Iowa Football

Iowa football #PaintedTower Mailbag: Let's go down the QB completion percentage wormhole

Once you're down the Iowa QB wormhole, there's only one way out

Time for the #PaintedTower. It still looks cool, the tower not this column.

I wanted to revisit one question from week 1 before we tear into this. It was from @RealJoshSandin. It was about Iowa and discipline and physical discipline vs. separation.

I remain firm in my thought that physical exertion as discipline is dangerous. You just never know and you certainly don’t want to find out.

Josh also asked about the “separation” thing as punishment. And then last week going into Iowa State, Kirk Ferentz mentioned that the four suspended tackles for week 1 weren’t allowed to be on the sidelines or even in the stadium for the game.

“It’s a pretty standard rule we have,” Ferentz said. “They got four hours in on Friday and eight more on Saturday and missed the game. But they’re (OK) in mind and spirit, and they came back Sunday and we’ve welcomed them back, and they’re all doing a good job. Really happy with the way they’ve handled it. Obviously wish they hadn’t been in that situation, but I think they’ve handled it the way we would hope, and what’s most important now is they continue to do that, and I expect that from all four guys. I think they’ve got a great attitude.”

And a little bit about the protocol ...

“In most of these cases it’s university protocol that we have or athletic department protocol, which is good, and a lot of that is educationally based, but then on that, they spend the week on the scout team, so I guess if we benefit in any way, our preparation gets a little better because you get guys that were in the two deep typically on the scout team,” Ferentz said. “And then they do the community service on Friday and Saturday, they miss the game. So there’s got to be a price to pay. It’s got to hurt a little bit, and there’s got to be some consequences, but that’s just part of learning and moving forward. Then how you handle those things and how you respond is, I think, very, very telling.”

Totally fair and definitely not dangerous. If the kid and the parents can’t buy into this, how did they even end up at Iowa?

It’s got to hurt, but it doesn’t have to hurt physically. This is the kind of thing that will help keep football around.

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If nothing else, I asked offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs, he missed week 1 after an OWI, about going against the scout team. He said there were some great battles with end Anthony Nelson. I think I’d pay to watch that practice.

 

@Arch_Hawk has a long and winding road question that came through the email. I’m going to cherry pick a few factlets.

Stanley’s stat line was gaudy last year but of his 26 TDs, 10 came in 2 just games — the very unusual ISU and OSU games. OSU was a once-in-a-lifetime game for everybody and Iowa State game was an uncharacteristic shootout. They certainly are not representative.

Of the other 16 TDs, 5 more came from non-conference cupcakes Wyoming (yes, Iowa should regard them as a cupcake) and North Texas.

That leaves 11 TDs in actual Big Ten play, outside of the freakish OSU game. 5 of those 11 (almost half) came against two other opponents: Illinois and Nebraska.

This gets a little bit into the S&P+ thing. Not all situations weigh the same. I get that. But I do think competition and putting up quality film matters. Yes, throwaway passes should be graded differently within a QB’s afternoon, but the competition clock always is churning.

I buy them, but I don’t completely love them.

It’s natural a lot more attention went to the Iowa State and Ohio State performances. The stakes were high and Stanley performed.

The Purdue game? Wisconsin? There’s always been work to do. I wasn’t putting Stanley in the NFL after this year. He’s still in development.

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Are fan expectations just plain out of whack with reality? Is Stanley just another guy with stats that look gaudy but don’t hold up to scrutiny?

A little column A, a little column B.

We’re all going to find out together. There’s a line from the Drive-By Truckers’ song “Filthy and Fried.” “Everyone claims that the times are a’ changing as theirs pass them by ... And everyone’s right.”

That’s kind of where I’m at on this. It needs to play out. My only wish is everyone take their eyes off the numbers for a second (and I’m not blaming you, they’re bad) and ask themselves what Iowa was trying to do in the first two games? Look at personnel. Look at the individual situations.

Arch wins a Woodshed tear sheet.

 

There was less rotation last week. The starters — Nelson, Parker Hesse, Sam Brincks and Matt Nelson — played 167 collective snaps. The second unit — tackle Cedrick Lattimore and ends Chauncey Golston and A.J. Epenesa — combined for just 67 with Brincks and Golston moving in and out of that second tackle spot.

