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FIVE BULLET POINTS ON THE MIAMI RESULT
1. Mabin knows, he knows
This is going to be Greg Mabin’s next three-plus months. Everyone knows who Desmond King is, so everyone is going to look to get something over on Mabin.
Miami (Ohio) coach Chuck Martin said he wanted nothing to do with King, last year’s winner of the Thorpe Award and collector of a school-record tying eight interceptions. So, RedHawks quarterback Billy Bahl looked Mabin’s way time after time in the No. 15 Hawkeyes’ 45-21 victory Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
After Miami wide receiver James Gardner collected his second TD pass with Mabin in coverage, the bill added up to 8 completions in 11 attempts thrown at the Iowa senior for 173 yards, two TDs and two pass breakups.
Mabin didn’t duck questions. This is the life of a cornerback. This is the life of the cornerback who lines up on the opposite side of an all-American.
“You just have to step up to the challenge, that’s what it comes down to,” Mabin said. “You can’t make any excuses.”
There were some mitigating factors. Bahl, who finished 19 of 29 for 266 yards and two TDs, got Mabin with a pair of back-shoulder completions, difficult for any defensive back to defend. Mabin had his back turned, and Bahl threw to the outside shoulder of his receiver while the receiver was facing the quarterback. Iowa did get to Bahl for three sacks, but on the last TD throw, which made it 35-21 with 9:43 left in the fourth quarter, Bahl bought himself some time and had 3.48 seconds to release the ball. It’s asking a lot for a defensive back to cover a wide receiver for much more than 3 seconds on a second-and-6 from the 8-yard line.
“We tried to take King out of the game,” Martin said. “Sabermetrics haven’t hit football, but I’ve been playing percentages for years. If you watch what we did, we had right hash calls and left hash calls.”
Martin was speaking for himself as Miami’s coach in last weekend’s game. But, really, he’s probably talking for the next 11 offensive coordinators the Hawkeyes are going to face, which this week is Iowa State (0-1) on Saturday night at 6:30 at Kinnick Stadium.
“Hey, it’s only game one,” Mabin said. “I’ve got at least 11 more times of this. I’m going to go back, watch the film, talk with coach Parker (defensive coordinator/secondary coach Phil Parker) and correct those mistakes and move on.”
King knows that Mabin is under pressure. He knows it’s not an easy job.
“As far as Greg and his playing, that’s up to him,” King said. “He has to know it’s coming his way. He has to have a short-term memory out there. You can’t let one play affect the whole game.”
2. Stanley’s redshirt turned green for “go”
It’s game 1 of the 2016 season, but you have to ask what it means when a true freshman quarterback leaps a third-year sophomore and a redshirt freshman on the depth chart and jumps into the game.
After redshirt freshman defensive end Anthony Nelson collected his second sack/fumble of the game, true freshman Nathan Stanley entered the game with 5:06 left, a first down at Miami’s 18 and a 17-point lead. The game was over. This was mop-up time, and there went Stanley’s redshirt.
It’s hard not to jump to the conclusion that Stanley will be the Iowa quarterback in 2017, the post-C.J. Beathard era. He’s already beaten the competition, sophomore Tyler Wiegers and redshirt freshman Drew Cook. Doesn’t the fact that the redshirt was burned kind of say that loudly and clearly?
Head coach Kirk Ferentz kept things tethered to week 2 of the 2016, also known as “now.”
“It means he’s the No. 2 guy right now, that’s what it means,” Ferentz said. “It’s been nip and tuck with Nathan and Tyler. At the end of the week, we made the decision to go with Nathan. He’s done a good job, Tyler’s done a good job. We’ll take it a week at a time. They’ll keep competing.”
Ferentz said the staff discussed redshirt or no redshirt on Stanley. Now, it’s a green shirt, green as in “go.” The drive Stanley directed ended with junior running back Derrick Mitchell scoring on a 5-yard TD. The one throw Stanley made was a naked bootleg into a blitz. He made a good decision and threw the ball away before taking a hit.
Did Beathard have any words of wisdom for Stanley?
“Just be smart with the ball,” Beathard said. “He did a good job getting the ball out of his hands. He got a blitz off the edge. He did a great job getting the ball out of his hands. That’s all you can ask for in that situation.”
3. Defensive personnel
It’s hard to say how much this means after middle linebacker Josey Jewell was ejected after the first series, but the only personnel package Parker showed was a “dime,” with cornerbacks Joshua Jackson and Manny Rugamba entering the game for linebackers Jack Hockaday, who replaced Jewell in the middle, and Ben Niemann.
