Let's Use Vine To Take Another Look At Iowa Vs. Northwestern: The Raider

Matthew Holst

Time to over-analyze.

IOWA ADDED YET ANOTHER NEW WRINKLE. When I started these Vine posts in early September, the intent was to capture Iowa using new formations or play calls. We've examined the read-option, which has since disappeared from the offensive repertoire. We've looked at blitzing and man-to-man coverage in the secondary. After Northwestern, Iowa's 8th game of the season, we are still examining new things. So much for Iowa being boring and stale.

Today, let's look at a new wrinkle in the defense that Iowa calls "the Raider" formation.

The philosophy of allowing defensive linemen to rush from a standing position isn't new to the Big Ten. Brett Bielema started using this technique at Wisconsin a couple of years ago. Even with the change from the 4-3 to 3-4 at Wisconsin, they still have a "Raider" to defend obvious passing situations.

Here, Iowa has Northwestern in a 3rd down and six from their own 34 yard line.

It wasn't easy to capture all of this on a single Vine. Iowa puts Louis Trinca-Pasat on the field as essentially the lone defensive linemen. He covers the center which would be a two-gap responsibility if this were a 3-4 defense. If Iowa is teaching the DL new gap responsibility is unknown since this is primarily used as a pass defense.

Iowa replaces Drew Ott and Mike Hardy with Nate Meier and Reggie Spearman at defensive end. Christian Kirksey, James Morris and Anthony Hitchens remain in their positions and Quinton Alston replaced Carl Davis on the field giving Iowa six linebackers (Nate Meier is a full time DE but he was once a linebacker and arguably still has a linebacker body).

Prior to the snap the players move around, confusing Kain Colter. James Morris lined up as a defensive tackle in a standard 4-3 look moving over LTP (for a second). Morris then dropped back showing a 3-4 look. The movement doesn't allow quarterback to read the defense. They also confuse the offensive linemen as they will not know which linebacker is rushing and from where making it difficult to make offensive line calls.

Northwestern did complete the pass on this play right at the first down marker and moved the chains.

Let's look at another Northwestern 3rd down and seven. This was in the fourth quarter.

Here, Quinton Alston steps up to the line along with James Morris and Iowa decides to blitz from "the Raider." Adding a twist to the blitz, Alston gets around the line but couldn't close the deal on Colter in the pocket. Iowa played man coverage on the backside with the blitz. (They played a zone on the previous play posted above.) Colter breaks from the pocket here and runs for the first down after getting a gracious spot going out of bounds.

Iowa ended the day with six sacks, the most since 2008. Remember too, Iowa had 13 sacks as a team in 2012. They've tinkered with Meier, Alston and Spearman at DE all season. Perhaps, this is the evolution of that. Will we see much of this going forward? I'm not sure it's a defense we will see against Wisconsin but Purdue, definitely. Iowa could pull this package out for Nebraska too. Hell, even Michigan. All linebackers all the time.

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