TIME FOR SOMETHING NEW. Remember those Vine embeds we used for our Super-realistic EA Sports NCAA 2014 Simulation? We thought we'd use the same Vine embeds to take a closer look at select plays from Iowa's game with Northern Illinois. We'll break this in two; one post for offense, another for the defense and special teams. Television doesn't always provide the most information regarding the formations, particularly the secondary, but we'll do our best.
READ OPTION. Let's start here because it's obviously a big part of Iowa's offense in 2013. There were whispers of a read-option look from the Iowa offense after it appeared in spring practice and again in the fall open practice. Iowa gave NIU a read-option look several times on Saturday. The advantages of the play have been discussed. It's Iowa's zone rush. The same that has been a fixture under Kirk Ferentz's tenure, but with the threat of a rush from the quarterback. The threat of a quarterback run should force the defense to account for every man on the offensive side. Under the old philosophy, one back zone run, the quarterback simply handed off the ball and it was 11 defenders on 9 blockers and one rusher. There's also the wider run lanes that the option creates by forcing the defensive backside to account for the quarterback. At least when it's ran correctly.
Let's get right to the Vine:
Here, we see Rudock properly read the option man, which in this case is the left side defensive end. NIU's defender doesn't bite down on the rush to his right and keeps his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage, ready to take on a rush if Rudock keeps the ball. This is the correct read by Rudock.
Let's look at another later in the game:
This was in the fourth quarter. Rudock had yet to pull the ball back and keep it himself. NIU had a slant with the defensive line and a scrape with the linebackers. The defensive end, the option man, crashes down hard and the linebacker scrapes filling his void. Mark Weisman made the play once he saw the defensive tackle shoot the gap and he turned back to the vacated area. Rudock could have kept this ball and took the yards that Weisman gained. It was a positive play for Iowa but a possible misread by the quarterback. Rudock had opportunities to gain yards with his feet in with the zone read but didn't take the ball down and run once. That needs to change moving forward.
PLAY ACTION (DAMOND POWELL). One thing Greg Davis did well was mix the run and pass using multiple formations and at various down and distances. He was rather unpredictable. In this first completion to Powell, Iowa was backed up inside their own 10 and trailing on the scoreboard. Without the opportunity to scout Damond Powell at wide receiver, NIU wasn't yet ready to defend him on a deep ball. Iowa had three previous possessions and four first downs. Iowa ran the ball on three of those first downs, and passed once. Iowa came to the line with one back and two tight ends. It was a good opportunity for the play-action.
Rudock to Powell:
NIU bit hard on the play action and Powell put five yards on his man. The ball was under-thrown by Rudock as he sort of hopped forward with his throw. Had Rudock led Powell this was an easy touchdown. He overthrew Powell later when Damond slowed up a bit early in the route but the arm strength appears to be there. Perhaps, a young quarterback with wide eyes left a little off the throw.
Here's where they try it again.
Now, this is in the third quarter. Iowa was in the I-formation with Powell split out wide (off the lower part of the screen). You'll see the play action -possibly a delayed run- fail. It may have been a miscommunication or perhaps another mistake by a young quarterback. From my seat in the South end zone, I saw Powell, again, streaking down field and beating the NIU corner who was on an island with him. This play, like the first time, was set up nicely but you'll see the failure at right guard. Jordan Walsh didn't have a solid base and surrendering his leverage allowed the defensive tackle to bull rush him into Rudock. The deflection ended in an arm punt easily intercepted by NIU and resulting in a turnover after just one play on the possession.
We can beat a dead horse about the third time this long pass to Powell was called. The scenario was right then, 3rd and one with the defense stacked in the box. Powell proved twice he could separate against man coverage too. It's about execution and here we see it failing and again on the third attempt but it's all fixable.
RUDOCK TO FIEDOROWICZ. Finally, one of the better plays of the day and an indication that things are getting better overall. Here's Iowa's first offensive touchdown:
Here, we see what Greg Davis talked a lot about prior to the 2012 season, Iowa using C.J. Fiedorowicz's body. This is a simple route for C.J., run to the goal line and stop and turn around. This is a post up, similar to that in basketball. It was also a good read by Rudock. It looked like NIU may have bracket coverage on Fiedorowicz (one defender to the inside, one out), but when Damon Bullock ran his route to the outside a linebacker went with him. That route by Bullock is meant to clear the middle of the field if facing man coverage. It did and Rudock instantly recognized it.
The post up route for C.J. was simple against man coverage. The throw was even better. There's only one place to put the ball. Again, like basketball, if you put the ball on the numbers or around the body the smaller defender can make a play. Rudock threw the ball high, where only C.J. could get it and he went up and did. This is well coached and a sign that Davis has a good pupil. Iowa may have underutilized the middle of the field and the tight ends on Saturday but this was one time they went there when they needed to. This is a play Iowa will use again and again throughout the season. It's good to see it working in the first game.
FINALLY. This place would be reserved for Rudock's final interception but Iowa and NIU played one of the longest games in history and the DVR was set with an extension that still didn't get the end of the game. Next week, we'll set the DVR for six hours.