In week 1, Iowa played nine. Last week against a Big 12 opponent, it played just seven with tackle Brady Reiff being in the game for a goal line snap before being subbed out.

Iowa is getting high-level D-line play, but the personnel got shaved down against a Power Five opponent.

 

It is a hot topic. BTN is coming. It’s a Fox broadcast, Fox owns 51 percent of BTN. Fox doesn’t own ESPN and College GameDay. And that’s where I stop with GameDay coming to Iowa City.

I think The Wave pulls GameDay here at some point. And I’m guessing ESPN would love to pull the trigger on this one. I do think there’s a shot, but the fact that the game is on Fox, I’m not sure how that plays with ESPN.

That said, ESPN would be at Pentacrest if GameDay did show up. The BTN show would stay at Hubbard.

ESPN would get the front porch. The last time Chris, Kirk and Lee stopped in Iowa City was 2006 for Ohio State. It’s been awhile. It’s an event.

The BTN thing was here last year. And I think in 2016.

Love BTN. You at least have a chance to have some Hawkeye content. But ESPN moves the needle that much more.

 

I don’t know, but I think they have to.

So far, every time I’ve seen WR Calvin Lockett he’s not been practicing. That was before the season started, so maybe it’s different now. And, with the WR rotation stuck on four or five (Kyle Groeneweg replaced Ihmir Smith-Marsette and probably will if ISM’s shoulder isn’t good to go this week), I think Tyrone Tracy either needs another evaluation or needs to get whatever coaching attention it takes to unlock what he has and get it to the field.

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The temptation here for the messageboarders will be to mark the lack of either scenario a total failure. Either the recruit wasn’t good enough or the clueless coaches can’t get him to the field.

I don’t know how you make those conclusions without seeing all of the factors. But I do agree they need help and it’s time to look under the rocks that are right there in front of you.

Sounds like that’s happening.

“I think we kind of have an idea of what the working potential participants are, and then injuries affect that, like Henry (Geil) is playing running back right now because we’re thin at this point, and we were thin on Saturday,” Ferentz said. “So that impacts it, too, and the first objective is win a game, but we kind of came in with a tentative plan in August and the idea was to reassess things over the bye week, and that’s kind of where we’re at right now.”

If Iowa beats Wisconsin, you’re seeing the players who are going to do it. Did anyone really think Iowa would unleash an army of true freshmen against Wisconsin?

Stop. No, you didn’t.

 

I think you’d rather see those two plays go toward Iowa establishing the running game and starting that deal where the fourth quarter is an Iowa inside running drill. You know, “Bloodbath.”

Again, the first two weeks, Brian Ferentz wasn’t going to go Evel Knievel. Kirk in that quote above, “The first objective is to win the game.”

Now, these throws would be cool. Stanley’s one TD pass is to Fant (wasn’t a jump ball, but almost). Where would they have fit in the first two weeks? I don’t think they did.

 

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The 2004 D-line — Derreck Robinson, Tyler Luebke, Jonathan Babineaux, Matt Roth — was the engine behind a Big Ten co-championship. The 2009 D-line — Adrian Clayborn, Karl Klug, Christian Ballard, Broderick Binns with some Mike Daniels mixed in — was the parents’ Cadillac everyone took a joy ride in.

What’s happening right now is three high-level program poster dudes — Hesse, Matt Nelson and Brincks — are mentoring Epenesa, Golston, Tyler Linderbaum, Noah Shannon and really whoever else is listening (they all should be listening).

Yes, there are programs where it’s all about just getting in the three-point and letting it rip. For Iowa to get to those years, it needs this kind of mentoring. I expect Iowa’s D-line to be a leading squad for a couple of years because of the leadership (ownership) Hesse, Nelson and Brincks are putting into this group.

 

I think so.

Overall line play should pull Iowa through this. UNI could hit some big plays. It could hit Iowa between the tackles a little. A turnover here or there could poke a hole in everything, but Iowa is the Big Ten school with the FCS school in its home stadium.

It’s one of those games you guys really, really, really, really hate. A win-and-forget, lose-and-burn-it-all-down.

I love the twisted emotions these games bring out of Hawkeyes fans.

 

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The typing thing is every day.

I went to Dinosaur Jr on Monday night at Codfish Hollow near Maquoketa. I’ve always been attracted to bands that know and respect the power of ... power. Dinosaur Jr takes no song off and hasn’t for like 25 years.

