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Stat Pak: Let's run some Iowa passing game numbers

If you think quarterback Nate Stanley and his crew are on a run, these numbers scream it


Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) gets a pass off in a tackle by Indiana Hoosiers defensive lineman Nile Sykes (35) in the second quarter of their game at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) gets a pass off in a tackle by Indiana Hoosiers defensive lineman Nile Sykes (35) in the second quarter of their game at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Iowa’s passing game is doing its calesthenics above the timberline.

Quarterback Nate Stanley, tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, the offense line and its massively improved pass blocking and, finally, hungry wide receivers running around making plays, a passing game that went dormant in 2016 is now one of the Big Ten’s best.

No trees grow above the timberline because there’s no oxygen. The following is going to be a cascade of numbers. They will show the rarified air this group is working in. They will show an element of Iowa’s overall game that is striking on all cylinders and pulling the Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) through the sweaty moments on the road the last two weeks.

You can mitigate these into oblivion or you can enjoy the numbers and the amazing uptick in Iowa’s passing game, which in 2016 produced just 1,991 yards, the worst output since 1982.

Up to you, and no one can be proven right or wrong with six games left, beginning with Maryland (4-2, 2-1) 11 a.m. at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.

The last three games

Iowa lost its last game of September, falling to Wisconsin in a white-knuckler at Kinnick Stadium. It came back from an idle week and pulled away from Minnesota and Indiana on the road the last two weeks.

— Stanley’s 296.7 yards the last three games is 21st in the country. He’s also completed 61 percent with 19.3 completions per game.

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— Iowa’s average team passer rating the last three weeks is 175.1, that’s eighth in the country.

— Stanley’s yards per attempt is 9.4 (15th in the nation).

— Yards per completion is 15.3 (15th). Last year, Iowa finished with 12.4 yards per completion.

On third down

Before we go too crazy here, Stanley’s performance at Indiana did earn him the Walter Camp offensive player of the week award. That was just Sunday.

Stanley threw six TD passes in Iowa’s 42-16 victory over the Hoosiers. In the last two weeks, he’s thrown 10, that leads the nation.

The third down numbers against the Hoosiers are mind-bending. That is the grain of salt. Iowa and Stanley put change into Indiana and first downs dropped out of the vending machine that was the Hoosiers’ defense.

Stanley completed 8 of 9 on third down for 220 yards, averaging 26.3 yards on third down.

What are Stanley’s overall numbers on third down now? Off the charts. Let’s measure this from third-and-7 to -9 yards to go.

— Stanley’s 337 yards on third-and-7 to 9 leads the Big Ten by a lot. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins is second at 103 yards.

The passing game has done the heavy lifting and put points on the board the last two weeks.

— Stanley’s 220.9 passer rating on third-and-7 to 9 is fifth in the nation.

— More third-and-7 to 9: Stanley leads the nation in converted third downs (13), eight plays of 15-plus yards and five plays of 25-plus. Seventeen completions also leads the nation.

— Stanley’s 77.3 completion percentage in this situation is No. 6 in the nation.

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Moving the chains and scoring points consistently through the passing game, is this Iowa or is the Kevin ... from The Office?

In October

Yes, it’s just two games, and they weren’t exactly giants of Big Ten lore in Minnesota and Indiana, but some cool numbers nonetheless.

— Iowa has averaged 317.0 yards per game this month (14th in the nation).

— Stanley leads the nation this month with 10 TD passes (with just two picks).

— The 634 passing yards is No. 8 in the nation.

In the red zone

These are raw numbers from inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

— Stanley has 11 TD passes and no interceptions when it’s time to score TDs. Haskins is dealing. He has 12 TDs to one pick. Stanley is dealing, too.

— Haskins has converted eight third downs in the red zone. Stanley has seven.

— Stanley’s 69.2 completion percentage in the red zone is second in the B1G.

Explosive plays

Ohio State leads all of these categories. It is an incredibly explosive offense.

And so is Iowa’s.

— Iowa’s 27 20-plus yard plays is tied for second behind Ohio State’s 34.

— In October, Iowa’s 11 20-plus pass plays is No. 2 to Ohio State’s 12.

