Iowa Football

Iowa football Stat Pak: Hawkeyes popped open Rutgers game with a 97-yard drive

Lots of growth from wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette; whole game was practice in patience

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley (4) drops back to pass during the third quarter of their Big Ten Conference football game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley (4) drops back to pass during the third quarter of their Big Ten Conference football game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Rutgers was never going to seriously threaten Iowa. It did snap an 11-game losing streak in week 1 and that was nice.

The Scarlet Knights (1-1, 0-1 Big Ten) weren’t ready for this kind of leap in competition, and that played out in the No. 19 Hawkeyes’ 30-0 victory Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

Rutgers didn’t threaten the Hawkeyes (2-0, 1-0). Field position did test their patience. Iowa’s starting field position in the first quarter was its own 11 yard-line.

Yes, field position was Iowa’s biggest foe in its Big Ten opener.

This forced Iowa into conservative mode. No, no one likes conservative mode, but when your starting field position is your 3, 11, 8 and 3 in the first 16 minutes, you do have to be patient.

“I’ve never been involved in a game where it was five times from the 11-yard line in,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That makes it tough and restricts what you can do, obviously.”

So, when Iowa took over at its 3 with 13:50 left in the second quarter, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz boiled it down to a quarterback sneak. Simple, basic and safe.

Center Tyler Linderbaum and guard Kyler Schott displaced the line of scrimmage. Quarterback Nate Stanley followed the blocks and threw his 243 pounds into it for a 7-yard gain.

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The forensics on a 97-yard drive that ate 5:37 off the clock begins with a QB sneak. Sneaks will come up again, but the Hawkeyes went from QB sneak to the jugular on second down.

Wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette had a “Big Ten player of the week” kind of weekend. He had a career-high 113 receiving yards and tied career highs with four receptions and two TDs.

His second-and-3 play from Iowa’s 10 opened the gates. Smith-Marsette started in motion. The defensive back wanted to cut off the outside, Smith-Marsette started inside and turned out. He was wide open for a 25-yard gain.

“I think it depends on how the game is going, as far as pressure and what we think they’re going to do on defense,” Stanley said when asked when the playbook does open up. “It changes week to week.”

When did you feel this particular drive took off?

“Probably after we get that first first down,” Stanley said. “We felt confident we could continue that momentum.”

Next play was a 6-yard pass to wide receiver Nico Ragaini. Then, incompletion before a 3-yard completion to Ragaini.

Momentum slowed and the Hawkeyes faced a fourth-and-1 at its 44. Brian Ferentz knew he wanted to go, but the playclock ran down and Iowa called timeout. Keep in mind, it’s early second quarter and the Hawkeyes are up 7-0. It was still a contest.

Iowa called timeout and went right back to what started it all with a QB sneak. There was a little more degree of difficulty this time. It looked like Linderbaum snapped the ball on the first sound and that everyone else was waiting for a second sound.

There was a pause before Stanley pushed ahead on a QB sneak for the 1 yard.

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“Just some missed communication, that’s all there is to say about it,” Stanley said. “Thankfully, we were able to salvage that and continue the drive.”

And it did continue. Running back Toren Young went for 9 yards on first down. Stanley hit wide receiver Brandon Smith for 14 yards on the next play. Stanley overthrew Smith for an open TD on the next play, but this whole deal is about how the offense had the patience to persevere through the mishaps.

“As you guys all know, he’s (Stanley) a really steady person and doesn’t really get too high or too low on anything,” Kirk Ferentz said. “The big thing I would go back to right now, I think he’s more comfortable and leading us better than he ever has on the field.

“It’s just a tribute to his hard work, his perseverance, his dedication, all the things that tend to make players really good players.”

The miss didn’t faze anyone. Right back to work. Next play, Stanley hit running back Ivory Kelly-Martin for a 25-yard gain on a screen pass. And then, wide receiver Tyrone Tracy ran a beautiful crossing route for an easy 7-yard TD.

And 97 yards later, it was 14-0 and it was over.

