116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — In a weird way, maybe this wasn't a terrible lead-in to the Hawkeyes' test with No. 4 Penn State this week.
On a sunny, 88-degree afternoon in Kinnick Stadium, the Hawkeyes eventually got North Texas to submit, 31-14. Really, 'submit' is the best way to put it. The Mean Green (1-2) held a halftime lead and hit Iowa with a pair of 40-plus yards plays, but in the end, this game really went the way the Hawkeyes (3-0) wanted it.
— Iowa's defense was on the field for just 18 plays in the second half and 48 all day. Few players hit that snap count. This was unexpected bonus vacation time for Iowa's defenders, like linebacker Josey Jewell who suffered an ankle injury at Iowa State last week.
'It was all right,' Jewell said about his ankle. 'It's getting better everyday. You're never 100 percent after that first game, you just have to keep on playing.'
— After North Texas' defensive front successfully ran gap games against Iowa's offensive line in the first half, the Hawkeyes got into a rhythm and put the Mean Green in an arm bar for most of the second half.
Iowa held a 21:21 to 8:39 edge in time of possession in the second half. The Hawkeyes ran the ball 35 times in the second half and found themselves needing to break in freshmen running backs Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin.
It felt like Young's 12-yard run to begin a possession with two minutes left in the third quarter broke North Texas. The drive ended up 16 plays for 87 yards with Kelly-Martin scoring from 2 yards after Iowa drained 8:50 off the clock. The Hawkeyes ran 15 times during the drive.
Young and Kelly-Martin combined for 152 yards and two Kelly-Martin TDs on 30 carries.
'Those two young backs, they're good illustrations of guys who practice well,' Ferentz said. 'Those guys do it every day and it showed up out there on the field. We can get better in a lot of areas right now, and we've got to keep swinging the bat right now.'
It was a far from perfect effort. 'In a weird way' it was pretty good prep for the Nittany Lions, the defending Big Ten champions. And in other ways it wasn't so great. Running back is the first place to see the 'not so great.'
Is it going to be weird now for running back Akrum Wadley? He appeared to score a 74-yard TD on a short swing pass, but Wadley high-stepped for a few strides just before crossing the goal line. He was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The Hawkeyes eventually scored the late first-quarter TD (off a tipped pass from QB Nate Stanley to tight end T.J. Hockenson), but Wadley was benched for a few series and didn't touch the ball again until 8:12 of the second quarter.
He saw only three plays before leaving the game with a minor ankle injury. Ferentz said Wadley almost left the lockerroom without ice on the ankle, but he was sent back.
'It doesn't look like anything serious,' Ferentz said. 'He just didn't feel real confident in that second half.'
Wadley is an energy player. The unsportsmanlike seemed to sap that energy. He saw a series of coaches on his way through the bench after the call, but the first one was Ferentz.
'I just told him he's too good of a player to do that,' Ferentz said. 'Close, not close, but why give anybody an opportunity to have to make that decision. He's too good of a player for that.'
Then about midway through the fourth quarter, running back James Butler suffered an ugly elbow injury. He left the game and didn't return. Ferentz said on Hawkeyesports.com on Sunday night that Butler will be out until after Iowa's bye week on Oct. 21 at Northwestern. That means Butler will miss three games and four weeks.
It wasn't a long work day for Iowa's defense, but much like the Iowa State game, this unit walked away with maybe more questions than answers.
North Texas had its offense grooving in the first half, The Mean Green had 212 yards on just 28 plays (7.6 yards per play) and took a 14-10 lead into the lockerroom.
At this point, Ferentz sort of compared North Texas quarterback Mason Fine (16 of 26 for 167 yards and an interception) to former Iowa State quarterback Seneca Wallace. Ferentz said it wasn't exactly like Wallace at Kinnick Stadium in 2002, but he did point to an imaginary football and had a bit of a flashback going to the huge Cyclones' comeback victory.
'When a guy can do that, that puts a little pressure on you,' Ferentz said. 'They've got a good scheme mix, they execute it well. I thought our tempo improved in the second half. I thought we started playing a little bit better, and that has to be a team thing. We've got a big challenge coming up again this week, and I'm sure we will have one the week after that.'
