2-Minute Drill: Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa wants this game in a phone booth; Iowa State needs to run wild and free

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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 (11 a.m. on ESPN2) at Jack Trice Stadium.

 

ISU rush defense vs. Iowa rush offense

Iowa State’s defensive line was the biggest unknown going into the season. Talent is there, but so is inexperience. Nose guard Ray Lima (6-3, 306) looked good while taking on plenty of double teams, while senior tackle Vernell Trent (6-3, 282) was a nice complement at the other inside spot, helping the Cyclones get two sacks and six tackles for loss against Northern Iowa.

Upsides and lapses existed simultaneously. Joel Lanning (6-2, 230) had seven tackles in his linebacker debut, while Willie Harvey (6-0, 222) and Marcel Spears (6-1, 215) both showed athleticism on the edges. Iowa State will get better as the season progresses, but it allowed Northern Iowa’s Trevor Allen and J’Veyon Browning to average a combined 7.0 yards per carry.

Advantage: Iowa

— Dylan Montz

 

Iowa’s offensive line went through a fire drill last week with center James Daniels’ (knee) absence. Keegan Render ended up playing his first game at center since he was a high school senior in 2013. Boone Myers (23 snaps) and Ross Reynolds (33) rotated at left guard.

Despite that, Iowa’s running game was the invisible hand that controlled the second half last week. Technically, yes, Iowa had just 37 rushing yards in the second, but take away two sacks, a wayward TE sweep and taking a knee and add the fact that the Hawkeyes closed out the final 4:36 with six consecutive runs and it was a relative success with a patchwork OL.

Daniels is expected back this week. That should push Render back to left guard and automatically gives Iowa’s OL a layer of depth.

Iowa won at Jack Trice in 2013 behind the full weight of 60 carries. If Iowa gets close to that again, Iowa State’s offense will be playing catch up and won’t have a lot of time with which to work. The Hawkeyes very much want this game in a phone booth.

Advantage: Iowa

— Marc Morehouse

ISU pass defense vs. Iowa pass offense

Iowa likely won’t throw a ton this week for a couple reasons. It has a solid running game that will go against a young, inexperienced defensive front and it will face a veteran secondary. Kamari Cotton-Moya and Brian Peavy accounted for two of the three interceptions last week and provide a buoy to the defense while the front comes into its own.

One of the biggest matchups to look at here is what Iowa does with tight end Noah Fant. The Hawkeyes found success with him in the seam, and the Cyclones will have to counter. Linebacker Marcel Spears could play man-to-man coverage possibly, but it does add a little more intrigue to the operation.

Advantage: Iowa State

— Dylan Montz

Iowa’s passing game isn’t there, not yet. What worked for first-year starter Nate Stanley in Week 1? He completed 2 of 3 attempts of more than 20 yards, both going for scores. Stanley seemed comfortable with the play-action game, which has been and likely will be a staple in offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s playbook.

There seemed to be a few more combo routes in Iowa’s passing game. On his 45-yard TD, WR Nick Easley crossed under tight end Noah Fant and found open space. And then on Fant’s 27-yard TD, Iowa’s 22 formation (fullback, running back, two tight ends, one wide receiver) pulled Wyoming to the line of scrimmage. A linebacker ended up matching up with Fant and it was an easy score. Stanley showed accuracy and touch on both long TDs.

Iowa will have to use more wide receivers this week. Easley (45 snaps) and Matt VandeBerg (46) need another runner.

At Jack Trice with a new QB, there’s a fine line between smart and being too timid in the passing game. Iowa is likely OK walking this line.

Iowa allowed two sacks and six tackles for loss last week. Linebackers JaQuan Bailey (6-2, 260) and Spears were disruptive for the Cyclones last week.

Advantage: Iowa State

— Marc Morehouse

ISU rush offense vs. Iowa rush defense

 

Iowa State running back David Montgomery was the spark that got the Iowa State offense going in the win against Northern Iowa. Three straight carries near the end of the half went for 29 yards and was a good display of most of what he offers. He hit the edges with speed and decisiveness, danced around linebackers and ran through a safety to finish with 14 carries for 82 yards and two scores.

Mike Warren added 10 pounds in the offseason and hopes to bounce back from a down sophomore year. He had 12 carries for 35 yards backing up Montgomery.

The offensive line, and starters Jake Campos, Robby Garcia, Julian Good-Jones (Cedar Rapids Washington prep), Josh Knipfel and Bryce Meeker (Cedar Rapids Prairie prep), looked respectable in their first start and helped Iowa State to 134 rushing yards as a team. There’s plenty of room to grow too.

Feature: Josh Knipfel fits in Iowa State's offensive line plan

Iowa’s linebackers have solid talent in Josey Jewell and Ben Niemann and will have a stout defensive line to go against. The challenges provided here would be a measuring stick in the process of the Cyclones’ growth up front.

Advantage: Iowa

— Dylan Montz

One of the surprises from the Hawkeyes in Week 1 was the eight-man rotation they showed on the defensive line. This is a huge deal.

