Iowa Football

Stat Pak: Iowa goes for 300 yards passing one week, 200 rushing the next

The way Iowa's offense is able to change speeds right now might show they'll be in this until the end

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) throws a pass during the third quarter of their B1G conference football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) throws a pass during the third quarter of their B1G conference football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The season is more than half over. The Big Ten and the divisional math that says whether or not a team is championship caliber still is unfinished.

The No. 18 Hawkeyes (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten) are still solving for “y” in this algebra.

They’re in the hunt. There’s no question about that.

Yes, Saturday’s 23-0 drubbing of Maryland (4-3, 2-2) happened against a program that is engaged in what must feel like a battle for its soul in the wake of the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair during a summer workout. The Terrapins had been managing the football better than you’d expect, with victories over No. 7 Texas and then undefeated Minnesota (OK, that hasn’t held up).

For the Hawkeyes, this is a little like the Kerry Wood 20-strikeout game in May 1998. Yes, it was just a May game for the Cubs against the Astros. The Astros then aren’t what the Astros are now. In just his fifth career start, Wood struck out 20 Astros, the National League record and tied for the MLB mark.

Maryland might end up being a bowl team. Still, the Hawkeyes put up some numbers that might stand for a little while.

Maryland gained just 115 yards, the fewest Iowa has allowed against a Big Ten opponent during Kirk Ferentz’s going on 20 seasons as Iowa’s head coach. Maryland’s 39 plays were the fewest plays against a Ferentz team.

“We know that if we play to our best and we show up and play hard, play fast and play together that we can really be a special group as a defense,” safety Jake Gervase said. “With an offense like we have, that builds our confidence, too.”

Offensively, Iowa rushed for a season-high 224 yards on a season-high 52 carries (the most attempts for Iowa in 17 games). Iowa’s offense put up the second highest time of possession in a game in the Ferentz era with 40:55 (41:53 vs. Kent State in 2004). During a drive that resulted in Miguel Recinos’ 23-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead, Iowa used a season-high 17 plays and set a season high in time of possession for an individual drive with 9:04.

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“I thought the line did a really good job,” Ferentz said. “(Quarterback) Nate (Stanley) was involved in that, too, because they were blitzing a lot, you saw that, and trying to get us into the right play or get us out of a bad play is a big part of that.

“There’s a lot that goes into that, but the line did a good job, the backs ran hard.”

Time for a little global outlook. You saw Ohio State at Purdue Saturday night. An avalanche of yard-getters is coming at Iowa. Yards are one thing, points are another.

The Hawkeyes are standing at around a touchdown underdog this week at No. 16 Penn State (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions did lose two of their last three, but Ohio State and Michigan State are sticky teams despite Saturday's results. They play host to the Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium coming off a 33-28 win at Indiana.

The Lions still have QB Trace McSorley, who’s eighth in the league in passing (208.7 yards a game) and eighth in rushing (554 yards, 5.7 yards per carry and tied for the Big Ten lead with teammate and running back Miles Sanders with eight rushing TDs).

The Lions scored a ton of points on the front half of their schedule and sit second in the Big Ten with 42.6 points a game. Penn State also remains on Wisconsin’s schedule, so PSU will have a say in how the West goes.

After Saturday’s trip to Happy Valley, the Hawkeyes have a date next weekend in West Lafayette, Ind., where Ohio State’s playoff hopes took a direct hit Saturday night after the Boilermakers’ 49-20 domination of Ohio State.

The Boilermakers are 4-3 and 3-1 in the Big Ten. They also have speed-back Rondale Moore. He averages 13.1 yards per touch (68 touches). Moore and running back D.J. Knox (138 yards and three TDs vs. the Buckeyes) give Purdue a shot against everyone left on its schedule, which includes Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin.

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Then, the Hawkeyes play host to old friend Northwestern (4-3, 4-1), which actually leads the West Division despite suffering three consecutive losses earlier this season. Maybe the Wildcats are getting mileage off a victory over Michigan State, but that’s Northwestern. Against Big Ten lesser lights the last two weeks, the Cats escaped with 3-point wins over Nebraska and at Rutgers.

On the other hand, these teams will have to deal with Iowa.

Let’s run to this number and see if it holds a note: Iowa passed for 320 yards and six TDs against Indiana two weeks ago. Last week against Maryland, the Hawkeyes put up 224 rushing yards.

And they meant to do that. The passing game worked at Indiana and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz punished the Hoosiers for leaning into the blitz. The running game had to work against Maryland with a 25 mph wind whipping through Kinnick the entire day.

The last two times Iowa passed for 300 and backed it up with 200-plus rushing yards (last season had 333 passing vs. Iowa State; 238 rush vs. North Texas and in 2014 it was 317 pass vs. Maryland then 221 rushing vs Northwestern) you could argue it was kind of a fluke.

North Texas stats need an asterisk. The 317 passing yards against the Terps was in a losing effort.

The last two weeks has been Iowa doing what it wanted to do and accomplishing objectives. The Hawkeyes are a real team. The next three weeks will say how real.

The Numbers Game

Touchdowns in the red zone (7s are better than 3s)

Iowa — 1 of 5

Maryland — 0 of 0

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. NIU — 4 of 5 (off), 1 of 2 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 1 of 3 (off), 0 of 1 (def); Week 3 vs. UNI — 5 of 6 (off), 2 of 2 (def); Week 4 vs. Wisconsin — 2 of 4 (off), 3 of 3 (def); Week 5 at Minnesota — 4 of 5 (off), 4 of 4 (def); Week 6 at Indiana — 4 of 4 (off), 1 of 4 (def); Week 7 vs. Maryland — 1 of 5 (off), 0 of 0 (def)

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The takeaway: Iowa’s defense played like it was OK with the offense just getting 3s. And it was fine. Obviously, a season low there for the offense, but the defense was Kerry Wood striking out 20 Terps. (Sorry, that thought is stuck in my head about yesterday.