Later that night, I couldn’t hear anything. It was OK yesterday. Today it’s the Drive-By-Truckers doing bad things to my ears.

Go to Codfish Hollow. The place is magic.

 

Depends on the score.

If it’s out of hand, get the starters out. There’s no rep worth that kind of risk.

After one week, the running back position has already inducted a true freshman.

Here’s the thing this week: If Iowa goes in and tries to fix everything in the passing game, it’s going to be close in the fourth quarter. There’s practice, too. That’s where the passing game is going to get fixed. You might start to see the benefits against UNI.

 

It was 2.9 yards per carry. Yeah, that’s an alarming number. Iowa was trying to drain clock late in the second half, so 2.9 yards was a winning number. Iowa did rush for just 58 yards on 19 rushes in the second half. It also had nine first downs, which is part of the plan when you’re nursing a lead.

That is what game control looks like. Complementary football, if you will. Offense protects the defense.

You haven’t seen a lot of negative plays. Outside of the one sack and victory formation, Iowa had one negative rush vs. Northern Illinois. Iowa didn’t allow any sacks against Iowa State and had two or three negative runs.

Part of this goes to the RBs. Does Iowa have a home-run hitter? We’re going to find out.

 

Yes to all of this.

You should factor injuries and suspensions into what Brian Ferentz thought his offense could and would do in weeks 1 and 2. I don’t know how you can’t. If you just read messageboards, yeah, then I get it. It’s dogwhistle city and everyone sucks. Step back, consider the variables, it’s been a clean 2-0 just with no flair from the offense.

Vs. UNI, I don’t know. I would imagine, yes, fairly conservative. Iowa will want to establish game control and then start playing some poker.

Yes, you’re going to get a disjointed offensive effort against Wisconsin. Iowa had one good game against the Badgers’ 3-4 and that was the victory in 2015. The Badgers are mauraders on defense. It’s not easy for anyone against them.

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As far as judgment goes, that ball is in everyone’s court. I’ll wait until the season is over.

 

Increased accuracy for sure. No drops would be good.

You need to see some refinement. Let’s use WR Brandon Smith as an example. In week 1, he did a poor job of using his hands and 219 pounds to get to the spots Stanley needed him to get to. It hurt on the sideline interception. It hurt on the ugly incompletion earlier in the game.

Last week, on the Smith play everyone loves, he made an in-game tendency — ISU CB D’Andre Payne had been aligning on his outside shoulder — work for him. He got a clean release on the inside shoulder and put Payne in his back pocket. Stanley made a perfect throw. Kinnick broke out in the longest I-O-W-A chant I’ve ever heard.

You need to see Fant get it going as a blocker. It’d be nice if you saw Smith-Marsette. Not only do I think he has what you need to be a great player — speed and attitude and brushes off bad plays like a samurai — he needs this game to develop.

You need to see more Nick Easley. Encouraged by what I heard from him Tuesday about health. His snap counts have been low and you wonder.

What can you reasonably expect from Stanley? I’m thinking something like North Texas, 16 of 27 for 197 yards, two TDs and no picks. I think that would chill people until the first quarter against the Badgers.

 

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Daviyon Nixon is academically ineligible this year. I don’t think Iowa needs Shannon right now and I don’t think you see an unveiling vs. Wisconsin.

Let’s see who you will see: Brincks, Matt Nelson, Lattimore. That’s who played the position against the Cyclones. I don’t see that expanding much against the Badgers. Don’t know what’s going on with Brady Reiff. No snaps in the one game he could’ve played in.

You know how Kirk Ferentz breaks seasons into thirds a lot of times? This year, it feels like Iowa is really focusing on putting and keeping its best players on the field these first four games.

 

I don’t buy the “not showing much on tape” thing. The first objective is to win the game. How much of what Iowa does every year really even needs to be concealed? It’s more how Iowa does it (execution).

That said, I expect Iowa to engage the running backs in the passing game when the time is right.

WRs have to hold up their end of the bargain. They have to start making the plays that make them a bigger part of the plan.

The offense will get a lot better when that happens.

 

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To steal the Chevy Chase line from “Caddyshack,” by height, of course.

Kidding.

Is the NFL draft a fair measure? Genuine question, it’s one I’m going to point at, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m right. Before Stanley, three of the four QBs who started for Iowa ended up in the NFL — Beathard, Jake Rudock and Ricky Stanzi (NFL-ish).

