Iowa Football

Iowa football #PaintedTower mailbag: If Iowa's bowl were a Thanksgiving dinner ...

The Holiday Bowl is in San Diego, so surf and turf?

SDCCU Stadium in San Diego before the 2017 Holiday Bowl. (USA TODAY Sports)
SDCCU Stadium in San Diego before the 2017 Holiday Bowl. (USA TODAY Sports)

I need to rock today, so Drive-By Truckers.

“It’s a straight shot, all it took was luck to not get caught.”

It’s going to be a short #PaintedTower mailbag this week. I must’ve only put out the call for questions on my CB.

 

I agree, but there’s more to it.

Let’s allow offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz to set the tone: “Our offense, whether it’s the throw or anything else that we’re doing, is going to be determined by how well we can run the ball when everybody in the stadium knows we’re going to run the ball.”

So, there you go.

This program is committed to run the football. If Iowa could get away with it, it would run 60 percent of the time. After the Hawkeyes’ victory over Missouri in the 2010 Insight Bowl, O-lineman Julian Vandervelde called that percentage the “championship ratio.”

Running the football and being able to run it in any circumstance remains a mission statement.

That said, it hasn’t looked right the last two seasons. The other end of this is head coach Kirk Ferentz insisting that Iowa’s offense strive for balance. Now, that’ll never be perfect, but the bigger the imbalance between run and pass, the more Iowa is out of its comfort zone.

I covered this in the Play Action post, so I won’t repeat it, but the Hawkeyes are working on a 1,000-yard imbalance between rushing and passing this year, with passing running away with it.

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The 2009 season is the outlier, but when the imbalance stretches into the 1,000-yard range, Iowa has finished somewhere in the neighborhood of eight wins.

Another side of this is setting up the defense for play action, another staple in the Iowa offense. I think the play-action passes off fake inside zone handoffs have been a consistent weapon for QB Nate Stanley. The rollouts off play action have been less effective. Defenses are reading it and firing. You can throw the zone runs in there, too. Defenses are making quick reads and firing.

Iowa wants to punish that aggression with play action, but it’s hard to get defenses to respect the run when they consistently stop it with seven, eight or nine defenders near the line of scrimmage.

And I really don’t think one long pass is going to throw off a defense. That’s been up to the tight ends this year. That has generally worked, but the running game hasn’t come with it.

The calendar officially turns to 2019 this week. For the running game to work better next year, Iowa needs to ID a center (Cole Banwart?), replace Ross Reynolds and maybe get creative. Tristan Wirfs can play tackle (his pass blocking this year has been nearly spotless), but would he help next year’s Iowa team better at guard? If one of the backup tackles rises and no one answers the door at guard, this might have to happen.

Running back was inexperienced this year. Mekhi Sargent arrived in June. He seems much more comfortable now and, in my opinion, has stuck a foot in the door for next year.

It’s going to take everyone to right the running game. Everyone has to improve.

 

HA-HA! I’m not sure I can improve this metaphor. Well done, Jeff.

If Iowa ends up in San Diego for the Holiday Bowl, fine west coast IPAs will be on your plate.

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All momentum is pointing toward the Holiday Bowl. I still think something weird could happen. What is the Holiday Bowl as far as Thanksgiving?

If the Rose Bowl is a full-course turkey dinner at a 4-star restaurant, the Holiday is ... well, there’s a joke here about California and vegetables, but let’s skip it.

Surf and turf, that’s the Holiday Bowl. You for sure order it. From there, it’s up to the chef as to how good it is.

There Jeff, metaphor right back at you.

And, yes, an “L” to the “N” would be green bean casserole remnants. And not even homemade.

By the way, I’m off to Dubuque and Wisconsin for the day. It’ll be Kessler’s and some crazy Wisconsin salad that somehow makes marshmallows, burnt ends and a live sparrow work.

 

Observation: The hate level for this game has reached Iowa-Iowa State hate levels.