1. DE Parker Hesse
Hesse has been a tornado in Iowa's first three weeks. The play you loved him for vs. North Texas was the sack/forced fumble, but the play you really should love him for was the tackle for loss on a quick screen to a running back. Hesse shed his block and came up with the unassisted tackle for loss.
He also stopped Fine on a QB draw for a 2-yard gain on a third-and-3. OK, the sack/forced fumble was pretty big, too. It essentially ended the Green's first drive of the second half, you know, when the game was still up for grabs.
'I hate to call the guy an unsung whatever, but Parker's one of our guys,' Ferentz said going into North Texas. 'He is just a tough, tenacious, competitive, strong leader on our football team. I've got so much respect for him. Everybody does. Every one of his teammates do.
'Goes back to him playing against a first-rounder in the championship game a couple year ago. He wasn't supposed to be in there and Drew got hurt. So he went in there and fought his tail off. You think about guys like Louis or some of the younger guys, when they first got out there, they get beat up and knocked around by the big guys. But with each year, they're gaining ground, and Parker's definitely done that. He's one of the guys that's a glue guy for our football team. Not unlike Nate (Bazata). Nate's the same kind of guy.'
2. RBs Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin
Before last weekend, neither of these two had ever carried a ball in a game. Lots of credit goes to the O-line when it was skateboard time in the second half (you need a clean course to skateboard, don't you?), but Young (who started getting snaps with 1:47 left before half) and Kelly-Martin (who entered the game permanent-like with 7:25 in the third quarter) were making sure cuts, going momentum forward and took care of the ball.
Mature effort for first-timers.
Let's 'mean,' 'median' and 'mode' on their day:
Mean — 5.1 yards per carry
Median — 2 is the number (2 is in the middle of 30)
Mode — 2 is the number (six carries were for 2 yards, but four carries were 5 yards)
3. TE T.J. Hockenson
The redshirt freshman TE did minimal blocking for Chariton High School. It was just how the team used the 6-5, 243-pounder, who had 85 catches for 1,219 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior.
You know an Iowa tight end isn't going to see the field if he can't block. Hockenson is more than holding his own. He also caught his only three targets vs. North Texas for 29 yards and a TD. OK, he wasn't the target on the TD, a ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage by a defensive lineman and floated to Hockenson in the end zone. WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette was the target.
Hockenson also played 71 snaps, including time in three TE as a run blocker.
The DVR Chair
(It's sort of an ugly green)
— Sophomore Amani Hooker replaced junior Jake Gervase at free safety with 47 seconds left in the first quarter. This wasn't a few series and then 'get back in there.' Gervase played seven snaps; Hooker finished the game and played 43.
The change was made after what had to have been Iowa's ugliest defensive play of the day.
North Texas RB Jeffery Wilson took a slip-draw handoff right through the middle of Iowa's defense. UNT's center sealed LB Bo Bower and it was off to the races. Wilson put a move on Gervase and the play broke wide open. Strong safety Miles Taylor couldn't catch him, either.
Ferentz said something about a safety rotation in the postgame.
'We've felt good about the way Amani has been playing, so we kind of see all three guys pretty even right now we may start a three-way rotation, but we will play that by ear,' Ferentz said.
Safeties need to start showing up with force in the run. A rotation seems unconventional. It also might be to see how Hooker handles preparation and newfound playing time.
Jeffery Wilson with the BIG run to put UNT up 7-0 over the Hawkeyes in Iowa City early. September 16, 2017
Jeffery Wilson with the BIG run to put UNT up 7-0 over the Hawkeyes in Iowa City early. pic.twitter.com/SomzhW73IX
— Dylan Nadwodny (@dnadders)
— Iowa's OL went from left to right Alaric Jackson, Boone Myers/Ross Reynolds, James Daniels, Keegan Render and Sean Welsh.
North Texas put a lot of pressure on Stanley in the first half and did cause the fumble that Butler stole back (great play by the senior RB).
This looks like how the OL is going to be for the beginning of the Big Ten schedule, anyway. There's a lot to work on. Ferentz said when you see someone running upfield unblocked that someone screwed up. These seem like correctable errors. It might not be blocking, it might be slow-developing plays, but North Texas did a lot of gumming up with backside pursuit. Blocks away from the point of attack need to be made and sustained.
