Five bullet points from Iowa's 23-21 loss to North Dakota State.
1. Getting paid
You lose a game like this and everyone is going to want to know how much people get paid.
How much does Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz make? Why does North Dakota State head coach Chris Klieman only make that much? What did Iowa (2-1) pay the Bison (3-0) to come into Kinnick Stadium and wring a 23-21 victory out of the Hawkeyes?
You know the answer to the first question (it’s at least $4.5 million a year through the 2025 season). Klieman makes $390,000, which probably is a pretty great living in Fargo, N.D. And Iowa paid $500,000 for the top FCS program in history to come to town and power football the Hawkeyes 14 spots down the USA Today coaches poll to No. 25.
This was an FCS program beating the defending Big Ten West Division champions on their turf. In the world of click bait, the Hawkeyes became chum the minute NDSU kicker Cam Pedersen sent a 37-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired Saturday afternoon.
And so, from dissatisfied Iowa to national media voices, price tags are being slapped on everything (ESPN’s Darren Rovell basically makes his living from this stuff). The reasons matter within, but the quick and easy read is this was FCS beating Power 5 and that, in and of itself, is unacceptable.
“This whole thing is a tough one to swallow,” tight end George Kittle said.
The Darren Rovells of the world are going to town on this. That’s their thing. You live here and, I assume, some of you might actually make it back to Kinnick at some point this season.
You know who gets paid what. The optics of FCS over Power 5 is something the team has to cope with and you just have to live with. Click at your own risk.
On to Piscataway.
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2. Injury report and the theme of the week
Every Hawkeye who walked into the postgame wore the signs of this one.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard stood at the lectern and looked like a stuntman whose seat belt snapped mid stunt. He left the game for five plays in the third quarter after taking a shot to his left shoulder/collarbone area on a third-down scramble.
“It’s good, it’s all right,” Beathard said when asked how his health was.
Linebacker Bo Bower had blades of fake grass pasted to his forehead. Linebacker Ben Niemann had eye black smeared all over his face. The anger was plain on Kittle’s face.
“Just shut out the noise, just don’t even think about it,” he said when asked about the FCS/Power 5 torrent headed the Hawkeyes’ way. “Just focus on one day at a time. Next week is all that matters.”
And that is the truth.
An already interesting week — first ever trip to Rutgers, a program with some ties to Iowa — becomes even more interesting.
How do the Hawkeyes process this?
Generally — and I’m not looking it up — Ferentz’s teams have been good at flushing the, uh, detritus. That’s going to be part of the play this week.
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For the second week, sophomore Lucas LeGrand replaced injured James Daniels at center. Junior guard Sean Welsh also didn’t play and was replaced by sophomore Keegan Render. Daniels (knee) and Welsh (ankle) were in uniform and went through warmups and will be back this week, Ferentz said.
As far at that being an excuse for Iowa’s worst rushing performance in 37 games (the Hawkeyes were held to 23 yards vs. Michigan State in 2013), Ferentz wasn’t having it.
“We played fine last week with those guys in there,” Ferentz said. “Injuries are part of football and we’re going to have more of those this year, so it’s just all about how the guys in there play.”
3. Power play
North Dakota State powered over the Hawkeyes. The Bison rushed for 239 yards and held Iowa to 34. First downs were 21-12. Both sides said going into this game it was going to be power-on-power. The most telling number on who won that might be time of possession, which was an avalanche in favor of the Bison — 36:40 to 23:30, including a more than six-minute advantage in the fourth quarter.
“It’s painful anytime you lose, and there’s really not a lot of value that takes place when you do lose a game other than if you learn from it,” Ferentz said, “and probably the only good news for us, we’ve got another nine football games in front of us, and that’s where our focus has to go here at some given point.”
And that leads to the next point ...
4. What’s fixable and what isn’t?
The hard part here is figuring out what the chronic ailments might be for this team and what is correctable going into the Big Ten opener in New Jersey this weekend at Rutgers (2-1).
This game taxed Iowa’s defense. Other than some rotation on the D-line, Iowa’s defensive starters went the entire 68 snaps. The Bison ran much of their offense to the weakside of the field (at least 16 run plays), away from middle linebacker Josey Jewell, who tried to cover up for every leak he noticed.
“They like to run it down your throat,” Jewell said. “We didn’t come up today and fill the holes like we need to. [Lapses] were everywhere. Communication issues and fit issues. We need to look at the film this coming week and need to move on from it.”
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NDSU ran a ton of eye candy at Iowa, getting the defense’s eyes off where they were supposed to be. The jet sweep fakes that QB Easton Stick ran maybe a half dozen times bought the Bison steps. Also, some of the quick pulls and changes of angles twisted Iowa on the line of scrimmage. All of that and Stick should be the Big Ten’s co-offensive player of the week after everyone Ohio State and whoever did whatever well for Michigan State.
Iowa’s defense had wandering eyes, but the Bison also won the point of attack and got a ton out of perimeter blocking.
Just by getting to the field, James Daniels and Welsh will make the run game better. But every week, Iowa has been caught flat footed (literally) by stunts, numbers and blitzes. Eye discipline is important for the O-line, too, and we’ll get to that a little more deeply below, but this is a trend.
