Stat Pak: Hawkeyes' wildly inconsistent season faces reality check
Iowa put up highs and lows at Purdue, but Wisconsin is not Purdue
Iowa Hawkeyes running back Akrum Wadley (25) runs for the end zone and a touchdown on a 75-yard run during the second quarter of their NCAA Big Ten Conference college football game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium in West LaFayette, Ind., on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
1. The Death Star this week is Wisconsin and Iowa is on the tractor beam
After dispatching Purdue, the Hawkeyes powered through the postgame. Interviews went by at rocket speed. The hellos to friends and family were quick and to the point.
It was like someone in the locker room/shower hut at Purdue started the Wisconsin clock. From head coach Kirk Ferentz to cornerback Desmond King to quarterback C.J. Beathard, everyone operated as if they could hear the countdown to the Badgers in their heads.
“We know Wisconsin is a good team. We haven’t looked at them, we haven’t thought about that at all yet,” Beathard said. “But we will. We’ll start looking at them tomorrow and probably watch them tonight.”
This question was posed to Beathard wrapped in the notion of pass protection and if the Iowa offensive line, which was once again reconfigured before last weekend’s 49-35 victory at Purdue, would be up for the Badger defense and pass rush. Beathard also answered the question with the food table to his left and a seat in the bus maybe only 50 feet away.
The Purdue game was over before it actually was over. The Hawkeyes (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) matchup with No. 10 Wisconsin (4-2, 1-2) started sometime in the fourth quarter while Boilermakers head coach Darrell Hazell’s tenure was ending. The school announced Sunday that Hazell was fired. He had a 9-33 record in three-plus seasons as the Boilermakers’ coach. Purdue hasn’t won back-to-back games since 2012.
So, a lot was going on late Saturday afternoon at Ross-Ade Stadium. Purdue was firing its coach. The Hawkeyes drifted into what’s ahead for them. It was either that or the Hawkeyes were showing what has kind of driven everyone who follows this team a little crazy.
2. Inconsistent Iowa Part I
The Boilers scored three four-quarter TDs on drives of 80, 80 and 75 yards. It was over, but the surge was enough to prompt the Iowa coaching staff to put the starters back in the game, which paid off with King’s 41-yard pick six that really did kind of seal it.
On one hand, the Iowa defense allowed a season-low 46 rushing yards. On the other hand, Purdue wasn’t trying to run and quarterback David Blough put up 458 yards and five TDs. The yards are believed to be at least the most since 1996 against Iowa and are the most against in the Ferentz era.
On the other hand, Wisconsin isn’t Purdue. It’s in the same league and does play the same sport, but these are two programs on entirely different planes.
The Purdue game was a microcosm for the whiplash-inducing inconsistencies Iowa has shown this season.
In a home loss to North Dakota State, Iowa produced 34 rushing yards, its lowest output in 36 games at that point. Against Purdue, it was the 365. Against Purdue, Iowa allowed 46 rushing yards, lowest since allowing Illinois State 35 in last season’s opener. In the NDSU, Rutgers and Northwestern stretch, Iowa allowed 190 rush yards or more. Not-so-coincidentally, Iowa lost two of those three games.
4. Inconsistent Iowa Part III: ‘I don’t know if I’m being driven crazy’
Those swings in the numbers say “inconsistent” and have made it impossible to gauge with certainty what the Hawkeyes might be capable of going into the time of the season when the Big Ten West Division title will be decided.
Ferentz is staying the course. He has to at this point. Everyone does, really, you included, no matter how maddening you find the inconsistencies.
“I don’t know if I’m being driven crazy,” Ferentz said. “That’s what makes this so interesting. You just never know what’s going to happen week to week or what a team is going to do, how it’s going to respond.
“Part of it you can kind of see, but the other part you never know, what the injuries are going to be, what the challenges are you’re going to face. Every week seems to have its own set of circumstances that are interesting.”
5. Injury report
Injuries are definitely a thing this week.
Star tight end George Kittle spent the second half last Saturday in sweats with his right lower leg in an immobilizer boot. The offensive line might get right tackle Cole Croston back this week (he sat out Purdue after fighting through an ankle injury at Minnesota), but left tackle Boone Myers went to the locker room late in the third quarter after getting his lower right leg checked and didn’t return to action.
Ferentz said X-rays on Kittle were negative and that initial reports were a sprained foot. Ferentz said Myers also has a sprain and will “hopefully be back this week.” Croston is in the same category.
