Iowa football #MusterOneUp Mailbag: Did Penn State kill the raider?

Almost got Ol' Rando; questions for Iowa's O-line, D-line; yes on Pseudo Sue

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In bizarro world, where fullbacks run post patterns and defensive tackles reign supreme in the three-cone drill, the Hawkeyes actually should be thanking Penn State for the Woodshed Valley treatment last season.

After all, it set the stage for the Hawkeyes’ greatest victory last season and one of the best Kinnick Stadium has seen during the Kirk Ferentz era.

Yes, the No. 4 Nittany Lions (3-0) showed Iowa the way during their 41-14 dismantling of the Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium last season.

Without that tumult, you probably wouldn’t have enjoyed Iowa’s upset victory over then-No. 3 Michigan the very next week at Kinnick Stadium.

You guys aren’t buying this. This doesn’t even register as a “clever ruse.” I’ll just stop now and avoid digging myself any deeper of a hole.

I’m trying to think of some of the season-to-season turnarounds of the Ferentz era. The one that does jump to mind is Iowa’s 51-14 loss at Minnesota in 2014. Iowa turned that around in 2015 with a 40-35 victory at Kinnick.

That’s the Hawkeyes (3-0) assignment this week. Turnaround one of the worst losses of the Ferentz era. That’s all.

Ready, set, hut.

Welcome to “Muster One Up” mailbag No. 4. Still getting emails about this column from that one dude. I don’t know how he does that with Crayolas.

I’m always looking for contributions on Twitter, Facebook or email. Questions, comments, over/unders, please use the #MusterOneUp hashtag.

“So, that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And fer what? Fer a little bit of money? There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.”

Marge Gunderson knows.

 

Iowa hasn’t run a nickel defense this season. It has run a dime (four D-linemen, one linebacker and six defensive backs). It did a few times (less than five) against Wyoming. At Iowa State, it was 14 times. Last week, it was 12 times with one look at Iowa’s prevent defense.

I’m glad someone asked this question. The topic came up with players after so much dime defense vs. Iowa State.

Here’s what is driving the call from defensive coordinator Phil Parker: “We go dime against 10 personnel teams, where they don’t use tight ends on passing downs,” outside linebacker Ben Niemann said. “Going in (Iowa State), we knew were going to run a little bit of that. I think we probably ran a little more than we expected to.”

So, it looks like dime is here to stay, especially against spread teams that don’t route tight ends.

To your other point, did we see the death of the raider package on Penn State running back Saquon Barkley’s 57-yard TD run last year? It was third-and-5. Iowa was in the raider (two D-linemen, three linebackers, six defensive backs). Barkley took a read-option handoff and went left 57 yards for a TD and a 14-0 lead and that was that.

The raider survived the season, but it hasn’t shown up this season. The dime package includes four D-linemen with Parker Hesse moving inside to tackle to make room for true freshman DE A.J. Epenesa. Brady Reiff comes in at tackle and Anthony Nelson stays put at DE.

I don’t see a ton of dime coming this week, unless Parker wants straight speed vs. Barkley and QB Trace McSorley. Penn State is well versed in the art of the tight end. Plus, Mike Gesicki is a unique weapon at 6-6, 250.

Probably a lot of base Saturday night.

(Super-inside HawkeyeReport.com joke, but Iowa called it “raider” and not “RADAR.” I know there’s that one guy, but that’s what Iowa called it.)

 

Ma, Jay done killed ol’ Rando (“Archer” reference, love that show). In other words, Jay has me stumped.

Wait, wait, I found some numbers. Let’s keep this to 2015-17 and let’s make it 20-plus TD passes. I got this. Rando lives.

In 2015, quarterback C.J. Beathard had seven TD passes of 20-plus yards. He had a solid receiver group and tight ends. In 2016, Beathard had two 20-plus TD passes to go along with two 20-plus interceptions (one 20-plus pick in 2015).

So far this year, quarterback Nate Stanley has four 20-plus TDs. Should’ve been five, but Akrum Wadley was hit with that unsportsmanlike conduct last week.

I know that’s not exactly what you want, Jay, but it’s the best Ol’ Rando can pull out of the files.

 

Generally, Nick, you’re right. This was a problem against Iowa State. Last week, when North Texas went to its No. 2 quarterback, Iowa’s defense let him off the hook with no blitzes or pressures and he got the lifetime memory of throwing a TD pass at Kinnick Stadium.

A couple of mitigators: Defensive end Anthony Nelson is one of Iowa’s better pass rushers. He played just 17 snaps last week after an injury took him out of the regular rotation (he returned to rush the passer in a few dime packages). And it’s tremendously difficult against quick-passing spread offenses to generate a pass rush.

Pressure hasn’t been consistent. Iowa blitzed eight times against Iowa State. Those have to at least result in an “influence” on the QB. Otherwise, you’re opening the door. Blitzes haven’t done that, not consistently.

Hesse has had good moments. Nelson will have moments (I had him for five pressures against Iowa State). Epenesa has definitely shown he has what it takes to disrupt a pocket. You also could make an argument that he’s Iowa’s best, most consistent pass rusher.

So far, Epenesa has been limited to third downs. This might mean coaches aren’t yet comfortable with him in run situations.

I asked Kirk Ferentz this before the North Texas game.

“The more he plays, the more he’ll play, if that makes sense,” Ferentz said. “As long as he’s gaining ground, which he is right now. To throw him in there for 60 plays would have been — I think I could have told you what the answer would be there at the end, made that prediction. But as he keeps playing, he’ll get more confident and more comfortable. He learns every day.