Going back to the Big Ten title game, Iowa has allowed 19 sacks (3.8 a game, and you can decide whether or not you want to throw away the 10 Stanford put up in the Rose Bowl) in its last five games.
Another thing that goes along with that, Beathard started the season with a knee brace on this left knee after a sprain in camp. These factors are adding up to a vulnerability.
5. Everything to lose, nothing to gain
There’s a certain percentage of the commentariat that is stuck on Iowa had everything to lose and nothing to gain by scheduling this game and that the Bison’s play would reflect that. Maybe there was the “little engine that could” emotional fuel for the team with the 63 scholarships against the Big Ten team with the 2-year-old $55 million indoor facility.
But Klieman and his team didn’t do anything terribly out of character. Every Iowa defensive player said they practiced everything NDSU threw at them. The Bison’s defense didn’t blitz a lot, but it did blitz effectively, with one causing a sack/fumble pick six and another taking Iowa’s offense off the field late in the fourth quarter.
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Let’s quickly pro-con this from Iowa administration’s point of view: Pro — NDSU cost $500,000 to bring to Kinnick and it brought between 7,000 and 10,000 fans with it. Miami (Ohio) was a $1 million to bring to Kinnick. So, cheap date and a fun bunch of folks who spent money in the community. Con — Yeah, this was a good team that had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Is there really any debating that? You invited a wolf to your picnic.
There’s no scheduling a game that Ferentz doesn’t know about. Yes, Iowa AD Gary Barta is an NDSU alum. Yes, Iowa deputy AD Gene Taylor spent 13 years in Fargo building up the Bison. At some point, Ferentz said yes, you would have to think. And it’s up to football to take care of the game part of the picnic.
Sorting out and patching chronic problems and fixing what’s correctable is how this Iowa team is going to make its money.
The home loss to an FCS opponent is in the bank. After Sunday, it’s value to this Iowa team is zero.
1. NDSU QB Easton Stick
Yes, Iowa gave the 6-2, 222-pounder a long, long look when he came out of Omaha’s Creighton Prep. It didn’t offer. Rutgers and Miami (Ohio) did and he still went to NDSU.
Stick netted just 35 yards rushing. Before you lop off sack yardage, he rushed 11 times for 61 yards. He moved chains. Mostly, Stick set tone. He was sacked three times and whatever he did to anger Jewell he paid for it with at least three grade A hits.
Dude is a winner.
2. NDSU front seven
This group produced points (strongside linebacker Pierre Gee-Tucker blitzed and hit Beathard and LB M.J. Stumpf plucked the ball out of the air for a 21-yard TD), held Iowa’s rush game to its lowest total in 37 games (I counted) and harassed Beathard all day.
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Iowa has protection problems beyond blitzers. There were at least three “free runners” who had shots at Beathard. You can’t catch everything, but everyone Iowa would probably agree there were too many free runs at its QB.
3. NDSU head coach Chris Klieman
Let’s not use extreme language here. OK, let’s.
If you think you hate Klieman now, wait until he’s the coach at Minnesota. (Klieman and Minnesota AD Mark Coyle went to Waterloo Columbus together. But wait, Minnesota has a coach? My work in baseless speculation is done here.)
Seriously, Klieman kept his team centered, focused and within itself. I also liked how he took off his hat and told his QB to maybe slide occasionally.
— I wrote about the failed 4-minute drill yesterday. Those thoughts stand, but let me add: 1) I’m not sure who was calling what on that series. You guys tweeted “Old Kirk” at me. It sure felt like that. 2) Iowa ended up with 34 rush yards. What would you have called?
It was a “ketchup struggling out of the bottle” kind of day (that used to happen when all the world knew was glass ketchup bottles) for the Iowa offense and it was dry french fries for everyone.
— The drive that really punctured Iowa? I think it was early in the fourth quarter. The Hawkeyes had a first down at their 49 after a late hit call on Stumpf.
On first down, defensive end crashed and kept a power play to LeShun Daniels to a 2-yard gain. Second down was a shovel pass to Daniels that went for 5 yards. NDSU did a good job containing this. Felt like it should’ve been a bigger play.
On third-and-3, it looked like Iowa was going to set up a pocket to Beathard’s right. Maybe Beathard was leaning that way, but he had to make a kick save on LeGrand’s shotgun snap that was wide left.
He stumbled for an 8-yard loss. The Bison would pull within a point with a TD on their next drive.
— How much did Iowa miss third-down back Derrick Mitchell? I don’t think there’s a number, but part of the third down guy’s job is pass blocking.
LeShun Daniels missed looping DE Greg Menard for a sack on Iowa’s opening drive of the second half (the one where Daniels had a 62-yard run taken off the board because of a hold called on Kittle). And then on Iowa’s final offensive drive, a third-and-11 from Iowa’s 35 with just more than two minutes left, safety Robbie Grimsley ran by Daniels and G Boone Myers for the sack that gave NDSU its shot at a game-winning drive.
