Morehouse

 

INTANGIBLES

1. In the last four meetings between Iowa and Iowa State, the road team has won. The last matchup in Kinnick Stadium saw Cole Netten hit a 42-yard game-winner for Iowa State.

2. Iowa leads the all-time series with Iowa State 41-22 and won 15 games from 1983-97, but the Cyclones have won 10-of-18 games since Kirk Ferentz took over the Hawkeyes program including three of the last five.

3. Iowa State offensive linemen Brian Bobek and Sean Foster both had fathers that played at Iowa. Bobek’s father, Jeff, lettered in 1980 while Foster’s father, Troy, was a member of the team from 1990-94.

— Dylan Montz

1. Night fever — This is the first night game at Kinnick between the Cyclones and Hawkeyes since 2002, when Seneca Wallace capped a magnificent comeback for ISU. The night lights will add juice, and not just to the fans, who’ll have all day to tailgate. Sometimes, they have beer at tailgates.

2. Trophy No. 1 — After losing all four trophy games in 2014, the Hawkeyes reclaimed them all last season, including the Cy-Hawk. This summer, the UI athletics department set up a display of all four at the Iowa State Fair, leaving signs in the trophy cases in the lobby of the Hansen Performance Center that read, in the voice of the Cy-Hawk Trophy, apparently, “I’m sorry I missed your visit. I am visiting the State Fair in Des Moines with my friends Floyd, Heartland and Heroes. I’ll be back here at home on Aug. 22, so please come back and see me.” — Cy-Hawk.

3. Again with the trophy — The Cy-Hawk Trophy wasn’t in its spot in the Hansen this week. Early in the week, the Iowa staff strategically placed it to the weightroom. It’s a place all of the Hawkeyes go during the week. No one is above motivational ploys.

— Marc Morehouse

ISU WILL WIN IF ... It can cut down unforced mistakes, penalties and turnovers, and find an identity in the running game.

IOWA WILL WIN IF ... It can use Northern Iowa as a blue print and use its two running backs to gash Iowa State on the edge.

PREDICTION: Iowa 28, Iowa State 17

— Dylan Montz

ISU WILL WIN IF ... It takes care of the ball and can throw a punch into the Hawkeyes’ running game. On paper, that’s the game’s mismatch.

IOWA WILL WIN IF ... The Hawkeyes have lost two games (2012 and 2014) against Iowa State while rushing the ball 40 times. That’s a massive anomaly. Iowa gets to 40-plus carries, it will control and win this game.

PREDICTION: Iowa 41, Iowa State 24

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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