True freshman Tristan Wirfs entered in the fourth quarter, but he burned his redshirt earlier when he came in on the field goal unit.
I'm not sure if Wirfs will be ready for full-time duty, but it feels like he's more of an insurance policy right now.
— Guys do survive trips to the bench. After being replaced by sophomore Michael Ojemudia last week, sophomore Manny Rugamba started at corner and went the whole way (48 snaps).
— Special teams helmet sticker to CB Josh Jackson, who swallowed up and blocked a 40-yard FG attempt in the second quarter.
— Iowa Targets: Wadley 2 catches on 2 targets, TE Noah Fant 2 on 5, Hockenson 3 of 3, WR Brandon Smith 1 of 1, WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette 0 of 2, WR Nick Easley 5 of 8, WR Matt VandeBerg 3 of 6
— Defensive targets: CB Josh Jackson 2 catches on 7 targets (22 yards, TD, 2 breakups, second INT), Rugamba 5 on 8 (62 yards, 2 breakups), Taylor 2 on 2 (19 yards), LB Josey Jewell 2 on 2 (22 yards), LB Bo Bower 3 on 3 (21 yards), OLB Ben Niemann 0 on 1 (breakup), Hooker 0 on 2 (breakup), CB Matt Hankins 1 on 1 (41 yards)
— Iowa played its dime package 12 times and prevent defense (three linemen, 1 LB and 7 DBs) once. Gervase came back into the game for prevent.
— Defensive stops (stopping the offense at 45% of needed yards on first down, 60% of needed yards on second down, or 100% of needed yards on third or fourth down): Hesse 2, Rugamba 2, Taylor, Niemann 2, Ojemudia, DT Cedrick Lattimore, Jackson, Jewell, Bazata, M. Nelson
— QB hurries: Hesse, Bazata 2 (I give one of these out when a DL draws a hold), Epenesa, Niemann
— QB hits: Hesse, Epenesa, Bower
— Iowa's personnel groups and what they did: 21 (two backs, one TE) — 2 of 3 passing for 11 yards, 15 rushes for 42 yards (sack, taking a knee); 12 (one back, two TEs) — 5 of 9 for 44 yards, 14 rushes for 55 yards; 22 (two backs, two TEs) — 18 rushes for 51 yards, 0 for 1 passing; 11 shotgun (1 back, 1 TE) — 3 rushes for 24 yards, 6 of 9 passing for 123 yards; 11 (one back, one TE) — 5 rushes for 55 yards, 1 of 3 for 10 passing; 12 shotgun (one back, two TEs) — 1 of 1 for 8 yards passing; 23 (two backs, three TEs) — 4 rushes for 7 yards
— Halftime adjustments: Iowa ran 43 plays for 221 yards (5.12 per play) in the second half. North Texas ran 18 plays for 93 yards (5.17).
— I had just 16 snaps for DE Anthony Nelson, whose playing time was cut after he suffered an upper-body injury in the first half. He returned to the game, but only in dime situations as a pass rusher. With Nelson ailing, junior Sam Brincks ended up playing 32 snaps. Epenesa played 13 snaps. Hesse led the D-line with 47 snaps.
— QB Nate Stanley had a few more long misses this week. He overthrew VandeBerg for what would've been a 40-yard TD. It felt like Stanley consciously put more air under this ball, but it still missed. Barely missed, but missed.
A few plays later he missed Fant for what might've been a 34-yard TD. Fant got a little crossed up making a late cut on the route. This one wasn't totally on Stanley.
In the fourth quarter, Stanley needed to lead Smith-Marsette a little more. This one might've been 6 from 43 yards. Smith-Marsette beat his defender, but the ball hung up a little bit and allowed the DB to get back in the play.
These are decidedly low percentage and they're not that far off from connecting. If you want to takeaway a positive from these, that's it.
— I think I saw some very North Dakota State-looking running plays.
At least twice, tight ends motioned into more of a traditional fullback set and led read-option looks through the middle of the LOS. Iowa overloaded bodies at the point of attack and the plays worked and looked good with Kelly-Martin kind of getting lost in the humanity.
