College Football

Stat Pak: General sense of what Iowa might be in '17

Hawkeyes offense inched along; defense held the door vs. Wyoming

Fans celebrate with Iowa Hawkeyes tight end Noah Fant (87) after his 27-yard touchdown catch during the second quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sep. 2, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Fans celebrate with Iowa Hawkeyes tight end Noah Fant (87) after his 27-yard touchdown catch during the second quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sep. 2, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — You can’t put on the war paint and be a bystander. Josey Jewell gets this.

He’s one of those linebackers who wears eye black all over his cheeks. By the end of his efforts in Iowa’s 24-3 season-opening victory over Wyoming, the black bled into his reddish beard. The paint is just going to run when you have a full day.

The senior was named Walter Camp National defensive player of the week on Sunday. The Decorah native had 14 tackles, including seven solo stops. He added two sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and broke up a pass. He pressured heralded Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen into a critical intentional grounding penalty and an interception that sealed the game.

Iowa’s defense in 2017 will be a lot of Jewell.

“From the day he’s walked on campus here, he’s just played at a certain tempo,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That’s how guys like that help the whole team elevate their play, and that’s priceless.”

What else was Iowa’s defense against Wyoming?

— The Hawkeyes played a lot of base 4-3, sprinkling nickel defense (extra defensive back was true freshman Matt Hankins) on three plays.

The secondary didn’t substitute beyond nickel and held up well against a future first-round NFL draft pick. Wyoming threw at junior Josh Jackson 13 times and found some success. But Jackson had a key pass breakup in the Iowa end zone and picked off Allen on a third-and-4 at Iowa’s 24.

“We all build off each other, we relied on each other today,” Jackson said. “Just having that bond and that chemistry can move us a long way.”

— The Hawkeyes rotated eight defensive linemen.

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You knew end Parker Hesse (55 snaps), tackle Cedrick Lattimore (34), end Anthony Nelson (60) and tackle Nathan Bazata (50) were going to play a lot. You knew Matt Nelson was going to play defensive tackle, a switch from end last year, and he played 38 snaps.

You wondered how true freshman A.J. Epenesa was going to be used. He played 10 snaps, mostly in third-down pass-rush situations. He had back-to-back tackles for loss to help force a punt out of the Cowboys at the end of the first half.

You know what happened. The punter missed the ball on the punt attempt. Iowa downed the ball. A play later, quarterback Nate Stanley hit tight end Noah Fant for a 27-yard TD and a 14-3 halftime lead.

Junior walk-on Sam Brincks played 30 snaps at defensive end. To make room for Epenesa on passing downs, Hesse moved inside and played tackle eight times.

Ferentz came away with one complaint. After Stanley’s second fumble, Allen hit wide receiver John Okwoli for what should’ve been a TD over corner Michael Ojemudia, who subbed for suspended corner Manny Rugamba. Okwoli bobbled the ball and the play was ruled incomplete.

“With all due respect, everybody does that, and we practiced that, and it just looked like we’d never seen it,” Ferentz said. “So that was disappointing. Outside of that, I thought we played good team defense.”

Offensively, Iowa’s three turnovers came from Stanley, who made his first start. What first-year offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz called for Stanley in the passing game was fairly safe and Stanley’s accuracy showed up big in his three TD passes.

“Some of those throws that he made were pretty impressive and the catches as well,” Ferentz said. “But for Nate to make those kinds of throws, I thought that, especially coming off a couple bumps, that says a lot about his makeup.”

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Stanley said he was disappointed with ball security. He fumbled three times while being tackled, losing two and recovering one. One of those fumbles came off a blindside sack when defensive end Carl Granderson beat right tackle Ike Boettger on an inside move.

“They had a new defensive coordinator and props to them for coming out in looks we hadn’t seen on film,” Stanley said. “It took us a little bit to get those figured out, but once we did, coach Brian Ferentz got us into the right plays.”

— Remember last year when the Hawkeyes went three-and-out at the end of the North Dakota State game? Iowa wanted to burn the last four-or-so minutes off the clock. Against Wyoming, Iowa got the ball with 4:36 left in the game. The Hawkeyes drained the clock with six straight runs, five by senior running back Akrum Wadley.

You’ll certainly see more of senior running back James Butler (10 carries, 47 yards, no negative yards), but in crunchtime last week, it was all Wadley.

He rushed for 116 yards, 44 percent of Iowa’s total offensive output.

“We work on quick changes during summer conditioning,” Wadley said. “We were able to be resilient and put one in the end zone (off a quick change).”

— Iowa’s receiving corps, wide receivers and tight ends, was four players — wide receivers Matt VandeBerg and Nick Easley and tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson.

Brian Ferentz put two tight ends on the field for 29 of Iowa’s 56 plays. The only other receivers to see snaps were sophomore Devonte Young (when Iowa lined up three wideouts) and true freshman Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who fumbled on a jet sweep in his one play.

The circle of trust with this group eventually will include more players. It has to.

Three stars

1. LB Josey Jewell

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Pick your favorite Jewell play from Saturday. The choices are many, but let’s leave the voting with these two: The sack where Jewell ran from one side of the field to the other or the intentional grounding he forced by smartly taking the inside lane away from Allen and using the sideline? First one forced a field goal. The second backed up the Cowboys and ended with the tragic punt that set up Iowa’s second TD.

2. RB Akrum Wadley

Let’s try “mean,” “median” and “mean-median” on Wadley’s day:

1

5

4

2

-2

5

3

1

2

6

19

10

7

5

0

4

1

23

4

4

3

4

1

Mean — 4.83 yards per carry

Median — 4 yards is the number

Mode — 4 yards

Wadley had two beautiful Wadley-esque runs that you don’t see around like any football very much. But this was a workday for the senior. When Iowa wanted to grind out the final 4 minutes, Wadley got the carries.

