Offensive line shuffle brings out fighting side of Hawkeyes
Angry or just efficient, Iowa O-linemen helped pump up time of possession
Iowa TE George Kittle
Iowa Hawkeyes running back Akrum Wadley (25) runs into the end zone to score a touchdown against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the fourth quarter of a Big Ten football game at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Something had to give and after the Hawkeyes’ offensive line gave and gave and gave against Northwestern last week, and so, on Monday morning this week, there was a new seating chart.
Senior Cole Croston went from left tackle to right tackle. He was the one tagged with four of the six sacks allowed last week. He hated last week, but didn’t sink an inch when told Monday after the switch.
“I wasn’t sure about it, but it crossed my mind,” Croston said. “Playing right tackle wasn’t a big deal.”
That wasn’t the only change. This was an overhaul of sorts, with all five starters remaining the same, but only two O-linemen in their same spot from the Northwestern game.
Junior Boone Myers, who started 10 games at left tackle last season, switched from left guard to replace Croston. Junior Ike Boettger went from right tackle to left guard. So, to keep all of this straight, from left to right, the Iowa offensive line that helped punch out the Hawkeyes’ 14-7 victory Saturday at Minnesota was Myers, Boettger, center James Daniels, guard Sean Welsh and Croston.
So, did it work?
Iowa rushed for 179 yards, 100 more than it did against Northwestern. The game-winning points came on an inside zone play that running back Akrum Wadley hit for 54 yards with 5:28 left in the game. Welsh, Boettger, Myers and tight end George Kittle threw key blocks on the play.
“I know they were angry,” Wadley said about the O-line changes. “I like them when they’re angry.”
After six sacks against the Wildcats, Iowa allowed just one against Minnesota. Beathard still took too many hits, but a few of those came after he broke out of the pocket and tried to make plays.
Beathard, who finished 17 of 31 for 142 yards and two interceptions, didn’t pick up on any anger from the O-line. He said they were business as usual.
“It’s hard to tell with those guys,” Beathard said. “They’re pretty mellow during the game. They were wanting to win that game just as badly as any of us on the field.”
Iowa was a little better on third down (six of 17 conversions). It also strung together four drives that made it into the double digits for plays. Two of those drives stalled inside the red zone, so there’s still more for the O-line to be angry over going into Purdue this week.
Maybe the biggest O-line stat and something that hasn’t been there for Iowa this season was time of possession. Iowa held the ball 34:55 to Minnesota’s 25:05. The Hawkeyes averaged just 28:03 going into Saturday, ranking them No. 90 in the country.
“We thought it would be worth taking a shot at,” Ferentz said. “Cole looked a little more comfortable on the right side. Boone slid out and did a good job. I want to give Ike a lot of credit for going to the guard position. I have to see the film, but it looked like he competed well out there.”
Each offensive lineman interviewed kind of danced around the anger topic.
“Yeah, yeah, I guess,” James Daniels said with a laugh. “You should play the game angry, because it’s violent and physical. I guess you could say we played angry.”
Croston kind of laughed about Wadley and the angry comment. Wadley rushed for 107 yards on 14 carries. He absolutely liked what he saw. All in all, an angry O-line can’t hurt.
“He likes us angry?” Croston asked. “It’s probably because we move more bodies for him and he gets more yards, so I’m sure he does.”
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