Stat Pak: Iowa is sticking with the passing game

That was one of the statements, the Hawkeyes are going to need it

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Quick, one paragraph and out.

1. On Tristan Wirfs — The true freshman from Mount Vernon made his first career start at right tackle vs. Illinois. Kirk Ferentz and Brian Ferentz said two bad plays. That’s what I saw. Also, Wirfs is good in space. He kind of reminded me of Boone Myers in 2015, hitting his targets under control. He also helped out Iowa’s RBs a lot. I’m not saying superstar. This was one start. I think it was a positive and Iowa has something here.

2. Sticking with the passing game — I thought there were points during Greg Davis’ coordinator-ship where he gave up on certain elements at times during games. At one point late in the second quarter against Illinois, Iowa QB Nate Stanley was 1 of 8. Instead of junking the passing game and going straight run (which probably would’ve worked), OC Brian Ferentz stayed with the passing game and let it work things out. This was the drive that was extended by the fake punt. Stanley finished the drive 4 of 5 with the final being a 2-yarder to Akrum Wadley for the TD.

3. D-line snap counts — Iowa really is playing 8 DL, and against Illinois it was really nine with sophomore Garret Jansen working in at defensive tackle with 19 plays.

DE/DT Parker Hesse — 41 snaps with two at DT; 1 QB hit, 1 QB hurry

DT Nathan Bazata — The senior’s last snap was early third quarter. He spent time with the trainers on the sideline. It didn’t seem serious and I believe KF said he expects him back. 31 snaps

DT Cedrick Lattimore — I thought this was his best game. 36 snaps, QB hit

DE Anthony Nelson — He really does a ton with his 6-7 frame. He managed OTs and their punches in this game very well. 46 snaps, sack/strip, 4 QB hurries

DT Brady Reiff — He got buried on a double team that helped Illinois pop its 58-yard read-option through the middle of Iowa’s defense. The OT doubled and made a clean block on LB Bo Bower. Reiff was taken out for a play and then went back in, 13 snaps

DE A.J. Epenesa — 34 snaps, QB hurry and two QB hits. AJE needs to be accounted for on every passing down. Phil Parker this week said he’s getting better vs. the run and should be in on more first and second downs. That’s a good thing.

DE Sam Brincks — Quietly making plays. 24 snaps, 2 QB hurries, QB hit

DT Matt Nelson — 42 snaps, tipped a pass.

4. In the fourth quarter — Iowa lined up three true freshman WRs — Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Brandon Smith and Max Cooper. I had five snaps for Cooper (no targets), 33 for ISM (four targets, one catch) and 15 for Smith (one target).

5. I know how corners do it, but it can’t be easy — I remember Desmond King’s defensive back mantra of having a short memory. Illinois threw the ball around the yard a bit and in the first half, a lot of that went CB Josh Jackson’s way. In the first five passes thrown at him, Illinois hit for four completions and got Jackson with a PI. On the last three, it was a pair of incompletions and Jackson broke up a pass in the end zone.

CB Manny Rugamba played two snaps in dime package. During the second half, he was asked to cover the TE, who ran him over and caught a 31-yard pass. Rugamba still is having ankle/foot issues. Phil Parker said this week he shouldn’t have put him out there for that play.

Three Stars

1. RB Akrum Wadley — Feel like Iowa-landia is starting to take Wadley for granted. This was just a 115 rushing yards, two receptions and two TD day. After the two weeks going into Illinois, you appreciate these a little more.

2. S Brandon SnyderIt was Brandon Snyder Day. You saw the 89-yard pick six. Here’s how his five targets went: breakup, incomplete, breakup, incomplete, interception.

3. WR Nick Easley — The junior walk-on juco transfer had his second seven-reception day of the season, catching seven passes on 11 targets. You know how many times Iowa’s receivers produced seven-reception days last season? Three times — Riley McCarron caught eight against Northwestern; Wadley caught seven against Wisconsin and Matt VandeBerg caught seven against ISU.