— Iowa’s five 30-plus yard plays is tied for second behind OSU’s six.

The numbers say really nice things about Iowa’s offense right now.

This season is only half over. There’s no reason to jump to any conclusions. If you’re not having fun, that’s a you thing.

The Numbers Game

Touchdowns in the red zone

Iowa — 4 of 4

Indiana — 1 of 4

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)

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The takeaway: Iowa cleaned up the unfortunate turnovers — for the most part — this week. The offense left the defense in a better place. Last week, turnovers gave Minnesota field position inside Iowa’s 10 twice.

Keep doing what you’re doing, offense. Iowa had six TD passes and no rushing TDs. Is that covering an deficiency? Maybe a little. Whatever works.

 

Three and outs forced by the defense

Iowa — 3

Indiana — 0

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)

The takeaway: I don’t even think what Iowa did yesterday was “game control” through the air. As I tweeted, Brian Ferentz packed his pirate costume and did some pillaging. It wasn’t game control, it was letting superior personnel do their thing.

It was taking control. It was a show of power, an exercise in strength.

 

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)

Iowa — 46.2 percent (30 efficient plays out of 65 total)

Indiana — 50.1 percent (34 of 67)

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)

The takeaway: Explosive plays lifted Iowa in the first quarter, when the Iowa defense allowed Indiana a good, consistent chunk of successful plays.

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All heck broke loose in the third quarter. Iowa produced 153 yards and eight efficients plays with two TDs in three drives. IU put up 139 yards and 12 efficient plays.

Juggling injuries and personnel did catch up with Iowa’s defense as far as yardage went, but the Hawkeyes didn’t break and kept IU off the board.

It could’ve been a game early in the fourth quarter. The Hoosiers had three efficient plays fuel a march inside Iowa’s 10, but safety Geno Stone’s close-range interception in Iowa’s end zone zapped the momentum out of Indiana. Meanwhile, Iowa continued an afternoon of explosive plays (I was going to say “afternoon delight”).

 

Explosive plays

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

Iowa — 10 (7 passes, 3 runs)

Indiana — 9 (5 passes, 4 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)

The takeaway: Iowa’s explosives — 23 reception WR Brandon Smith, 16 rush RB Toren Young, 28 pass TE Noah Fant (TD), 16 pass WR Nick Easley, 21 pass RB Mekhi Sargent, 30 pass TE T.J. Hockenson, 54 pass Hockenson (TD), 18 rush Sargent, 58 pass Fant, 14 rush Sargent.

Sargent showing up here three times is a big deal. He stepped in for Ivory Kelly-Martin and had his most productive game of the season. Iowa looked different attacking the perimeter. It feels like OL pulls have been swapped out for motioning TEs and fullback Brady Ross.

Obviously, Iowa’s tight ends are superstars.

Defensively, the injuries and youth have shown up. It hasn’t been enough to sting the Hawkeyes. Maybe it could be at some point, but the thing with injuries and Iowa’s defense is everyone is on their way back. Iowa is living with some depth drop off right now, but not a ton. The Hawkeyes should come out of this stronger.

Iowa didn’t contain IU’s speed well enough. Maryland has speed.

 

Halftime adjustments

(General idea of how busy the whiteboard is)

Iowa — First half: 35 plays for 219 yards and 6.26 yards per play.

Second half: 30 plays for 260 yards and 8.6 yards per play.

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Indiana — First half: 33 plays and 194 yards for 5.88 per play.

Second half: 34 plays and 136 yards for 4.0 per play.

The takeaway: The Hawkeyes were relentless. I think you love Brian Ferentz when he’s not interested in taking prisoners. He wasn’t again this week. The long pass at the end of the game? Maybe someone said something.

I think the lack of disruption allowed Indiana to operate between the 20s. Iowa put its helmet on in the red zone.

 

Magic Points (scores inside of two minutes)

Iowa — 0

Indiana — 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)

The takeaway: Didn’t need any this week. But there seemed to be some indecisiveness on whether or not they wanted to try to have a drive at the end of the first half. Penalties also didn’t help there, either.

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

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