116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - The play call on the third-and-6 at Iowa's State's 36 with 11:53 left in the fourth quarter just wasn't set up for success.
It was a zone read from Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock to running back Damon Bullock. Rudock rarely keeps the ball on a zone read and defenses know that. So, the one half step gained by the deception was lost long ago.
And then there was Iowa State defensive end Mitchell Meyers. He lined up across from center Austin Blythe. Blythe's aim was clearly the linebacker and he locked up there. It looked as though Mitchell might've been left guard Sean Welsh's block. Either way, no one touched Mitchell.
He nearly took what was an uncomfortable-looking and late handoff. Rudock was spun around and actually tried to throw a block. Four ISU defenders buried Bullock, whose 1.8 yards per carry in Iowa's 20-17 loss to Iowa State was cemented with that play.
ESPN analyst Chris Spielman, a former all-American and NFL linebacker, went right to work with what he thought about the call.
'It's third-and-7, c'mon, throw the ball,” he said. 'Play to win, [don't] play not to lose. Play to win. That's a very conservative call especially when you have some matchups you like.”
Spielman mentioned that Iowa coaches liked wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley in the slot against Iowa State's linebackers.
Apparently, offensive coordinator Greg Davis liked the zone read, which was executed as though it was the first day of spring practice. The quarterback and running back couldn't figure out who wanted the ball.
Iowa had a 14-10 lead. It had a first down at Iowa State's 40. It ended with an awkward dance between two Iowa skill players and with Dillon Kidd punting from ISU's 36.
Iowa (2-1) allowed four sacks to a defense that blitzed very little. The Cyclones' four sacks came from defensive end Cory Morrissey (two), defensive tackle Brandon Jensen and defensive end Trent Taylor. That's straight-up getting beat on the offensive line.
Yes, Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff had arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday morning. He was told initially that he'd be out a week and maybe two weeks, but he was medically cleared to play. He went the whole way, but who knows when the Hawkeyes travel to Pittsburgh (3-0) this weekend.
'It was just fatigue,” Scherff said about his right knee. 'Coming off a surgery like that, a scope like that, I was just trying to be a player for my team and just do it for the team.”
Morrissey, a senior, cleanly beat Scherff for a sack in the second quarter. It was a 6-yard loss when Iowa had a first down at ISU's 46. Iowa looked as though it might land a rare escape on a series set back by a negative play, but wide receiver Matt VandeBerg dropped a slant that might've gone the distance on a third-and-5.
'Obviously, we're frustrated,” said Rudock, whose numbers dipped to 16 of 24 for 146 yards, no TDs and an interception that ISU turned into a TD. 'We didn't do anything in the second half ... We just weren't rolling.”
But really, these are symptoms. Since Greg Davis took over as Iowa's offensive coordinator in 2012, the Hawkeyes' offense has averaged 22.8 points a game. In the three years before Ken O'Keefe left to become wide receivers coach for the Miami Dolphins, Iowa averaged 26.6 points a game.
Points per play this season is .28, which tracks to be Iowa's lowest in the last six years. Even the 4-8 2012 team was at .29 a game. Is this stat a reach? It's just three games into the season, but Iowa State's defense went into Kinnick allowing 6.9 yards a play.
Big-play wide receivers Damond Powell and Derrick Willies weren't targeted in any pass plays. Running back Jordan Canzeri rushed three times for 18 yards. He is nursing a hip injury and didn't carry in the second half. He did, however, return a kick for 22 yards midway through the third quarter.
They are Iowa's most explosive players (throw in wide receiver Tevaun Smith, who did catch four passes for 34 yards), and their roles are muddled to say the least.
Running back Mark Weisman, the thing that worked for Iowa's offense early last season, averages 3.0 yards on 32 carries.
Discussing the four sacks Iowa allowed, head coach Kirk Ferentz said it was a team function.
'It seemed like we were just kind of muddled there,” Ferentz said, 'and Jake held the ball a little bit longer, and credit goes to Iowa State. They played really good team defense.”
Just kind of muddled. That sort of paints the whole thing.
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