116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — After Saturday’s win over Minnesota, Kirk Ferentz said he “knew it would be a tough game.”
The 23-year head coach wasn’t exaggerating. Here are a few takeaways after re-watching the game:
40 minutes of Iowa defense
40:19. That’s how long Iowa’s defense was on the field Saturday.
A big gap in time of possession can either mean quick offense or a defense that can’t get early stops.
As Penn State’s James Franklin repeatedly reminded people earlier this season, it’s not like Iowa runs a tempo offense. Even with three Iowa drives lasting less than a minute, the defense bears a chunk of the responsibility for that.
Linebacker Jack Campbell said Iowa’s defense has to “get off the field a little bit quicker than that.”
Iowa’s defense struggled more than the 3.8 yards allowed per carry would suggest.
Minnesota couldn’t operate in its run-heavy system for much of the fourth quarter because of game situations that required more passing.
With Minnesota throwing more than usual late in the game, the Gophers allowed more sacks than usual, too, skewing their average yards per carry.
When excluding the two sacks that cost the Gophers 22 yards, they ran for 211 yards on 48 carries — that works out to about 4.4 yards per carry.
The Gophers’ success on the ground repeatedly put them in Iowa territory. About 51 percent of Minnesota’s plays occurred on Iowa’s side of the 50-yard-line.
Iowa made some key plays to keep many of those drives to just a field goal or no points at all. Minnesota had three red-zone trips. All three ended in field goals.
The Gophers had another two drives that ended in Iowa territory that did not turn into any points. They punted from the Iowa 43-yard-line, and Iowa defensive lineman Logan Lee blocked a 53-yard field goal attempt.
The nine points from those five drives easily could have been 17 or more, a significant difference in what turned out to be a five-point win.
A quick look at Alex Padilla’s statistics from Saturday’s win likely won’t wow anyone.
He completed 11 of 24 passes — a lower completion percentage (45.8) than in any of Spencer Petras’ starts this year — but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Some of Padilla’s throws hit the target, but the receiver either dropped the pass or a defensive back’s arm got in the way. Three times, he had to throw the ball away after extending the play with his feet but still not seeing anything.
While it doesn’t show up in his completion percentage, those throwaways and on-target passes still helped the Hawkeyes win. Add the fourth-quarter throw to wide receiver Keagan Johnson that led to a defensive pass interference.
When accounting for those factors, Padilla’s unscientific, very unofficial good-throw rate was 19-for-25, or 76 percent.
It wasn’t necessarily enough for Iowa to win because of Padilla, but it was good enough to allow Iowa to win with Padilla. Considering how efficient Iowa’s defense and special teams have been, that’s an OK trade-off for the Hawkeyes.
At the same time, Padilla had some dangerous mistakes. Three of Padilla’s six not-so-great throws could’ve been intercepted. Gophers defenders had their hands on two of the passes, and the third was short enough that a better defensive back would’ve had a good chance to make a play.
None were picked off, but if Minnesota grabbed one of those, fans might’ve left Kinnick with a much different impression of Padilla.
Iowa’s win was a must to stay alive in what is now a two-headed race for the Big Ten West title.
Because of Wisconsin’s win earlier in the day, a loss to Minnesota would’ve mathematically eliminated the Hawkeyes.
But even with the win, Iowa certainly is not the favorite to represent the West.
Iowa has a 20.4 percent chance of winning the Big Ten West, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has a 67.1 percent chance.
The Hawkeyes, along with wins vs. Illinois and at Nebraska, need Wisconsin to lose one of its next two games. The Badgers play unranked Nebraska at home Saturday.
Nebraska, which fired its offensive coordinator a couple weeks ago and lost its last four games, shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for Wisconsin. The better chance of seeing Wisconsin lose will be in the final game of the regular season at Minnesota.
Better chance is a relative term, though. The Badgers haven’t lost at Minnesota since 2003, the same year the social network Myspace started.
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