“We were talking about (true freshman offensive tackle) Tristan (Wirfs) earlier, you talk about a first-year player, those guys are really learning and absorbing a lot every practice. If we can just keep building on that knowledge base, it’s going to be better, and better for us. The more he plays, the fresher Parker is, the fresher Anthony and all the other guys are too, so that’s a good thing.”

Stay tuned on this. Pass-rush/disruption needs to happen. It can happen in many different ways, too, including coverage players getting jams on receivers and throwing off timing.

And, Jonny, don’t make the opposing quarterback, who’s really, really good at football, angry going in. Or do make him angry going in. Whatever works.

 

T — Going off Iowa’s last two weeks, it sure feels like the offense is ahead of the defense. That doesn’t set up well for an Iowa team. That has to change.

Under — If Iowa wins, the defense will have a say in it. It will have to. Limit big plays, gum up the run and maybe Iowa can hold Penn State to 28 points.

 

5 — That’s the number Wadley caught against Michigan last year. He was productive, gaining 52 yards and scoring a TD.

Wadley had 160 yards from scrimmage against Michigan (here he goes again on yards from scrimmage). That was a huge number for Iowa. It basically was everything Iowa did on offense vs. Michigan.

 

I think you know the answer, Feldy. Iowa will try to keep everything in front of it. Now, that doesn’t mean there can’t be wrinkles. One I might consider is rolling safety coverage against tendency. That might be tricky with sophomore Amani Hooker making his first start, but I totally get the frustration in your tweet. You’d rather Iowa go out swinging if it’s going to go out.

Let’s see if the Hawkeyes can make it a four-quarter game.

 

My man, going to the yards from scrimmage number.

I think 250, but 200 would be pushing it. (Last year it was 211. Watch yards per touch. Last year against Iowa, Barkley averaged 10.0 yards on 21 touches. That’s a danger number for Iowa.)

 

Under — I think that’s more of a home game thing.

 

Uh oh, you’re going to get me started on the subjectivity of end zone celebration penalties. I know Wadley’s thing last week is technically in the rule book. Still, I’ve never seen it called. That’s where everyone Iowa has a beef.

If I’m officiating that play and if the high stepping was something I felt I needed to address, I would’ve walked Wadley to the sidelines and said, “This is your free pass. High step again and it’s a flag.”

I like the idea of a warning than a “death of fun” sentence.

 

Iowa has shown some of this. Jewell stays in on passing downs to cover the running back and, at least I think, spy the QB. If the running back stays in the backfield, he rushes.

Specifically? That’s football info that Jewell is too smart to clue media in on. Stanley is also very conscious of loose football info, but I’ll keep trying.

 

So far, probably not for the O-line. Iowa averages just 3.83 yards a carry. It’s only three games, but that’s on track to 2012 numbers. You remember that team for going 4-8.

Ferentz was asked about fourth downs after needing (mostly needing) to try to convert five of them against North Texas. Iowa needs to try fourth downs because it averages 1.7 yards on 10 third-down carries from 1 to 3 yards. That’s not a good short-yardage number.

Injuries have factored here, no question. Tackle Ike Boettger was one of Iowa’s best run blockers. Left tackle Alaric Jackson still is feeling his way around after three career starts. Center James Daniels missed the first game. Senior Boone Myers is a three-year starter who fell into a rotational role because of an ankle injury.

That’s a lot of moving parts. Iowa needs the running game to be a factor, probably a dominant factor, against Penn State.

On the beer? Yes.

Kidding. You can actually buy Pseudo Sue on shelves in Iowa. Do that. Do that a few times.

 

Over — I think maybe 20.

It will be less than the 30 last week, but it still has to be a sturdy number, right?

 

I’m just going to go off what happened last year at Penn State and go with the Nittany Lions in 2017. We know less about Penn State than we did about Michigan in November last year, but this offense every day of the week will be a tough matchup for the Hawkeyes. PSU has much better skill players than Michigan did last year.

 

Iowa won a shootout against Iowa State. Penn State has better skill players. Iowa won’t win a shootout.

My default answer is 28 points. Healthy Iowa offenses average around 28 points.

 

I like this idea. The reviews last week pushed the game to nearly 3 1/2 hours.

I’m all for getting calls right. I’m also constantly astounded by how often officials get calls correct in this high-speed nutty game.

Want to save 15 minutes or thereabouts? Trust the guys you pay to officiate the game. Call down on obvious misses, yes, but . . .

OK, there might not be a perfect solution. Welcome to the world of reviews.

 

Let’s try three:

1. I think Iowa can run the ball. With all of the moving pieces on the O-line and with Butler out, I’m less confident in this statement than I was going into the fourth quarter last week. Can Ferentz let himself OK enough usage of Young and Kelly-Martin? I’m not saying they’d beat Penn State, but they could contribute to a running game that helps beat Penn State.

2. Penn State is going to be super confident. Yes, it should be. This isn’t indicative of where the Nittany Lions’ heads are, but one of the questions PSU head coach James Frankling fielded from PSU media this week was on the package that put McSorley and backup QB Tommy Stevens on the field at the same time.

That did first show up against the Hawkeyes last year. That’s like a throw-in question if the coach looks at his watch and says, “Hey, got time for a couple more.” This isn’t Franklin’s team, but this is a very confident PSU world.

3. Iowa might be the better grind team. This might be a stretch, but a lot of Penn State’s offense has come in big chunks. The Lions lead the Big Ten and are sixth in the nation with 22 plays of 20-plus yards.

They haven't faced great competition and haven't had to piece together a long drive. Iowa’s offense has certainly done that, sixth in the nation with an average of 35:35.33 in time of possession per game. Now, can Iowa’s defense force Penn State into long drives?

That’s a question.

 

Over — But that’s a great number. I’m over, but I wouldn’t be if the number were 12.

 

English Premier League is my favorite Chicago restaurant.

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