1. Iowa RB Akrum Wadley
The junior averaged 12.2 yards on 16 touches. I’d love to be able to reach into the Pringle’s can and tell you when the last time an Iowa player averaged that much per touch, but that chip eludes us today.
2. Iowa RB LeShun Daniels
He had a season-high 24 carries against Purdue, going for 156 yards and two TDs. Season-high 24 carries? It took seven games to get one running back 20-plus carries? That might not be a bad stat, or it might be. Either way, I feel like Daniels might be Iowa’s best weapon against the Badgers.
3. Iowa CB Desmond King
I can see why things drive you guys nuts sometimes. In the second half, guard Sean Welsh (he’s good at football, BTW) switched to tackle after Myers left. And then on a QB sneak, he went back inside to play guard while Levi Paulsen went to tackle.
It’s not all that far outside of the box, I know, and there really is no equivalency here, but I feel the need to be provocative after some of the awful emails I’ve received lately. So, they can do that, but they can’t get King some WR snaps or even a look?
My point is Iowa has maybe 10 players who are all-conference level (not all of them will be, but you know what I mean). Welsh is definitely one. So, yes, maximize his skills. King is really great at playing football and so maximize his skills.
— Couple of takeaways from the No. 2 defense and that performance in the third and fourth quarters: 1) Stop asking about LB Aaron Mends. Ferentz has been asked. Draw your own conclusions at this point. 2) Yes, LB Bo Bower and FS Brandon Snyder were the only starters on the field when things kind of went up in flames for the No. 2 defense. Ferentz was asked. He said he wanted Bower out there directing traffic. With sophomore Jack Hockaday in the middle, Bower probably was making the line calls. Snyder probably was making the calls for the secondary.
That was Joe Tiller Purdue ball and Iowa’s No. 2 defense wasn’t up to the task. Probably no reason to panic. Probably.
— Freshman TE Noah Fant did have a miscommunication and did miss a block that ended in a blindside sack. That’s the toll you have to pay for moving along a young player. Fant also made a beauty of a catch on the sideline for a 5-yard TD. (When was Iowa’s last sideline catch that was reviewed and went its way? I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking.) I’d pay the toll for more of that. You would, too. I’m not sure Beathard would and I think we know Ferentz probably doesn’t, either.
— We went over the “gun run” yesterday. Iowa doesn’t run out of the shotgun very often or very successfully. And then vs. Purdue, Wadley bolted for a 75-yard TD before halftime. That was a huge positive for the Iowa offense. As Beathard said, “It’s not always successful.”
Let’s talk a little about the other side of that, the zone game and what it looks like when Iowa executes to perfection.
After Purdue scored to make it 35-14 in the third quarter, Iowa had first down at its 9 and went with a 22 personnel (two backs, two TEs). You want low risk and you want to get off your goal line.
The play was a simple outside zone, with Fant motioning to the weakside, where TE Peter Pekar was on the end of the line of scrimmage. Purdue went hyper aggressive and brought up a safety. The blocking on the play was fantastic hat-on-hat. A Purdue linebacker rushed the line of scrimmage and took his eyes off Daniels. Ike Boettger and Brady Ross buried him. Keegan Render and Welsh got blocks to help spring Daniels to the second level, where the safety had vacated.
Simple outside zone for 67 yards, punishing an aggressive, poorly executed call.
— Been over what the passing game isn’t so much the last few weeks, let’s recognize the Beathard 42-yard TD pass to Riley McCarron at the end of the first quarter. It was a gorgeous pass out of a spread 12 empty backfield formation. Fant was split out. Pekar was in to block first and then get in a route. Wadley was split outside of McCarron, who spun No. 24 and caught a beautiful pass.
Weird personnel group and the empty hasn’t been a go-to formation this season. We saw more of it this week than most. Pekar staying in gives it a whiff of a possible max protect at some point, like maybe this week.
Up Next — No. 10 Wisconsin (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten)
— Yes, the Badgers are 1-2 in the Big Ten. No, they aren’t damned. Those two were doozies. The Badgers took Ohio State to overtime before succumbing. It wasn’t all bad, writes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Gary D’Amato.
— Badgers ran pretty wild against the Buckeyes. As wild as anyone this year. It wasn’t enough and a 10-point halftime lead and opportunity was squandered, writes the Wisconsin State Journal’s Jim Polzin.
