Iowa Football

Iowa football Depth Chart Monday: No. 14 Hawkeyes should get some pieces back this week

Road trip to No. 18 Michigan looms; threw in some Stat Pak at the end

Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Brandon Smith (12) rolls over Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders linebacker DQ Thomas (20) for a 10-yard touchdown after a pass from quarterback Nate Stanley during the fourth quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Brandon Smith (12) rolls over Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders linebacker DQ Thomas (20) for a 10-yard touchdown after a pass from quarterback Nate Stanley during the fourth quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

In his regular Sunday interview with University of Iowa media, Kirk Ferentz said offensive tackle Alaric Jackson and safety Kaevon Merriweather should return to action this week at Michigan.

Cornerback Matt Hankins (hamstring) and defensive tackle Brady Reiff (knee) were not listed on the depth chart the UI released Monday, so they’re likely doubtful this week for the No. 14 Hawkeyes (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) as the Big Ten season begins — Rutgers doesn’t count — for real this weekend at No. 19 Michigan (3-1, 1-1). Both were injured before the Iowa State game and missed the last two games.

Going into last week’s 48-3 victory over Middle Tennessee State, here’s what head coach Ferentz said about injuries: “I looked over today, half our two-deep in the secondary is in street clothes watching practice.”

After MTSU, it was positive on the injury front. Several of these injuries, including guard Kyler Schott, have happened in practice, so now it’s up to the Hawkeyes to get the Hawkeyes to Michigan Stadium in one piece.

After No. 8 Wisconsin tore Michigan’s helmets off and drank beer out of them at the Tipsy Cow on State Street on Sept. 21, the Wolverines bounced back with a 52-0 victory over Rutgers, which then fired head coach Chris Ash.

After dealing a few weeks with an oblique injury, Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson flashed vs. the Scarlet Knights, hitting 17 of his 23 for 276 yards and a touchdown in three quarters.

As far as Michigan’s health goes, linebacker Josh Ross and quarterback Dylan McCaffrey are likely out this week. Running back Zach Charbonnet (the Wolverines’ leading rusher with 218 yards and 4.54 yards per carry) should be good to go. UM’s running game hinges on the O-line. The Wolverines are 10th in the Big Ten with 130.5 yards per game.

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With Hankins likely on the sidelines again this week, Iowa will be short bodies at corner and that will likely limit personnel packages on defense. Since injuries hit the secondary, Iowa has been forced to limit the 4-2-5 “cash” defense it rode through most of 2018. It’s been played just a handful of times in the last two games.

Reiff’s injury has boosted junior Austin Schulte into a starter’s role at tackle, but against MTSU, sophomore Daviyon Nixon played 29 snaps, more than starters Schulte and Cedrick Lattimore. Nixon had five tackles and a sack last week.

Iowa did exactly what it needed to against MTSU. It dominated.

The Hawkeyes piled up 324 yards on first down vs. the Blue Raiders. Iowa’s first-down numbers are outstanding. It’s rushed 88 times for 537 yards on first down (third in the Big Ten). On 116 first-down plays, the Hawkeyes have gained 864 yards, a crazy 7.4 yards per.

Now, Iowa has to do that against teams like Michigan.

The Numbers Game

Touchdowns in the red zone (7s are > 3s)

Iowa — 6 of 6

MTSU — 0 of 0

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 5 of 6 (off), 2 of 2 (def); Week 2 vs. Rutgers — 1 of 3 (off), 0 of 0 (def); Week 3 at Iowa State — 1 of 2 (off); 0 of 1 (def); Week 4 vs. MTSU — 6 of 6 (off), 0 of 0 (def)

The takeaway: Not a lot to see here. This is the product of an O-line that goat herded. I’m stuck on the first-down numbers for Iowa’s offense in the first four games. Obviously, it wasn’t as easy vs. Iowa State and won’t be this week in Michigan.