The DVR Chair

(It’s sort of an ugly green)

— I had Iowa’s defense with two dime packages. One was a 12-yard completion and the other was 31 yards. Parker was asked about pass rush a lot when he spoke to the media Wednesday. That’s part of the deal here, too, of course. BTW, the raider rush package is different because Parker likes his down four in pass situations (Anthony Nelson, Epenesa, Hesse and Reiff).

— I had Iowa with four blitzes. Complete, incomplete, incomplete and Josey Jewell pressure. Maybe five blitzes, I had Jack Hockaday with a QB hurry. Speaking of ...

— Hockaday replaced Jewell when he left the game with a shoulder injury in the second quarter. So, Hockaday ahead of Kristian Welch at MLB. And then later in the game, junior Aaron Mends went in at WLB ahead of sophomore Amani Jones.

— Pass breakup from CB Cedric Boswell. Two pass breakups for safety Jake Gervase. The secondary is developing. And we haven’t even talked safety Geno Stone (first career pick).

— Defensive targets: CB Manny Rugamba 1 of 1 for 31 yards, S Amani Hooker 1 of 3 for 0 (INT and zero YAC, that’s impressive), S Miles Taylor 1 of 1 for 6, LB Josey Jewell 1 of 1 for 8, LB Bo Bower 5 of 6 for 48 (George put a couple passes over Bower’s head and fit them in against Iowa’s zone, tough plays for an LB), LB Ben Niemann 0 of 4 for 0, CB Josh Jackson 5 of 8 for 69, CB Michael Ojemudia 3 of 3 for 43, S Brandon Snyder 0 for 5 for 1 INT, two BUPs, S Jake Gervase 1 of 3 for 13 yards (two BUPs), LB Jack Hockaday 1 for 1 for 8, CB Cedric Boswell 0 of 1 for 0 (BUP), LB Amani Jones 1 of 1 for 3 yards, LB Kristian Welch 1 of 2 for 4

— Offensive targets: TE Noah Fant 3 of 6 for 78 yards, TE T.J. Hockenson 2 of 2 for 41, WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette 1 of 4 for 7, WR Nick Easley 7 of 11 for 59, WR Matt VandeBerg 2 of 3 for 48, RB Akrum Wadley 2 of 3 for 14 yards, RB Ivory Kelly-Martin 1 of 1 for 3

— Special teams helmet sticker to freshman CB Matt Hankins. Who doesn’t love surprise and covered up onside kicks?

— Defensive stops (stopping the offense at 45% of needed yards on first down, 60% of needed yards on second down, or 100% of needed yards on third or fourth down): Bo Bower 6, Josey Jewell 4, Anthony Nelson 2, Snyder 2

— QB hurries: Hesse, A. Nelson 4, Epenesa, Brincks 2, Hockaday

— QB hits: A. Nelson, Epenesa 2, Lattimore, Hesse, Brincks

— Iowa’s personnel groups and what they did: 21 (two backs, one TE) — 3 of 5 passing for 112 yards, 13 rush for 63 yards; 12 (one back, two TEs) — 3 of 5 for 41 yards, 4 rushes for 12 yards; 22 (two backs, two TEs) — 7 rushes for 24 yards, 1 for 3 passing for 17 yards; 11 shotgun (1 back, 1 TE) — 6 rushes for 25 yards, 9 of 15 passing for 69 yards; 11 (one back, one TE) — 3 rushes for 9 yards, 0 of 4 for 0 passing; 12 shotgun (one back, two TEs) — 1 of 1 passing for 5 yards; 23 (two backs, three TEs) — 1 rush for 3 yards

The numbers game

Touchdowns in the red zone

Iowa — 4 of 7

Illinois — 1 of 4

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 1 of 1 (off), 0 of 0 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 5 of 6 (off), 3 of 5 (def); Week 3 vs. North Texas — 3 of 5 (off), 1 of 1 (def); Week 4 vs. No. 4 Penn State — 0 of 1 (off), 2 of 5 (def); Week 5 at Michigan State — 1 of 3 (off), 1 of 2 (def); Week 6 vs. Illinois — 4 of 7 (off), 1 of 4 (def)

The takeaway: I really liked Phil Parker’s points per red zone entry stat. This is exactly what you’re shooting for if you’re Iowa.