The Numbers Game
Touchdowns in the red zone
Iowa — 4 of 4
Purdue — 1 of 1
Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 5 of 6 (off), 2 of 3 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 4 of 4 (off), 0 of 1 (def); Week 3 vs. NDSU — 2 of 2 (off), 2 of 3 (def); week 4 vs. Rutgers — 0 of 1 (off), 1 of 4 (def); Week 5 vs. Northwestern — 4 of 5 (off), 3 of 4 (def); Week 6 at Minnesota — 0 of 2 (off), 1 of 2 (def); Week 7 at Purdue — 4 of 4 (off), 1 of 1 (def);
The takeaway: Iowa has 20 red zone TDs this season, second to only Ohio State in the Big Ten. Its TD percentage is 80 percent, which is tied for the B1G lead and fourth in the nation. If this is the kind of number Iowa can lean in, this is the week to lean on it.
Three and outs forced by the defense
Iowa — 3
Purdue — 2
Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 3 (def), 2 (off); Week 2 vs. ISU — 4 (def), 1 (off); Week 3 vs. NDSU — 0 (def), 5 (off); Week 4 vs. Rutgers — 2 (off), 3 (def); Week 5 vs. Northwestern — 6 (def), 6 (off); Week 6 at Minnesota — 10 (def), 6 (off); Week 7 at Purdue — 3 (def), 2 (off);
The takeaway: All three of Iowa’s stops came during a 21-point first quarter blitz. In other words, in the part of the game that was actually a contest, Iowa's defense shut down Purdue. The offense’s two dead drives came in the fourth quarter, when the game was more of a scrimmage.
(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 — 45.2 percent (33 efficient plays out of 73 total)
Purdue — 28 percent (23 of 82)
Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 54 percent (off), 51.4 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 52 percent (off), 34 (def); Week 3 vs. NDSU — 37 percent (off), 43 (def); Week 4 vs. Rutgers — 39.3 (off), 37.6 (def); Week 5 vs. Northwestern — 36.7 (off), 41.6 (def); Week 6 at Northwestern — 33.3 percent (off), 26.4 percent (def); Week 7 at Purdue — 45.2 percent (off), 28 percent (def);
The takeaway: A season low for the defense. Purdue had just six efficient plays in the first half. Iowa had six in a row in the second quarter. Iowa mailed it in for the fourth, and Purdue’s 14 efficient plays were indicative.
Iowa — 6
Purdue — 7
Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 7 (off), 3 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 6 (off), 2 (def); Week 3 vs. NDSU — 3 (off), 5 (def); Week 4 vs. Rutgers — 5 (off), 3 (def); Week 5 vs. Northwestern — 3 (off), 3 (def); Week 6 at Minnesota 3 (off), 3 (def); Week 7 at Purdue — 6 (off), 7 (def);
The takeaway: I don’t care what the score was, Phil Parker is going to fume over the seven 20-plus pass plays Purdue had. Season-high against. When you have four 20-plus runs, I wonder what the percentage is for winning the game. I’m guessing pretty high. Iowa filled its big-play basket (28, 22, 42, 45, 75 and 67) against the Boilers.
The Iowa/Greg Davis definition of explosive (it’s 12-plus runs and 16-plus passes): 11 — Tied the season high. Eight of these were runs, but that is Iowa right now. Its best punch on offense is Wadley/Daniels and the OL. Wadley pumped out five of these, BTW. (Tracking: Miami 9, ISU 10, NDSU 4, Rutgers 11, Northwestern 5; Minnesota 6, Purdue 11)
Magic Points (scores inside of two minutes)
Iowa — 14
Purdue — 14
Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 0 (off), 0 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 0 (off), 0 (def); Week 3 vs. NDSU — 0 (off), 3 (def); Week 4 vs. Rutgers — 7 (off), 0 (def); Week 5 vs. Northwestern — 0 (off) 0 (def); Week 6 at Minnesota — 0 (off) 0 (def); Week 7 at Purdue — 14 (off), 14 (def)
The takeaway: In the first half, Purdue scored a TD with 1:29 left. And then Wadley had his 75-yarder with 1:18 left. That’s one way to do a two-minute drill. Then in the fourth quarter, King returned his interception for a TD with 1:44 left. And then reserve CB Michael Ojemudia missed his chance at a pick and the ball bounced to Purdue TE Brycen Hopkins for a 37-yard TD with 17 seconds left. Gains and losses. Hey, as Seinfeld pointed out, even steven.
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