The older I get, the more myopic I seem to be getting the day of wins and losses…or rather, I am less capable of removing all emotion from my writing and commentating. I freely admit this fact, which is why I do look forward to coming back and sitting down the morning after an Iowa football game and going over things again. I find that I will typically view things more evenly and perhaps more fairly than I did the day before. With that in mind, here it goes…
First down at NIU's 45: Pressured into incompletion. Weisman for 1. Bubble screen.
— marcmorehouse (@marcmorehouse) August 31, 2013
This was an Iowa series in the fourth quarter and somewhat epitomizes how I feel about the play calling late in the game. I really don’t like criticizing play calling, because it’s the lowest level of over reaction one can possibly have and I’ve experienced it for years. Coaches lean ‘lack of execution’ first (the old ‘a play here or there’) where those of us on the outside tend to look at things like playcalling, That said, I can’t shake the feeling that Iowa got way too cute in the second half yesterday.
I also understand that I’ve been critical of the fact Iowa didn’t attack downfield last year or has seemed mostly unimaginative at times during the Ferentz era. But airing it out late on 3rd and 1 and throwing deep outs in the flat with a quarterback playing in his first ever game when your worst case was getting to overtime seem quite worthy of mention. The good news here is it looks like Iowa will have more option and be able to attack more this year than last as most everyone seemed on the same page with the offense. We never, ever saw that last year. On Saturday, receivers were running the routes they were supposed to run, Rudock looked in control of what Iowa wanted to do and there was a semblance of non-stink on offense. That was nice, and it also makes the second have collapse and loss more painful.
The reason for that? It sort of felt like Iowa had won something at halftime. I hate writing that but that’s how I felt…the old Dan McCarney ‘we won the half’ feeling…because the offense was so horrific last year, there was a feeling of celebration because it seemed like those dark days were behind us. Then the second half happened and you combine the lack of offense with losing the way Iowa lost? That’s why you feel the way you do.
EXECUTION: Let us not forget the reality of the lack of execution, too. There was plenty of that in the second half and it would be unfair to not mention these items right alongside the questioning of some play calling:
-Don Shumpert pass drop on 3rd and 2 that would have been a 1st down (3Q)
-3rd & 1 at NIU 39, false start on QB sneak (3Q)
-3rd & 1 incomplete pass when Iowa had gained 6 & 3 yards on 1st with Weisman runs (3Q) (OK, this belongs in the critical of play calling section)
-3rd & 8 on Iowa 13, Bullock drops screen that would have been a 1st (4Q)
Iowa gained just over 150 yards in the second half and they were 1-6 on third downs. They gained just 50 yards in the third quarter. There were miscues, missed execution opportunities…still, even after going back through the play by play for this article, I come away feeling there was a bit too much horizontal passing game still in the mix and at questionable times. Does Greg Davis still need to be reminded that he doesn’t have a fleet of track stars playing receiver at Iowa?
TURNOVERS: Iowa committed three in this game. One on a Mark Weisman fumble at midfield, one on a Jake Rudock interception where his arm was hit as he threw it (in Iowa territory) and the interception late in the game near midfield. In each of those instances, NIU converted a field goal off of Iowa’s giveaways. There’s nine points right there. Iowa scored seven points off of NIU’s turnover, immediately.
By the way, I view fake punt attempts as turnovers. If you stop a fake punt, you get the ball at the spot of the stop, like a turnover. If you don’t stop the fake, it’s a lost possession as you were set to get the ball back. So Iowa had a fake punt executed on them that took the ball from the Iowa 46 down to the Iowa 9. This was also after Rudock’s interception where his arm was hit.
THE INVISIBLE (LOST) POINTS: Iowa could have scored two more touchdowns in this game had passes not been underthrown. Damon Powell had to wait on his 49 yard reception as the ball was slightly underthrown; that was a touchdown if it hit him in stride. The same for Jordan Cotton on the flea-flicker; it was a sure six had the ball been thrown in side. Late in the game on that fateful 3rd and 1 where Iowa went deep instead of running it, Rudock actually overthrew Powell on this play but Powell had slowed down during his route. Had he stayed in stride, it was another touchdown.
THE OPPONENT: This was a quality team. When you rank Iowa’s schedule this year, they would probably fall around 5th at best as difficulty of opponent. Ohio State is at the top, followed by Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin above them.
THE OFFENSE: I wrote after the game and earlier in this item that the offense showed promise. I think we think it looked a lot better than it was because of how poorly Iowa ended the season on offense and that was the stink bomb memory we had for the last nine months. Here is what Iowa did in the first half:
Iowa had 122 yards in the 1st quarter and 180 in the second quarter. That’s a 302 yard first half and that’s really good, not just in comparison to last year. But following up on execution here, this is where Iowa has to make that next step. They have to do better than just moving the ball between the 20’s.
Iowa ran 80 plays in this game, which is high for a Kirk Ferentz coached team. Iowa has averaged in the mid 60’s in plays per game during all of the Ferentz era. I am not going to sit here and say that more plays are good and fewer plays are bad because what you do with those plays matters more; Iowa had 16 real possessions in this game not counting the last one of the game that was for three seconds. In those 16 possessions, the offense was able to muster up 20 points. Let’s not crown ‘em just yet, but when you factor in those ‘lost points’ from missed plays that were there as well as the turnovers, combined with the foundation of what we saw on Saturday I do feel there is reason to be optimistic about this offense. It will get a lot better and more consistent. It will be better than last year’s offense by a wide margin and I think the defense did a decent job on Saturday, too. Damond Powell is a weapon and Iowa has to figure out how to use him once he gets up to speed with the program.
The day after always provides me will a clearer head than the night of which is filled with emotion. All is not lost because Iowa lost to a team with arguably the best quarterback it will face all season and one of the best offensive lines it will face all season. Iowa will have a great opportunity to work on some things this week and against a horrible opponent on Saturday before heading to Ames.
If the Hawks can win that game at Iowa State, I suspect that will salve over the wound of the NIU loss, at least for a little while. The Cyclones are licking their wounds right now having lost to Northern Iowa at home. They get a bye week in advance of the renewal of the Cy-Hawk Series while Iowa gets to play another game before it faces ISU. I am guessing both sides would say they like their scenario.
I don’t know about you, but after a night’s sleep and looking at everything again, I feel better about Iowa’s chances in Ames today than I have the entire off season.