116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz is well aware of his team’s malaise Saturday against Purdue.
“I’m glad (strength and conditioning director Raimond Braithwaite) didn’t have a sleep monitor on me in the third quarter of the game Saturday because it might’ve told the story,“ Ferentz said. “I might have been asleep for most of that thing.”
An Iowa fan who was actually asleep wouldn’t have missed much offense during that quarter, when the Hawkeyes mustered just 6 total yards.
It was a low point for No. 11 Iowa’s offense that had previously done enough to keep the team undefeated. What’s been enough for Iowa’s offense hasn’t necessarily been ideal, though.
The Hawkeyes rank 13th in the Big Ten in rushing yards per carry and ninth in passing yards per attempt entering their bye week.
Their 56 tackles for loss allowed are the most in the Big Ten and third-most in the FBS.
“The reality is if we’re going to play winning football, if we’re going to play that complementary football, we need to be running the football extremely effectively,” Ferentz said, “because that takes the pressure off of everything else.”
When looking at yards per game, Iowa ranks last in the Big Ten. That’s partially depressed because of efficient special teams play and the defense’s FBS-best 20 takeaways that lead to better field position.
Still, the numbers are not ideal.
“Quite frankly, we’re still looking for some answers,” Ferentz said.
Ferentz said he’d like to have some play calls back from pretty much every game, including the failed quarterback sneaks on third-and-2 and fourth-and-1 against Purdue.
“Any call that didn’t work, I’d take back,” Ferentz said. “It’s not like when I was a kid, though, and I was playing Tecmo Bowl and I’d get pissed and I just hit reset. I was looking for the reset button the other day, and I just couldn’t then.”
He hasn’t been too pleased with his first-down offense either. Iowa has averaged 4.3 yards per play on first down through the first seven games, just below the team’s overall 4.4 yards per play.
“The hardest part as a playcaller is the first place you need to look is in the mirror,” Ferentz said.
Ferentz doesn’t have any massive changes in the works, at least that he’s willing to share.
“You’re not reinventing the wheel,” Ferentz said. “You’re just tweaking some things here or thinking about moving some people or whatever it is.”
He was guarded against getting too specific, though, saying he thinks some things “will be better left unsaid.”
Some of the adjustments include trying to “get back to the basics.”
“We don't want to put too much pressure on guys that haven't played a whole lot,” Ferentz said.
Three of Iowa’s five starting offensive linemen, usually an area of strength for the Hawkeyes, are underclassmen.
“There’s no education like experience and baptism by fire,” Ferentz said.
Many of the players the fifth-year offensive coordinator is expecting contributions from were in some cases still playing high school football at this time a year ago.
Ferentz has been “very impressed” with starting right guard Connor Colby, a true freshman from Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
Wide receivers Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce IV, who are roommates, also have stepped into significant roles as true freshmen.
Johnson has been on the receiving end of four of quarterback Spencer Petras’ nine 30-plus-yard completions.
“We need to find ways to get him the football more,” Ferentz said.
Bruce, meanwhile, emerged as an offensive weapon with a six-catch, 46-yard performance against Maryland on Oct. 1. Petras has only targeted him four times in the last two games, though.
Ferentz called Bruce “extremely productive,” specifically noting his ability to contribute in “traffic-type running” and other “things you really can’t put a watch on or a measurable on.”
Iowa hasn’t always been a program that turns to first-year players for in-game help.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz has believed the “best thing” for true freshmen is to sit out their first year.
“If I was the commissioner of sports, which I will never be, commissioner of football, no freshman would ever play, period,” Kirk Ferentz said earlier this month. “Let them go to school, get de-recruited, all the nonsense everybody talks about. Uncle Jim is not calling him and asking why you're not playing 48 snaps instead of 21.”
He understands the reality of college football doesn’t allow for that school of thinking to prevail, though.
“Fortunately I have no say in that, so I'll flip it over,” Kirk Ferentz said. “Can't beat 'em, join 'em.”
It helps that Colby, Johnson and Bruce all enrolled in the spring semester, which gave them a head start on training.
“You can see it on the field,” Braithwaite said. “They're able to help us earlier.”
That’s especially important for Colby as he faces defensive linemen who often already have done a couple years of collegiate-level strength and conditioning work.
“He’d be harder-pressed and he’d have to be a special athlete to be able to jump right in from June just right off the bus and be able to be plugged in,” Braithwaite said.
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