WELL, LET'S GET RIGHT TO IT. Iowa's offense ran the ball 60 times Saturday night against Iowa State. The run game will be Iowa's identity this season. But, don't rule out a change in the game plan if the opponent dictates it. Iowa State, as we mentioned last week, was weak in their front seven and Iowa exploited that.
Let's look at the first run of the game.
We immediately see that Iowa will be effective with the rush attack. Iowa used the two tight end sets and I-formation quite a bit against the Cyclones because they knew they could do this above. Watch the seal from the left side of the offensive line. C.J. Fiedorowicz came to Iowa as a receiving tight end and will leave a solid blocking tight end. His improvement over his time at Iowa has been steady and we see here how good of a blocker he has become. Iowa gets all of ISU's linebackers bottled up and a nice block from receiver Jordan Cotton here to spring Weisman for a 10+ yard gain.
Here's another rush early in the game:
The difference here is the three wide receiver look and one back but the result is nearly the same. Again, Fiedorowicz gets a great seal on the edge and Brandon Scherff gets out in front to take on a linebacker. Austin Blythe also gets a defensive tackle across his face and rides him out of the play. There's another strong block down field by Jacob Hillyer and Weisman goes five yards before contact.
Here's the read option from Iowa.
Also, last week, we talked about Iowa using more boot and play action as MSU was stacking the box. Iowa State did everything they could to stop Iowa's run game and this is what happens:
This is vintage Kirk Ferentz-era Iowa football. Iowa uses one of their power formations on a running down and runs a boot off the fake handoff to the back. It's set up nice as Iowa loves to run left behind Scherff and leaves Rudock and receivers the wide side of the field to work. Iowa sends only three pass catching options on this play. Tevaun Smith is at the top of the screen and is the primary deep receiver. Ray Hamilton shows block off of the line and runs a delayed route into the flat.
Rudock shows some real talent on this particular play. First, the mobility off of the fake to get in space and allow Smith to get deep on his route. Then, Rudock shows off his arm throwing a perfect strike on the run. This is a good sign for the Iowa offense moving forward. With the bruising offensive line and power rushing attack, these types of play action passes will bring Iowa big yards in the games ahead.
ISU put Iowa in third and long situations in the second half. Here's a 3rd and eight and Iowa driving:
If you listen to the On Iowa Podast, you may recall Scott Dochterman asking for more crossing routes in the Iowa passing game. Well, here it is. Iowa is in the shotgun with a stand up tight end making four wide receivers, three to the wide side. Iowa State blitzes Rudock and the offensive line does an excellent job giving him enough time to scan the field and find the right receiver. All Iowa's receivers except Kevonte Martin-Manley run routes beyond the first down line. Manley runs a crossing route into the vacated area left by the blitzing linebacker.
There's a lot of things right here. First, it's the play call and scouting rather in-game or during the week of preparation. Iowa put their best wide receiver in a place where he could make a play. The offensive line does a fantastic job and the patience by Rudock is something we didn't see from James Vandenberg in 2012. This is a big sign that the Iowa offense has and is continuing to improve.
Following that first down, Iowa is again facing a third and eight:
Iowa again faces a blitz from ISU, this time all three linebackers. Instead of being a release valve, like the previous play, Damon Bullock is forced to stay in and block a linebacker and does and excellent job. ISU's pressure doesn't overwhelm the Iowa offensive line but Rudock's time is limited. The blitz leaves ISU with man coverage and that's where things fall apart for them. Manley runs a quick out and his man is playing the first down marker. Jacob Hillyer finds the first down line and runs a curl. The throw from Rudock is high but that's not terrible considering the height advantage Hillyer had on the ISU secondary. Hillyer makes a great play going back to get the ball and the ISU defender plays the ball instead of the man. Hillyer turns and immediately gets up field, which is coached, and his quick instincts get him the touchdown.
Hillyer and Smith had drops early in the game and both made nice catches to redeem themselves. The receiver's are still a work in progress but KMM is solid and the rest are getting better. The run game is there, the pass game is getting better. The offense is fun again but I love me some big boy power football. With Western Michigan's poor rush defense, expect a lot of the same this week.