Not that kind of “hate.” Not green bean casserole hate level, but the sports hate level, which really is just dislike. Maybe an intense dislike.

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I think this is life in the hinterlands. We don’t have pro teams. We live in fairly wide-open spaces, so why not get on the internet and call out CozadHusker on his 50-10 prediction for Huskers victory?

Actually, I can think of a million better things to do, including an unanesthetized nose job, but you do you.

 

Let’s not bring the gross national product down over this, please.

 

Well, if you get rid of the RedBox Bowl, you get rid of a Pac-12 opponent.

Excellent point on the Big 12, though. The way it’s set up this year, there are zero Big Ten-Big 12 bowl games. The Insight used to offer that. Maybe bring that one back? Wait, it’s still there, it’s just the Cheez-It Bowl now. It’d still be a Big 12 matchup, and everyone loves Cheez-Its, right?

It’s crappy the Big Ten and Big 12 don’t have a matchup, but we should drag Cheez-Its into this.

 

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It’s what you say right now.

Tuesday was cool this week. Most every player requested showed up for interviews. I think the players were bored and just wanted to talk with someone. It is Thanksgiving break and no one is in Iowa City except these guys.

Safety Amani Hooker wasn’t there. He would’ve been asked about the NFL. Everyone else was, from defensive end Anthony Nelson to Fant to tight end T.J. Hockenson.

They pointed at what their NFL draft advisory board grade will be. There are three grades: first round, second round and stay in school. The deadline for underclassmen to apply is Jan. 14.

So, ready for Drew Cook and Nate Wieting at tight end? It might be that.

The whole goal of this is to get paid to play a game you love. I keep pointing to Robert Gallery and Brandon Scherff. They stayed for their senior years. They won the Outland Trophy and were top five picks. How’d they know it would go that way? They didn’t. They paid the insurance (I want to say it’s $20,000-plus) and bet big on themselves.

James Daniels and Josh Jackson got favorable grades last season and made the leap. Daniels signed a four-year, $7 million deal with a $3.1 million signing bonus. Jackson signed a four-year, $6.2 million deal with a $2.6 million signing bonus.

I think the percentage of fans who are “stung” by these decisions has dwindled. You see the money, you see the reason why.

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If Fant and Hockenson are able to buy their parents houses, that’s as good as it gets in life.

But yeah, Fant is as gone as my hair.

 

It might be Iowa playing to the level, but Iowa also hasn’t gotten enough credit for being a physical team this season. The defense is hard to play against and it’s pretty good at getting to the QB.

I have had this thought myself this season.

Let’s check it: Northwestern beat Minnesota. The Wildcats also beat Michigan State and Wisconsin. It’s time to admit that Northwestern won the Big Ten West and is a good football team, OK? It’s time.

Penn State was crushed by Michigan after it beat the Hawkeyes, 42-7. Remember, Iowa dinged QB Trace McSorley. Also, Michigan is good.

Wisconsin also won after Iowa, beating Nebraska. By record, Wisconsin’s best win this year is Iowa, but that triple-OT victory at Purdue last week is what will get the spotlight.

Purdue is the one that probably has you rubbing your eyes. Iowa fell in West Lafayette, Ind., 38-36 on Nov. 3. After that, Minnesota — Minnesota? — hammered Purdue 41-10.

Iowa did get Purdue’s best. I’m not going to parse Iowa’s best and worst losses this season. They all were close and they all lead up to a feeling of “what could’ve been.”

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Iowa was ranked this season and was in the College Football Playoff poll until losing to Northwestern. Rankings put a target on you.

You want to be in the rankings. Iowa needs to be ranked more. It also needs to wear that bit of prestige better.

Do the Hawkeyes end up in the rankings with wins over Nebraska and whatever team in the bowl? It could sneak in.

Since 2008-09, Iowa has finished in the top 25 just once, of course that was 2015. It’s totally reasonable to expect better.

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

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