Yes, I asked if it felt like 2002. Ferentz kind of laughed and said, “Not yet.” You guys know I just don’t throw that kind of thing out there. If the next three weeks slide into the abyss, I guess make fun of my column logo?

 

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

Iowa — 3

Maryland — 1

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. NIU — 5 (def), 5 (off); Week 2 vs. ISU — 6 (def), 4 (off); Week 3 vs. UNI — 3 (def), 0 (off); Week 4 vs. Wisconsin — 3 (def), 1 (off); Week 5 at Minnesota — 5 (def), 6 (off); Week 6 at Indiana — 3 (def), 0 (off); Week 7 vs. Maryland — 3 (def), 1 (off)

The takeaway: And one of the reasons I’m wondering if 2002 applies here is the way the offense and defense are taking care of each other in the situational sense. Early in the season, the offense left a lot of fires out there for the defense. That has calmed and, you see the schedule the next three weeks, it’s going to have to stay that way.

 

Efficiency

(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 — 31.5 percent (24 successful plays out of 76 total)

Maryland — 28.2 percent (11 of 39)

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. NIU — 34.2 percent (off), 38.8 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 29.6 (off), 26.7 (def); Week 3 vs. UNI — 58 (off), 33.8 (def); Week 4 vs. Wisconsin — 51.8 (off), 51.5 (def); Week 5 at Minnesota — 37.9 (off), 41.7 (def); Week 6 at Indiana — 46.2 (off), 50.1 (def); Week 7 vs. Maryland — 31.5 percent (off), 28.2 (def)

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The takeaway: OK, I think I’ve got a little bit of a pattern with this number finally. If you’re less than 30 percent on offense, you will have needed special teams help or defensive TDs if you’re going to survive. Offensively, if you’re above 50 percent, you’re looking good.

Throw all of that out this week because of the wind.

Maryland’s first two and final two plays of the game were successful. They had just nine more the rest of the game. Iowa hit enough big plays to stay ahead of the chains.

If there’s something to think about going into the next three weeks, Stanley and the passing game has been able to convert a lot of third-and-longs through the air. Can they keep that up?

 

Explosive plays

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

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

Iowa — 4 (2 passes, 2 runs)

Maryland — 3 (1 pass, 2 runs)

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. NIU — 6 (off), 3 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 2 (off), 2 (def); Week 4 vs. Wisconsin — 9 (off), 9 (def); Week 5 at Minnesota — 7 (off), 6 (def); Week 6 at Indiana — 10 (off), 9 (def); Week 7 vs. Maryland — 4 (off), 3 (def)

The takeaway: Iowa’s explosives — 16-yard jet sweep from WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette, 14 run for running back Mekhi Sargent, 16 screen pass to TE T.J. Hockenson, 13-yard QB draw from Stanley.

Maryland completed a 17-yard pass to start a drive in the third quarter. The drive ended in a Parker Hesse sack.

Sargent showing up here is good. Smith-Marsette might get more than an occasional look in the slot if he continues to get yards on the jet sweep.

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I think you saw why the RB pecking order is what it is Saturday. Ivory Kelly-Martin (98 yards on a career-high 24 carries, long run of 10 yards) and Sargent (10 rushes for 54 yards and a long of 14) stress defenses more than Toren Young (21 yards, nine carries, long run of 6).

They have the backs in the right spots.

 

Halftime adjustments

(General idea of how busy the whiteboard is)

Iowa — First half: 44 plays for 205 yards and 4.66 yards per play.

Second half: 32 plays for 105 yards and 3.28 yards per play.

Maryland — First half: 16 plays and 46 yards for 2.9 per play.

Second half: 23 plays and 69 yards for 3.0 per play.

The takeaway: This is what a fast start looks like. It was just 13-0 after the first half, but this number shows that was going to be more than enough.

This also is the offensive equivalent — speaking from Maryland’s perspective — of being pinned and counting lights.

 

Magic Points (scores inside of two minutes)

Iowa — 7

Maryland — 0

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. NIU — 0 (off), 0 (def); Week 2 vs. ISU — 0 (off), 0 (def); Week 3 vs. UNI — 0 (off), 0 (def); Week 4 vs. Wisconsin — 0 (off), 14 (def); Week 5 at Minnesota — 14 (off), 7 (def); Week 6 at Indiana — 0 (off), 0 (def); Week 7 vs. Maryland — 7 (off), 0 (def)

The takeaway: You could argue that Nate Stanley’s 10-yard TD pass to WR Brandon Smith turned off Maryland’s lights.

Several factors make this a hugely exciting play for the Hawkeyes and one that could pay dividends down the stretch.

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First, Brian Ferentz called a timeout and called this. There was 13 seconds left and Iowa was out of timeouts. This had to go to the end zone or this drive was going to go pointless.

Second, Smith made a play. When he’s called on, he’s doing that more and more. Smith is one of the most improved Hawkeyes. This will give the Hawkeyes something in November.

I wish I would’ve remembered this Ferentz quote yesterday when it counted.

“Brandon Smith continues to grow right in front of our eyes, I think,” Ferentz said. “That was a really big play at a big time. That made halftime a lot more enjoyable for everybody.”

I’m not going to take Stanley’s throw on that one for granted, either. Touch is a bit of a work in progress, but he’s great at giving his guys chances to make plays on the ball when the DBs are in trail position. Thing of beauty.

“That play to Brandon was not an easy throw by Nate,” Ferentz said. “He didn’t have his best day out there, but that was a great throw.”

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

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