That’s good. Until Beathard threw a pass last season, Iowa’s last QB to throw a pass in the NFL was Dan McGwire in 1995.

QB is progressing. Don’t just assign wins to the QB. That’s stupid. The QB doesn’t play defense (I was going to say punt, but Stanley actually does do that).

I think you’re looking for a number, so I will submit this: Completion percentage and yards per attempt.

Stanzi’s numbers were otherworldly in 2010: 64.1 percent and 8.7. He had Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos at WR that season. Beathard in 2015 hit 61.6 and 7.8. In 2013, Rudock was 59.0 and 6.9. He improved in 2014 to 61.7 and 7.1.

What do poor numbers look like? James Vandenberg in 2012 was 57.3 completion percentage. In 2016 — Iowa’s worst passing output since 1982 — Beathard was 56.5.

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Last year, Iowa won eight games with Stanley at 55.8. For his career, Stanley is 55.4 with 6.7 yards per attempt.

I think it’s too early to measure Stanley’s development, but he is developing. Blemishes come with that. But enough soft sell. If the completion percentage stays stuck and the rest of the offense is doing its job (better as far as the skill players go), this will be the number that has Peyton Mansell warming up.

Thanks for sending me down that wormhole. I learned something. If you want it, Woodshed tear sheet for you, too.

 

I don’t remember that as well as you do.

But if your theory is this, I’m on board: The offense is built and made to protect the defense. I think we’re on the same path. That’s an excellent observation, BTW. It only took me 20 years to finally figure that out.

 

This feels more like a money game for the Panthers, who’ll receive $600,000 that the school’s athletics department very much needs.

 

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I feel like Hawkeyes fans hold Joel Klatt in high regard because he is the man who shot Liberty Valance. (Ask your dads or grandfathers.)

He’s also really great at adding insight to football games. He has a great personal story. I just really like him because he’s a good guy and terrific at his job.

The Cowherd thing works for me, too.

 

Sure, if Zach isn’t doing golf things. I also kind of get the feeling Zach just sort of enjoys Iowa football and doesn’t want to lead the parade on that. I do think he’d love the heck out of this, though. Who wouldn’t?

I’m still at maybe 10 or 15 percent on ESPN coming. It’s a Fox game.

 

I’m going with freshmen.

Smith only had two targets last week. In week one, he got five. I think the freshmen thing reaches at least six.

 

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Depends.

If you want a weekend that’s free of the tension a game day brings, you don’t have to pick a side. You can just watch the game and have fun.

Iowa will win, I think.

 

Beer for 60-somethings is driven by brand loyalty, I think. I was that way with Leinie for a long, long time.

Now, it’s like a movie that was black-and-white and is now in Technicolor.

 

Very situational, but this is a great observation. What if Jack Hockaday is faster than Josey Jewell? Not out of the realm of possibility. Nick Niemann closed Saturday like a kid chasing a tractor tire down a hill.

Iowa timed it well, and give Hockaday a ton of credit for disguising it just enough.

Iowa will face better O-lines, so it’s not mission accomplished on this yet.

 

Great question.

I think Iowa wanted to get out of the puke-drunk tailgating stage. Was that worth clinging to? It was fun, sure, but let’s face it, the Vodka Samm headlines threw crap on Iowa’s brand. And the idiotic race to post the arrest reports, was that really that much fun for everyone? I suppose, but how do you think Iowa administrators felt about that? It’s their reputations on the line.

Excellent observation on the old spots now being gone. If Iowa’s plan was to divide and conquer, maybe it worked.

Also, I’m not sure how to measure “topping them all.” What was the biggest? All I know is that I enjoy the scene. I walk it every Saturday.

 

It was a Big 12 officiating crew last week. Here’s how the Big 12 does it (this is why, I think, it was slower): The Big 12 has in-stadium officials monitoring each play while another group of officials, including either Big 12 coordinator of officials Walt Anderson or assistant David Warden, monitoring from the command center across the street from the league offices in Irving, Texas.

So, those calls you mention? From Iowa City, they were routed through a stadium replay guy and then a centralized replay system in Dallas.

Feels like that’s overthinking it, but the Big 12 has had to issue a lot of those “whoops” releases on missed calls.

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

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