“We fought our way through it, and everybody did stay patient to that point and it paid off for us,” Kirk Ferentz said. “It was really a challenging game that way.”

The Obs (short for “observations”)

OFFENSE

— Love the fade call by Brian Ferentz to Brandon Smith during the Hawkeyes’ second drive of the second half.

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You guys saw how closely penalties in the passing game were being called. Stanley always overthrows, never underthrows, so the call to the fade wasn’t only safe, it also put the defensive back on the spot for a PI. This was a third-and-10 from Iowa’s 2, so yeah, there was some squirm with the call, but it did get the PI and got Iowa out of the shadow of its goal posts.

— Ferentz made jokes last week about fullback and touches. Watch Brady Ross in this one. Iowa has the fullback to lead isolation plays. That’s it. Ross (16 snaps) was magnificent vs. Rutgers. He punched the hole in the wall for Toren Young’s 31-yard run.

— G Kyler Schott missed a few this week. He got pulled after a near whiff on an inside run. Still, he played 75 snaps and everyone on Iowa’s OL held up in pass pro. Could this lead to Iowa being a pass-to-run team? What would those numbers even look like?

It’s leading to Iowa having a deep O-line, which is a good thing all around, future and now.

— Depending how you count explosive plays, freshman RB Tyler Goodson had runs of 19, 18 and 10 yards.

— And then there was running back Ivory Kelly-Martin. You see he had a 25-yard gain on a screen. You think maybe garbage time? Nope. On Iowa’s fourth series, Kelly-Martin and tackle Mark Kallenberger (one of the low-key most important players for 2020) started seeing time.

Don’t cross off Kelly-Martin. Also, that’s four running backs doing stuff. That’s a good thing. But then there was that last cut by Goodson on his 19-yarder. This is a good problem.

On Kallenberger: He’s a tanker in the running game. Gave up a pressure in pass pro. That looks like the next step.

— C Tyler Linderbaum likes to pull. And he’s good at it.

DEFENSE

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— I’ve said this here a million times, the toughest stat for college programs to track and disseminate for mass consumption is QB hurries. We really need to work on criteria here. I’ll lead the charge.

This is my long way of saying A.J. Epenesa has affected the first two games like few other Iowa defenders. Does anyone remember the opponents breaking a huddle and so many players walk in one Hawkeyes’ direction. I do not.

The offense knows where he is. It’s like a spy movie and someone planted a tracker on Epenesa. So, that’s affect. And then there are the times when he actually gets his hands on players. They’re affected. Like a lot.

Going back over the game, the four QB hurries was correct. Epenesa also had a QB hit. He’s doing stuff, lots and lots of stuff.

— SS Geno Stone’s aggressiveness against the run is fun to watch. He did interviews after the game, so I think he’ll be good to go with the knee this week.

— One cash personnel play. Rutgers played TE the majority of the game. That math always will have Iowa in 4-3 and Nick Niemann on the field.

— DT Daviyon Nixon had 26 snaps. He looks to be ready for a dozen more. He really closes.

— DE Chauncey Golston doesn’t have big, fun DE numbers, but he’s playing the run extremely well.

— Rutgers WR Bo Melton was explosive and noticeable in the Knights’ opener vs. UMass. He had one catch for 17 yards vs. Iowa. That was on six targets.

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— While cash personnel has been scarce the first two weeks, the speed rush unit has seen maybe double digits snaps. Epenesa’s sack happened with Golston and Nixon at DT and Amani Jones at DE. Joe Evans, the other hybrid DE with Jones, also saw his first snaps of the season.

The Numbers Game

Touchdowns in the red zone (7s are > 3s)

Iowa — 1 of 3

Rutgers — 0 of 0

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 5 of 6 (off), 2 of 2 (def); Week 2 vs. Rutgers — 1 of 3 (off), 0 of 0 (def)

The takeaway: The clock management at the end of the first half was poor. The Hawkeyes didn’t leave themselves enough time to take a shot at the end zone. They had two timeouts left. Kirk Ferentz copped to this in the postgame.