Can’t say that anyone would’ve blocked those. This was, however, an unfamiliar role for Daniels.
— The sack/pick 6 blitz was an excellent call and brilliantly executed.
NDSU’s defensive tackle split the space between Myers and tackle Cole Croston while the defensive end looped inside. Both players influenced Croston’s eyes.
Meanwhile, Gee-Tucker, who started the play lined up over receiver Matt VandeBerg’s inside shoulder in the slot, sprinted around Croston, who ID’d him but only after it was too late.
It was Iowa’s first turnover of the season. That’s probably little solace.
— A lot of this was NDSU beating Iowa at its own game, with power offense, strong defense and yada yada yada. You could argue NDSU went full neanderthal at the end. We’re talking about just five touches and 27 yards, but fullback Chase Morlock made it all count, with all five touches coming in the fourth quarter.
On third-and-3 from the 7, NDSU lined up in a shotgun with split backs. Stick faked a handoff to Bruce Anderson (six touches for 69 yards himself) and sucked in strong safety Brandon Snyder. Morlock ran a wheel route into the corner of the end zone for a 7-yard TD.
The Hawkeyes’ defense spent a lot of time chasing fakes.
— Bonus: On the first play of the second half, the Hawkeyes seemed to have the breakthrough it needed. LeShun Daniels took a handoff and cut to his left for a 62-yard gain inside NDSU’s 5. Kittle was called for a hold. Looking at it on replay, he had to have been called for the right arm he had hooked around DE Greg Menard. Was it holding? It’s always holding, it’s just a matter of when the flag flies. This one hit Iowa in the eye.
Up Next — At Rutgers (2-1)
— Rutgers had sweaty moments in its 37-28 home victory over New Mexico, but it punched through and that is progress, writes Steve Politi of NJ.com. (This is a good read and basically boils down to a “five things.” I might have to follow suit and boil this down to five quick things. It’s getting cumbersome, right?)
— Hey, I like your style, NJ.com. Here’s a quick-in, quick-out list of 3 ups and downs from Ryan Dunleavy. I’m totally doing this from now on. I’ve got Packers to watch.
— Does Rutgers have an SB Nation site covering it? Heck yes, it does. Here’s five thoughts as the Scarlet Knights head into Big Ten play. Wait, if I cut this down, you’ll stop liking me and I might have to consider watching “Fear the Walking Dead.”
The Numbers Game
Touchdowns in the red zone
Iowa — 2 of 2
NDSU — 2 of 3
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);
The takeaway: In three games, Iowa still is good here, 11 of 12 in red zone TDs cashed in. Yeah, the defense gave up two, but I’m not putting the NDSU result on the defense. That was a winning effort. This one’s on the offense.
Three and outs forced by the defense
Iowa — 0
NDSU — 5
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);
The takeaway: Yes, that’s zero three-and-outs forced by Iowa’s defense. Here’s where this stat goes flat: NDSU’s first six offensive possessions were five punts and a pick. Iowa’s offense not only had five three-and-outs pinned on it, it had four drives that ended in negative yards, including two of their four second-half drives. (Yes, the defense needed to do much better getting off the field on third down, but still, it held NDSU to 4 of 13. That’s not a lot.)
(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 — 37 percent (18 efficient plays out of 49 total)
NDSU — 43 percent (29 of 68)
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);
The takeaway: Iowa had no efficient offensive plays in the fourth quarter and, thus, ran just seven plays and had no first downs. Meanwhile, on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that took 8:39 off the clock and brought the Bison within one point, NDSU strung together eight efficient plays with just two plays of 10-plus yards sprinkled into the drive.
Iowa’s defense ran out of steam and the offense didn’t have its back with a drive of consequence.
Iowa — 3
NDSU — 5
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)
The takeaway: Passes to Kittle accounted for two of Iowa’s 20-plus. The other was the 30-yard TD to WR Riley McCarron. Three of NDSU’s 20-plus were runs, including one from former Waterloo West prep Lance Dunn, who said Iowa didn’t recruit him very hard and wanted to show the Hawkeyes what he was about. His 35-yarder set up a TD.
The Iowa/Greg Davis definition of explosive (it’s 12-plus runs and 16-plus passes): 4 — One run from Akrum Wadley, whose last carry was late in the third quarter. Iowa scored on the drive, but clearly went into a shell in the fourth quarter with only three called pass plays that went CJB scramble, misfire on shotgun snap for 8-yard loss and blitz sack. No explosive plays for VandeBerg, who had seven explosive plays in Iowa’s first two games. (Tracking: Miami 9, ISU 10)
Magic Points (scores inside of two minutes)
Iowa — 0
NDSU — 3
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);
The takeaway: Iowa got the ball with a timeout left at its 21 with 1:45 remaining. On first down, Beathard hit WR Jerminic Smith in the hands for what should’ve been a at least a 16-yard gain. Smith dropped the pass. On second down, Wadley started running with a check-down pass before he had it. It would’ve only been a 5-yard gain maybe, but it Iowa in a third-and-10 from its 21 with about 1:30 left in the half. Iowa will go into the Big Ten season with no successful two-minute drills on its resume.
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