Iowa used this three or four times. No “raider” package.
A couple of notes on LB play: Hockaday finished with six tackles, a forced fumble that the offense turned into a TD and a pass breakup. He was coverage conscious early seemed a step late on a few edge plays, but he improved as the game went on.
Niemann left the game for a series or two in the second half. He returned and didn’t seem injured. It could be that the staff wanted to get a look at backup OLB Kevin Ward, a junior walk-on who was a safety last season.
The fact that Miami put together three monster TD drives kept the No. 1 defense on the field until deep in the fourth quarter.
4. Plus blocks all over the place
Iowa WRs were outstanding in their blocking assignments, particularly sophomore Jerminic Smith and senior Riley McCarron. If you think this is a “frosting on the cake” kind of a detail, it’s basically the difference between 8- or 12-yard gains and 20- or 40-yarders.
McCarron hit a block on RB Akrum Wadley’s 23-yard toss sweep. Next play, Smith hit the block that popped WR Matt VandeBerg for a 33-yard gain. Next play, McCarron hit a block that helped seal the outside for a 12-yard Wadley gain.
Smith and McCarron each had two more plus blocks that opened up big gains. These two gave full-service efforts.
5. Big Ten freshman of the week nominee
The key to redshirt freshman DE Anthony Nelson’s fabulous day was his quick feet. On his first sack fumble, he started outside, got 52’s hands down and made a quick move to the inside. Nelson, a 6-7, 252-pounder, closed on Bahl and blindsided him. DE Matt Nelson recovered the fumble. Two plays later, RB LeShun Daniels went 43 yards untouched on a toss sweep, sprung by a block from Smith.
On his second sack, 72 blocked down on DT Jaleel Johnson. Nelson got his attention eventually, but it was too late. Nelson hit Bahl in the chest and Sam Brincks, the No. 4 DE, recovered the fumble.
Nelson finished with 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a defended pass. Oh yeah, this was his first game.
1. DE Anthony Nelson
Iowa got everything it needed for a pass rush from Nelson (Johnson also was credited for a half sack). He also had a sack that was whistled dead because of a delay-of-game penalty.
You read above that Parker didn’t need to dig too deeply into personnel. The front four provided more than enough pass rush against the RedHawks.
2. RB Akrum Wadley
Wadley’s high-stepping story that included an immediate reprimand from offensive line coach Brian Ferentz was worth the price of admission. The joy that comes from this dude is infectious. I’m sure his teammates feed off it.
Oh yeah, he lost a shoe about three steps into a 38-yard gain on an inside zone play in the fourth quarter. It was his right shoe and he still was leaving defenders in the contrails.
On Wadley and the toss sweep, Beathard said “When you have a back like Akrum, who’s really fast and who can make guys miss, you kind of want to put him out in space like that.”
3. Miami QB Billy Bahl
The ESPNU announcers did trickle into “Ben Roethlisberger” mentions in their praise for the sophomore from Woodstock, Ill. Bahl is a big fella (6-4, 237). It’s early for Roethlisberger, perhaps Miami’s most famous football-playing alum (at least currently), but Bahl showed an excellent arm and, without Jewell in the lineup, ran an effective read-option game that kept Iowa’s defense out of sorts. Martin started Bahl in seven games last season as a true freshman, knowing the season would be full of teaching moments. If the idea was to make Bahl better for this season, it seems to have worked. And maybe this is part of the thinking with Iowa and Stanley.
— I might be off one or two on the frequency, but of the four toss sweeps offensive coordinator Greg Davis called three went for TDs and two were explosive plays (23 gain for Wadley, 43 TD run for Daniels).
Center James Daniels and right tackle Ike Boettger pulled on each one. Miami finally reacted the way it needed to and stopped the last one. The play, which Iowa ran maybe single digits last season, was extremely effective. If the WR gets his block, Wadley is going to be a handful on this. Daniels, who really pressed the hole Saturday, will, too.
“It was definitely a big part of our game plan coming in,” guard Sean Welsh said. “I thought we executed pretty well in terms of that.”
— Iowa had two negative plays all day. Both were sacks on Beathard. This is not what they’re shooting for.
On the first sack, defensive end JT Jones, the RedHawks’ best player, was lined up across from TE George Kittle, RT Boettger blocked down on the tackle and Jones had a free run into Beathard’s face, causing a fumble that Wadley recovered. Maybe it was Wadley’s guy? Kittle went out for a pass and the other team’s best player had a free run at Beathard. That’s not what they’re shooting for.