There were no surprises in the starting lineup, but filling out the eight did bring a few. Junior walk-on Sam Brincks played the most snaps of his career. At 6-5, 275 pounds, he can play the strong technique that helps hold a perimeter. You knew true freshman A.J. Epenesa was going to play, you just didn’t know how much. In just 10 snaps, he had a sack, a tackle for loss and two QB pressures.

Iowa’s linebackers combined for 38 tackles against Wyoming. That doesn’t happen if the D-line doesn’t keep them clean.

Iowa was bold with its pressures vs. Wyoming. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker even dialed up a safety blitz. Linebacker Josey Jewell picked his pressures well. He left coverage once and said he knew someone had his area, so he was free to rush. This kind of connectivity makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Advantage: Iowa

— Marc Morehouse

ISU pass offense vs. Iowa pass defense

Outside of one interception on a poorly thrown ball, quarterback Jacob Park was efficient in the opener, completing 27 of 35 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns. Receivers like Iowa State’s help that.

 

Senior Allen Lazard (6-5, 222) had eight catches for 108 yards and became the Cyclones’ all-time receptions leader (178). He has a reception in 36 consecutive games played and four straight 100-yard receiving games. This year he’s got guys around him to take the pressure off.

Sophomore Hakeem Butler (6-6, 219) made apparent strides in the offseason, catching seven passes for 75 yards and a score against Northern Iowa — he had nine receptions all last season. Marchie Murdock and Trever Ryen round out Park’s favorite targets with Deshaunte Jones providing more depth in the slot.

Iowa’s secondary kept Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen in check, but the ISU receivers provide a steeper challenge if the offensive line gives Park time and keeps him upright.

Advantage: Iowa State

— Dylan Montz

Iowa’s game plan against Wyoming’s Josh Allen last week was obvious — keep everything in front and no big plays. The Cowboys produced one explosive play (23-yard pass). Iowa State’s wideouts are a step up in weight class for Iowa’s secondary.

 

Sophomore Manny Rugamba is back this week after serving a one-game suspension for violation of an unspecified team rule. He’s Iowa’s top corner. The Hawkeyes ran their nickel defense just a handful of times last week. With Rugamba’s presence, Parker might be dialing that up a few more times.

ISU’s inside receivers are a potential trouble spot for Iowa. Outside linebacker Ben Niemann is asked to carry slot receivers and he was on his game last week. Asking Niemann (6-3, 233) to stay with ISU’s Trever Ryen in a vertical route might be advantage ISU.

There will be pressure on Iowa’s front four to get ISU QB Jacob Park off his spots. Park has a great arm and quick release. Pressures won’t come easily, but this is a game where you could see DE Anthony Nelson making something happen.

Advantage: Push

— Marc Morehouse

Special teams

Iowa State special teams were solid against Northern Iowa. Graduate transfer kicker Garrett Owens didn’t attempt a field goal, but made all six extra points and had three touchbacks on seven kickoffs.

Colin Downing’s five punts went for an average of 45.4 yards, a long of 55 yards, while three went inside the 20-yard line. Mike Warren had a 35-yard kickoff return and slipped some tackles while Ryen handled kickoff duties.

Advantage: Push

— Dylan Montz

Yes, Wyoming punter Tim Zaleski missed the ball on a punt attempt and it cost the Cowboys a TD and a ton of momentum. A trio of Iowa special teamers — Kevin Ward, Aaron Mends and Amani Jones — pushed the punt shield back toward Zaleski. That seemed to throw him off.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz put a ton of emphasis on special teams going into the season and so far so good.

Kicker Miguel Recinos did everything right, including a 44-yard field goal and what were five basically unreturnable kick offs.

Feature: Miguel Recinos negotiates the head game that is kicking

Sophomore punter Colten Rastetter showed some first-game nerves, averaging 38.2 yards on four attempts. Let’s see if there’s more confidence in Week 2.

VandeBerg re-inherited the punt return job and posted a fine day, three returns for 37 yards.

Advantage: Iowa

— Marc Morehouse

Iowa vs. Iowa State predictions

ISU WILL WIN IF ... it can contain the edges and slow down Akrum Wadley and the running game. David Montgomery going for 100-plus yards would be a boost, too.

IOWA WILL WIN IF ... it can establish a ground game and take advantage of Iowa State’s interior offensive line to make quarterback Jacob Park uncomfortable.

PREDICTION: Iowa 28, Iowa State 21

Dylan Montz

ISU WILL WIN IF ... it can protect Jacob Park and throw punches at Iowa’s running game. Iowa has more experience on the line of scrimmage. If ISU can’t disrupt either side, Iowa will have a very “Iowa” game (lots of rushes and lopsided time of possession).

IOWA WILL WIN IF ... it gets to 40-plus carries, plays clean and holds down big plays on defense, it will control and win this game.

PREDICTION: Iowa 27, Iowa State 17

Marc Morehouse

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