3. TE Noah Fant

Liked this quote from Ferentz on Fant’s value (vs. Wyoming and in the future): “That’s just how the defense plays (on Fants’ team-high six targets). They let him go, isolate him, at least on that one. So, it’s a nice target that can run down the field a little bit. It’s a little risk/reward when you want to bring the kitchen sink. That’s a good thing for us.”

The blitz picker upper.

The DVR chair

— Initially watching the game, I thought O-line coach Tim Polasek went with junior Ross Reynolds for one series and then fell back on senior Boone Myers, who struggled with an ankle injury all during camp.

That was wrong. They mostly alternated series, with Reynolds in for the 4-minute drill at the end of the game.

Ferentz expects center James Daniels (knee) back this week. Junior Keegan Render played a clean game at that spot, his first crack at center in a game since the Shrine Bowl his senior prep season (2013).

Redshirt freshman Alaric Jackson played a clean game at left tackle, filling in for Myers.

No, the offensive line didn’t herd Wyoming around the field, but it got better purely because it grew depth.

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— This was Ojemudia’s first start. Wyoming targeted him four times, completing three for 30 yards with the other nearly going for a TD before it was called out of bounds.

It felt like this was what defensive coordinator Phil Parker wanted. He wanted no big plays. We’ll see when we get to the 20-plus plays, but this felt like what he wanted and it was successful.

— Iowa’s kick return team: Wadley and Devonte Young back deep. Fullback Drake Kulick and Hockenson and then Kevin Ward, Amani Hooker, Shaun Beyer, Amani Jones, Peter Pekar, Nick Niemann, Jake Gervase.

Punt team: VandeBerg on return and then Young, Dominique Dafney, Ward, N. Niemann, Matt Hankins, Ojemudia, Hooker, Wes Dvorak, Aaron Mends and Jones.

Helmet stickers for Ward, Mends and Jones for freaking out the punter on the punt whiff. Those three blew up the punt shield.

Punt team: Punter is Colten Rastetter and then RB Ivory Kelly-Martin, Noah Clayberg, Ojemudia, Ward, Bo Bower, Hooker, long snapper Tyler Kluver, Kulick, Garret Jansen and Austin Kelly.

Field goal unit: Recinos, Kluver and Rastetter and then Pekar, Alaric Jackson, Render, Hockenson, Brincks, Boettger, Levi Paulsen and Jones.

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Kickoff: Recinos (three touchbacks and two downed inside the 20), Jones, Young, Ward, Ojemudia, Dafney, Mends, N. Niemann, Hooker, Geno Stone and Hankins.

— Targets: Fant 6 targets for 2 receptions, Wadley 1 target, Hockenson 1 target, WR Nick Easley 4 of 4, VandeBerg 2 of 2.

— 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): Bower 5, Jackson 3, Jewell 7, Niemann 3, Gervase 2, Taylor 1, Ojemudia 1, Epenesa 2, Hesse 2, Anthony Nelson 1

— QB hurries and hits: A. Nelson 2, Bazata 3, Jewell 2, Epenesa, Taylor, Reiff

Two plays

— Asked if he made the call to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2, Kirk Ferentz said, yes, it was his call. That was his input. He let Brian Ferentz make the call.

“I just told him come up with a good play,” Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s easy. Then I blame it on the coordinator if it didn’t work. That’s the thing about being the head coach, right? You don’t think I’m going to make that call.”

He was kidding.

The call was a play-action pass. Stanley seemed very comfortable with play-action, which is a good thing because he’s going to run a lot of it.

— DT Nathan Bazata suffered a nasty high-ankle sprain that limited him the final third of his junior season. This spring and some of the summer, he was slowed by a calf injury.

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Saturday, he drew a holding penalty on one play and picked up two QB hurries (keeping those myself, or trying to).

Up next — Iowa State (1-0)

Cyclones’ secondary got offensive — in a good way — in their opening victory over Northern Iowa, writes The Gazette’s Dylan Montz.

Cyclones showed potential against the Panthers, writes the Des Moines Register’s Randy Peterson.

ISU’s Allen Lazard becomes the Cyclones’ career receptions leader, writes the Register’s Tommy Birch.

The numbers game

Touchdowns in the red zone

Iowa — 1 of 1

Wyoming — 0 of 0

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 1 of 1 (off), 0 of 0 (def);

The takeaway: Yes, you probably want more chances at TDs in the red zone if you’re Iowa, but that is exactly what you’re shooting for on defense. It was indicative of a frustrating day for Wyoming.

Three and outs forced by the defense

Iowa — 3

Wyoming — 5

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 3 (def), 5 (off);

The takeaway: Iowa started the game with three consecutive three-and-outs. Can the Hawkeyes survive a slow start at Jack Trice this week?

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)

Iowa — 42 percent (24 efficient plays out of 56 total)

Wyoming — 34 percent (24 of 70)

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 42 percent (off), 34 (def);

The takeaway: This tracks how offenses stay on schedule (ahead of the sticks). The was a day for the defense.

Explosive plays

Iowa — 5

Wyoming — 1

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 5 (off), 1 (def);

The takeaway: Iowa’s explosive plays were a 19-yard pass to Easley, a 19-yard rush by Wadley, a 27-yard TD pass to Fant, a 45-yard TD pass to Easley and a 23-yard rush by Wadley. Wyoming had a 23-yard pass at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

I counted explosive plays as 12-plus runs and 16-plus passes).

Magic Points (scores inside of two minutes)

Iowa — 7

Wyoming — 0

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Wyoming — 7 (off), 0 (def);

The takeaway: Stanley is 1-for-1 in two-minute drills. All he needed was one play to hit Fant on the 27-yarder with 22 seconds left before halftime.

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

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