“There were some mistakes up front, they (the O line) would be the first to tell you they busted a couple of things up front a couple of times,” Beathard said. “I think overall, I came out of it healthy. It’s never going to be perfect. There are going to be things we need to improve on.”
James Daniels got caught in the wash on a blitz and was tripped. Wadley also tried to cut the blitzer and missed. The Jones sack was a communication error.
— Targets went like this (C = completion, I = incompletion and D = drop/defended pass):
VandeBerg: CCICIC (4 of 6 targets)
McCarron: CID (1 of 3 targets)
Smith: DCCC (3 of 4)
Ronald Nash: C (1 of 1)
George Kittle: D (0 of 1)
Nate Wieting: I (0 of 1)
Daniels: C (1 of 1)
Wadley: CCC (3 of 3)
— The Hawkeyes’ first series of the second half had a pair of plays that allowed Beathard to show his arm talent. (Two plays that also were helped along by two great plays by Iowa wide receivers.)
On a 23-yard completion to VandeBerg, Beathard went back shoulder with a bullet that went 16 air yards down the left seam. VandeBerg (four catches for 99 yards) squared up to Beathard. The back shoulder throw makes space where there isn’t any and it takes great skill and communication on both ends for it to work. This was one of those plays where the phrase “throwing the receiver open” fits.
Then on fourth-and-6 from Miami’s 12, Beathard put a laser on Smith, who cleared his defender by maybe half of his body. Smith also took a shot from a closing safety and held on to the ball. Beathard put it in the one play where Smith could make the play and Smith made it happen from there.
All day, Smith showed a ton of growth from his true freshman season, finishing with three catches for 51 yards.
UP NEXT — IOWA STATE (0-1)
— Late turnovers leaves first-year Iowa State coach Matt Campbell frustrated and sink the Cyclones against Northern Iowa, writes The Gazette’s Dylan Montz.
— Campbell: “It’s not OK.” It was not the start Campbell wanted in Ames, writes the Ames Tribune’s Bobby La Gesse.
— Unthinkable errors did in ISU, writes the Des Moines Register’s Randy Peterson.
THE NUMBERS GAME
Touchdowns in the red zone
Iowa — 5 of 6
Miami — 2 of 3
Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 5 of 6 (off), 2 of 3 (def);
The takeaway: The offense missed 6 of 6 when TE George Kittle dropped a pretty great pass from Beathard. Iowa lived to tell. The defense probably isn’t happy with its number. The three almost identical 75-yard, 7-minute and 12-play scoring drives are, however, the bigger worry right now.
Three and outs forced by the defense
Iowa — 3
Miami — 2
Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 3 (def), 2 (off);
The takeaway: Two of the three stops for Iowa’s defense came on sack/fumbles by Nelson. The first one came after a 67-yard gain down to Iowa’s 8. If Iowa’s defense were an MMA fighter, you’d have to say it fought from its back a lot. Ferentz said he saw more reacting than attacking.
(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 — 54 percent (27 efficient plays out of 50 total)
Miami — 51.4 (36 of 70)
Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 54 percent (off), 51.4 (def);
The takeaway: This tracks how offenses stay on schedule (ahead of the sticks). This, in my opinion, is a big deal for Iowa, which isn’t a big play factory on offense, or at least hasn’t been traditionally. Maybe Saturday’s performance wipes this out, because big plays did bail out the Hawkeyes. If you’re more efficient than your opponent, you usually win. This also explains Iowa’s defense being more reactive than attacking. Miami got comfortable and operated at a decent efficiency.
Iowa — 7
Miami — 3
Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 7 (off), 3 (def);
The takeaway: Iowa OC Greg Davis has talked about a magic number in explosive plays and turnovers. You pile up more explosive plays and win the turnover margin, you win the game like 75 percent of the time (or more, it’s probably more, a lot more, like 90 percent). Davis also counts runs of 12-plus and passes of 16-plus as explosive. The Hawkeyes won that and won TO margin, 3 fumbles to zero turnovers.
The Iowa/Greg Davis definition of explosive (it’s 12-plus runs and 16-plus passes): 9 — five runs (four by Wadley) and four passes (three from VandeBerg). (Tracking: Miami 9)
Magic Points (scores inside of two minutes)
Iowa — 0
Miami — 0
Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 0 (off), 0 (def);
The takeaway: Didn’t need any this week from the offense (Iowa did score TDs with 5:41 left in the first half and 3:08 in the game). And didn’t allow any.
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