Three and outs forced by the defense

Iowa — 4

Illinois — 4

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 3 (def), 5 (off); Week 2 vs. ISU — 5 (def), 6 (off); Week 3 vs. North Texas — 3 (def), 2 (off); Week 4 vs. No. 4 Penn State — 4 (def), 7 (off); Week 5 at Michigan State — 1 (def), 6 (off); Week 6 vs. Illinois — 4 (def), 4 (off)

The takeaway: Still a slow-starting offense. Grisly number out of Michigan State.

Efficiency

(50% of needed yards on first down, 70% of needed yards on second down, or 100% of needed yards on third or fourth down)

Iowa — 47.2 percent (34 efficient plays out of 72 total)

Illinois — 41.3 percent (31 of 75)

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 42 percent (off), 34 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 46.3 (off), 47.2 (def); Week 3 vs. North Texas — 38.3 percent (off), 45.6 (def); Week 4 vs. No. 4 Penn State — 26.6 (off), 50.5 (def); Week 5 at Michigan State — 33 percent (off), 39.7 (def); Week 6 vs. Illinois — 47.2 (off), 41.3 (def)

The takeaway: Against Michigan State, Iowa had just six efficient plays in the first half. It rebounded with 13 in the second, but there are those slow starts again. Against Illinois it was better (20 efficient plays in the first half), but the Illinois factor. Meanwhile, Michigan State had 12 efficient plays in the first quarter and two explosive plays on the first drive.

Explosive plays

(Runs of 12-plus yards; passes of 16-plus)

Iowa — 9 (4 runs, 5 passes)

Illinois — 8 (4 runs, 4 pass)

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 5 (off), 1 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 9 (off), 10 (def); Week 3 vs. North Texas — 6 (off), 4 (def); Week 4 vs. No. 4 Penn State — 6 (off), 13 (def); Week 5 at Michigan State — 4 (off), 6 (def); Week 6 vs. Illinois — 9 (off), 8 (def)

The takeaway: Nice mix of pass/run explosions for Iowa vs. Illinois. Against Michigan State, it was all through the air. In fact, there was one explosive run from both teams in the MSU game (15-yard run from MSU). Four explosive pass plays to the tight ends last week (Fant and Hockenson). This is counting the fake punt 18-yard run by Hooker, by the way.

Magic Points (scores inside of two minutes)

Iowa — 7

Illinois — 0

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 7 (off), 0 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 14 (off), 0 (def); Week 3 vs. North Texas — 7 (off), 7 (def); Week 4 vs. No. 4 Penn State — 13 (off), 6 (def); Week 5 at Michigan State — 0 (off), 3 (def); Week 6 vs. Illinois — 7 (off), 0 (def)

The takeaway: The Hawkeyes scored with 8 seconds left before halftime vs. Illinois. The drive itself was impressive, 13 plays, 75 yards and 2:41 off the clock. But how Iowa operated here also was impressive. I felt like this was Brian Ferentz’s “dangblammit boys, we’re going to pass the ball.” Iowa was in 11 personnel (one back, one TE) the entire drive and in shotgun for most of it. Stanley started slow on the drive, but hit four of his last five.

Throughout his OC-ship, Greg Davis was quick to hit the eject when something wasn’t working. Hey, Iowa hasn’t been up-to-standard in the running game this year, so I think Brian Ferentz knows he needs the passing game, so he wanted it to deliver. And, on that drive, it certainly did.

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

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