I know I’ll probably get shellacked on this site for saying this, but I feel that Ken O’Keefe is one of the most effective play callers/offensive coordinators in the Big Ten. And I think next year, given the returning experience, we will have not only one of the best defensives in the league, but also one of the most efficient offenses.
Over the past few seasons, O’Keefe has become the scapegoat for basically all that goes array on the field. It’s become pretty cliché’ for Iowa fans to ask for O’Keefe’s head on a regular basis (even after wins). I’ve even heard KOK get blamed for obvious defensive breakdowns; it usually goes something like this, “The defense is playing fantastic but their just gassed because O’Keefe can’t extend drives and make first downs.” Sound about right? Now, please know that I do understand the importance of giving our defense the chance to recharge their batteries from time to time, and obviously, the most effective way to do that is to hold on to the ball for longer then a 3 and out.
I’m not saying that there isn’t plenty of room for improvement on the offensive side of the ball, but I don’t think that it necessarily starts with O’Keefe and his presumed ‘bas-aackward’ play calling. Do you ever here anyone call for Norm’s head when he’s got a middle linebacker manning up on a Ted Ginn-“type” receiver. No, you don’t, because it’s part of his assignment scheme. It’ll give you headaches at times, but when it’s run properly over an extended amount of in-game time; it can be very fun to watch; much like KOK’s offensive scheme. With the right RB, a gelling offensive line, and a QB with a respectable play-fake, I really enjoy watching Iowa’s offense march down the field. I still get a little creamy when I think of my favorite drive in recent Hawkeye history; the first drive of the game during the Alamo Bowl against Texas a few years back. Six or Seven running plays to A.Y. leading to a TD and 6 or 7 minutes off the game clock.
Please take into consideration, that I have no statistical facts to back this up. In fact, part of my plan was to have these ‘shocking’ offensive statistics to show that Iowa was in the upper echelon of the conference in major statistical categories, but the fact of the matter is; they’re not (not even close). I think part of that blame (at least this year) can go towards the dependence on young running backs in an offense that strives on reading zone blocks and dictating the flow of the game (i.e. Greene) - also, the revolving door at O-Line, and an over dependence on a bunch of #2-3 receivers.
Take my word, next year will be very interesting; Stanzi will be healthy, Jewel will be ready to go (thank god), and we’ll have a string of receivers and O-Lineman with enough experience to be effective. Fans won’t be saying anything positive about the man, but their criticisms will be put to rest. This offense will be fun to watch next year…
So, next time you criticize KOK for calling a run-off-tackle on 2nd and 11, please be weary of the overall game plan. And, that Norm’s defense and KOK’s offense are eerily similar in the way they effectively operate.
On a side note, can you imagine if Norm were a “free agent” D-Coordinator and how he would sell his system to prospective head coaches?
It’d probably go something like this:
“Here’s what were gonna do: We’re going to let the opposing offense move the ball down the field on us for 3 quarters only to clamp it up when they get inside our 30 yard line. Victory for us is to give their coach the difficult decision of either a long field goal or a short punt. Follow me? Also from time to time, we’re going to put a 6’1”, 255lb. LB on their slot receiver. Follow me? We’re only going to blitz a few times a game, because I think that four defensive lineman can get all the pressure on the QB that we need. Follow me?” Point is: he’d probably get laughed out the door.
Bottom line is this: There will be some goof-ups on both sides of the ball, but all in all, given the correct/experienced personnel, they are both a thing of beauty. Right?