“Ted Marchibroda used to say, ‘Don’t get too smart,’ and we got a little too smart with the clock there at the end of the half,” Ferentz said. “Trying not to give them an opportunity to get the ball back, and cost us potentially four points, so just some little things we’re going to have to do a better job of.”

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

Iowa — 9

Rutgers — 2

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 3 (def), 1 (off); Week 2 vs. Rutgers — 9 (def), 2 (off)

The takeaway: That’s your snapshot of 30-0. Rutgers’ best drive of the day was its first, which went six plays for 30 yards. Rutgers had 10 punts and no points, so you know what that does to Iowa’s punts per play vs. its opponents so far this year? The Hawkeyes are third nationally in that number this week (. 17 punts per play). Four Big Ten teams (Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State) are in the top 10 nationally in this number.

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)

(Measure of successful plays and moving the sticks)

Iowa — 41 percent (30 successful plays out of 73 total)

Rutgers — 27 percent (13 of 49)

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 56 percent (off), 33 (def); Week 2 vs. Rutgers — 41 percent (off); 27 (def)

The takeaway: Yes, of course, strain everything Iowa has done so far this season through the competition. Rutgers is probably going to be the marching band in “Animal House.” Stork knocked the drum major out of the way and led the band into an alley, marching straight into a brick wall.

Iowa was just 2 of 13 on third down, but it gained 198 yards on first-down plays (6.0 yards per). Iowa got comfortable and there wasn’t anything Rutgers could do about it.

Explosive plays

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

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

Iowa — 9 (5 passes, 4 runs)

Rutgers — 2 (passes)

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 10 (off), 4 (def); Week 2 vs. Rutgers — 9 (off), 2 (def)

The takeaway: Obviously, great number in this game. Let’s take a longer view. How does this measure vs. the Big Ten? It’s the bottom third. Maryland and Wisconsin lead the league with 42 plays of 10-plus yards. Iowa has 26 and is 11th in the Big Ten. Can Iowa get chunks against a defense like Iowa State’s? Well, we’ll find out, won’t we?

Halftime adjustments

(General idea of how busy the whiteboard is)

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Iowa — First half: 37 plays for 236 yards and 6.4 yards per play.

Second half: 36 plays for 202 yards and 5.6 yards per play.

Rutgers — First half: 24 plays and 47 yards for 1.9 per play.

Second half: 25 plays and 78 yards for 3.1 per play.

The takeaway: This is a marching band being led into a wall that is actually a bear den. That’s really it. Rutgers’ defense was physical, but it bit on play action all day and was generally undisciplined in play. RU head coach Chris Ash is a defensive coach. That’s not good.

Magic Points (scores inside of two minutes)

Iowa — 3

Rutgers — 0

Tracking the Hawkeyes: Week 1 vs. Miami — 0 (off), 0 (def); Week 2 vs. Rutgers — 3 (off), 0 (defense)

The takeaway: Yes, clock management cost Iowa a shot at a TD at the end of the first half. Still, Keith Duncan’s 19-yarder put the Hawkeyes on the board here. Duncan’s 46-yarder was straining at the end. Something to keep an eye on as far as Duncan’s range goes. It’s been two years. We’re just getting to know the kid again.

Personnel

Offense

10 (one back, no TEs) — pass: 1 for 1 for 3 yards

11 (one RB, one TE) — rush: 2 for 28 yards

11 shotgun (one RB, one TE, shotgun snap) — rush: 8 for 21; pass: 10 of 20 for 91 yards and TD

12 (one RB, two TE) shotgun —

12 (one RB, two TE) — rush: 12 for 61 yards; pass: 1 of 2 for 12 yards

21 (two RB, one TE) — rush: 8 for 25; pass: 5 of 7 for 127 yards, two TDs

20 (no RB, two TE) — rush: 2 for 36; pass 1 for 3 for 6 yards

22 (two RB, two TE) — rush: 5 for 13; pass: 1 of 1 for 2 yards

Defense

4-2-5 — Once (On a third-and-9 in the first quarter)

Blitz — 6 (Twice off the edge with an LB and Welch and Niemann got there)

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

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