Three and outs forced by the defense (Getting off the field)

Iowa — 4

MTSU — 1

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 3 (def), 1 (off); Week 2 vs. Rutgers — 9 (def), 2 (off); Week 3 at Iowa State — 1 (def); 4 (off); Week 4 vs. MTSU — 4 (def), 1 (off)

The takeaway: Obviously, Iowa’s defense mirrored the offense’s dominance. How much will not having a third defensive end hurt this defense? One of the big “wins” from Saturday was keeping A.J. Epenesa’s and Chauncey Golston’s snap counts down (42 and 38, respectively).

Something to really watch.

Efficiency

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(50% of needed yards on first down, 70% of needed yards on second down, or 100% of needed yards on third or fourth down)

(Measure of successful plays and moving the sticks)

Iowa — 61 percent (49 successful plays out of 80 total)

MTSU — 39 percent (20 of 51)

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 56 percent (off), 33 (def); Week 2 vs. Rutgers — 41 percent (off); 27 (def); Week 3 at Iowa State — 36 percent (off); 45 percent (def); Week 4 vs. MTSU — 61 percent (off), 39 percent (def)

The takeaway: The Hawkeyes had 17 successful (or efficient, your pick) plays in the first quarter. MTSU had one and it was the last play of the quarter. This obviously is good. I think the only team that could hit this rate of efficiency and still lose is Washington State, where a coach with easily 20 percent body fat called his team “fat.” I guess you get what you deserve.

Explosive plays

(Runs of 12-plus yards; passes of 16-plus)

(Can your team run faster and execute better than the other team?)

Iowa — 16 (6 passes, 10 runs)

MTSU — 3 (3 passes)

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 10 (off), 4 (def); Week 2 vs. Rutgers — 9 (off), 2 (def); Week 3 at Iowa State — 6 (off), 8 (def); Week 4 vs. MTSU — 16 (off), 3 (def)

The takeaway: Like Halloween candy with the big plays. Iowa got its run on. Iowa got its vertical going. MTSU was overmatched. OK, here’s Gary Barta’s growing problem: Iowa did fill Kinnick for Miami (Ohio), checking in at capacity (69,250). Rutgers didn’t hit 62k; MTSU didn’t hit 64k. I’ve talked to Barta before about this. The TV money has taken pressure off selling tickets, but, of course, everyone wants a vibrant atmosphere.

Here’s the solution: Don’t schedule these games or — more likely and realistically — lower the prices. You want a vibrant home environment. You’re not battling 70-inch 4K TVs as much as you are price. Be interesting. Don’t ask me how, but I do propose a two-year break in the Cy-Hawk. It’s gotten weird. Let’s take a break before someone really gets hurt.

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I did see the governor said it’s not going away. I get it. It’s great commerce. But why do I feel like the governor = the mayor Amity Island in “Jaws.” Sure, no sharks at the beach. Just like there’s no blunt-force instruments or mass-riot potential in the parking lots of tailgates at both stadiums.

Take a year or two off. And remember, if you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, well, at least we avoided tragedy.

Sorry, the news makes me nervous these days.

Halftime adjustments

(General idea of how busy the whiteboard is)

Iowa — First half: 46 plays for 358 yards and 7.8 yards per play.

Second half: 34 plays for 286 yards and 8.4 yards per play.

MTSU — First half: 22 plays and 92 yards for 4.2 per play.

Second half: 29 plays and 124 yards for 4.3 per play.

The takeaway: Let’s revisit this with a stronger opponent.

Magic Points (scores inside of two minutes)

Iowa — 7

MTSU — 0

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 0 (off), 0 (def); Week 2 vs. Rutgers — 3 (off), 0 (defense); Week 3 — at Iowa State — 3 (off), 0 (def); Week 4 vs. MTSU — 7 (off), 0 (def)

The takeaway: Backup QB Spencer Petras got a garbage timer with 47 seconds left. I’ve heard he’s a Tyler Childers fan. That gives me hope for the future. Speaking of the future, this puts Petras at 2/1 odds to be Iowa’s starter in 2020.

Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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