Up next — No. 4 Penn State (3-0)
(at Kinnick Stadium, 6:30 p.m., ABC)
— Penn State injuries, from Lions247.
— PSU coach James Franklin can't seem to help himself sometimes. I totally get that. He iced the Georgia State kicker with 11 seconds left, compiles Penn State Land of 10.
— The Lions opened a 13.5-point favorite over Iowa, according to RoarLionsRoar.com.
The numbers game
Touchdowns in the red zone
— 3 of 5
— 1 of 1
Tracking the Hawkeyes
: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 1 of 1 (off), 0 of 0 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 5 of 6 (off), 3 of 5 (def); Week 3 vs. North Texas — 3 of 5 (off), 1 of 1 (def)
: Nine TDs in 12 trips is 75 percent and No. 34 in the country. Not bad. Of course, this is the part of the schedule where settling for 3 will lose you games.
Three and outs forced by the defense
Tracking the Hawkeyes
: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 3 (def), 5 (off); Week 2 vs. ISU — 5 (def), 6 (off); Week 3 vs. North Texas — 3 (def), 2 (off)
: I didn't count the two at the end of halves for Iowa. Taking a knee is yielding and not the defense stopping. Feels like Iowa needs to start faster on offense and defense. OK, the offense couldn't start any faster than it did last week, but it has to finish that drive.
(50% of needed yards on first down, 70% of needed yards on second down, or 100% of needed yards on third or fourth down)
— 38.3 percent (33 efficient plays out of 86 total)
— 45.6 percent (21 of 46)
Tracking the Hawkeyes
: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 42 percent (off), 34 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 46.3 (off), 47.2 (def); Week 3 vs. North Texas — 38.3 percent (off), 45.6 (def)
: Teams have been operating, for the most part, ahead of the sticks against Iowa's defense the first three games. It hasn't hurt the Hawkeyes yet. North Texas wasn't able to run enough plays to dent the Hawkeyes. Penn State got off 70 plays against the Hawkeyes last year, a 41-14 Penn State victory.
(Runs of 12-plus yards; passes of 16-plus)
— 6 (4 runs, 2 passes)
— 4 (3 runs, 1 pass)
Tracking the Hawkeyes
: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 5 (off), 1 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 9 (off), 10 (def); Week 3 vs. North Texas — 6 (off), 4 (def)
: In just 17 snaps, Wadley still accounted for two of Iowa's six explosive plays (68 reception, 14 run). Fant made his 23-yard catch a TD, showing a high degree of detail (being in position to use his body just after securing the ball to bull his way into the end zone). Toren Young had a pair of explosive carries (12 and 15). Kelly-Martin had a 23-yard run.
Wilson's 41-yard TD run was Iowa's worst defensive play of the day.
Magic Points (scores inside of two minutes)
Tracking the Hawkeyes
: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 7 (off), 0 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 14 (off), 0 (def); Week 3 vs. North Texas — 7 (off), 7 (def)
: North Texas' drive at the end of the first half, a lot of you wanted to give Iowa's defense a pass and totally blame the officials for filling this one full of penalty yards. Epenesa was hit with a personal foul after a low hit on Fine. Those are going to be called. The low hits on QBs are a point of emphasis this year and, you know, they're really easy to see and, thus, easy to call. Rugamba was hit with a 15-yard late hit. Contact was minor, but it was out of bounds. This was a tough call, but it was a call. You know who it was against? Iowa's defense.
Plus, this was the series North Texas' No. 2 QB Quinn Shanbour directed. Instead of blitzing the new QB into a fine mist, Shanbour was allowed to go to work, taking a well-called QB draw up the gut for 12 yards on his first play. Shanbour's only incompletion was a spike to stop the clock. He hit 2 of 2 passes for 26 yards, including a 13-yard TD that beat Jackson. Shanbour had a totally clean pocket and all the time in the world to find Jalen Guyton for the TD.
Anyone can beat you if you don't give them something to think about.
Iowa kept its 'magic points' streak alive with Kelly-Martin's 6-yard TD with 1:47 left in the game.
l Comments: (319) 398-8256; email@example.com