Iowa-Minnesota: Breaking Down the Community Player Ratings

Ratings, ratings, and more ratings.

Another week, another win, another set of rather positive ratings.  Funny how that works, no?  I'm curious to see what happens when (if!) Iowa loses another game this season; I suppose much will depend on how exactly Iowa loses that hypothetical game.  In the meantime, though, we have a gloriously dominating win over a border state rival to revel in.  Let's get to the ratings.

H/T to commenter MaroonedinMadtown for help with some of the data.

KIRK FERENTZ

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AVG: 7.4
PREV. AVG. RATINGS: 4.2 (NIU), 4.9 (MOST), 6.4 (ISU), 8.1 (WMU)
SEASON AVERAGE: 5.9 (all season average figures are prior to the MINN game)

Another solid showing for Iowa football's $4 million man.  Iowa didn't get caught with its pants down at any point on Saturday (aside from some botched kickoff coverage, perhaps) and Iowa seemed well-prepared for the game.  Iowa didn't make any sweeping changes after halftime, but there was hardly any reason to do so with a 17-0 lead.  This team is certainly starting to resemble the blueprints of some of Ferentz's better teams, though: a smart, efficient passing game married to a powerful, time-consuming rushing attack and backed up by a stout defense.  The next test is seeing how well this particular model holds up against stiffer competition (which is coming in the next four games).

THE OFFENSE

Off_minn_medium

AVG: 7.6
PREV. AVG. RATINGS: 4.5 (NIU), 5.2 (MOST), 7.0 (ISU), 7.9 (WMU)
SEASON AVERAGE: 6.1

Points continue to be a bit of an issue; 23 points is a pretty meager output for an offense that amassed 464 yards of total offense and dominated the game on Saturday, but it was also more than enough to secure what wound up being a pretty comfortable win.  Red zone scoring issues continue to plague Iowa; a missed field goal (which was technically just outside the red zone, but still) and a Rudock interception in the end zone cost Iowa points; at minimum, Iowa probably should have had a pair of field goals out of those possessions, which would have made the final score 29-7.  That final score would have more accurately reflected the on-field dominance on Saturday -- and it would have prevented any hope of a Gopher comeback in the fourth quarter, which would have saved us a few anxious moments.  Still, Iowa went over 400 yards of total offense again (impressive) and over 200 yards of rushing for the fifth straight game (really impressive -- and something that that had never been done before in the KF era), so things are humming along pretty well for the offense.  And that play call on the Powell touchdown was about as perfect as it gets -- a brilliant play call excellently executed.

THE DEFENSE

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AVG: 8.4
PREV. AVG. RATINGS: 4.7 (NIU), 5.8 (MOST), 6.5 (ISU), 9.0 (WMU)
SEASON AVERAGE: 6.5

For the second straight week, the defense takes home one of the highest ratings of the week.  Who would have predicted that they would have two weeks in the 9.0 range after last year -- or even after that week one showing against NIU?  Put your hands down, liars.  But holding two opponents to a combined 10 points over two weeks -- with the scoring drives for WMU and Minnesota both coming on short fields -- is pretty darn impressive.  There are still some question marks about the secondary (there were some blown converages on Saturday that could have been very costly; luckily, Philip Nelson is not a very good passing quarterback), but they've played better since the NIU game.  The linebackers have been very good -- probably even a bit better than expected -- but the real surprise on defense has been the defensive line, which has been generating actual pressure on quarterbacks the last few weeks (and racked up four sacks on Saturday).  But we'll talk about them more below.  For now, a tip of our collective hats to the Iowa defense, which completely put the clamps on Minnesota on Saturday.

JAKE RUDOCK

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AVG: 7.7
PREV. AVG RATINGS: 6.2 (NIU), 6.5 (MOST), 7.5 (ISU), 8.2 (WMU)
SEASON AVERAGE: 7.1
STATS: 15/25, 218 yards, 1 TD/1 INT; 5 carries, 35 yards, 1 TD

About one-third of his yards came on one play where his receiver (and his receiver's blockers) did 98% of the work and he made a terrible mistake on the interception in the end zone, but by and large this was another very strong showing by Iowa's first-year starting quarterback.  Rudock has displayed great composure on both of his road starts, despite dealing with hostile crowds (and this was a very amped-up Gopher crowd, at least at kick-off) and the pressure that comes with rivalry games.  He made a number of smart passes to extend drives on third down and mixed in a few of his increasingly-trademark scrambling runs, too.  The interception was bad, but it should make for a great teaching moment in film study, too; if he throws that ball a split-second earlier, he almost certainly has a touchdown pass there and the nail is firmly in Minnesota's coffin.

RUNNING BACKS

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AVG: 8.4
PREV. AVG RATINGS: 6.9 (NIU), 7.7 (MOST), 8.6 (ISU), 7.8 (WMU)
SEASON AVERAGE: 7.8
STATS: 39 carries, 212 yards; 4 catches, 42 yards

Mark Weisman: 24 carries, 147 yards
Damon Bullock: 11 carries, 50 yards; 3 catches, 7 yards
Jordan Canzeri: 3 carries, 13 yards
Adam Cox: 1 carry, 5 yards; 1 catch, 35 yards

As noted earlier, the running game has gone over 200 rushing yards in every game this season, something which has never been done before at Iowa since Ferentz arrived.  The bell cow was again Weisman and he pummeled the Gophers over and over on Saturday, much like he did a year ago.  The thing I like about the running game this year -- and the primary reason that Iowa has been able to go over 200 rushing yards in every game this season -- is that so many guys are chipping in.  Weisman is obviously the lead back and he's averaging an impressive 123 yards/game... but Bullock is adding 50 yards/game and even Rudock (26 yards/game) and Canzeri (23 yards/game) are helping out.  The reason Iowa never had so many consecutive games with 200+ rushing yards with Shonn Greene or Marcus Coker is because those guys didn't get as much help as Weisman is getting so far this year. Hopefully we see that distribution of rushing yards continue as the season continues (and the competition ramps up).  I expect the per-game yardage totals to drop (and if they don't, you can probably go ahead and pencil Iowa in for 9-10 wins), but as long as the work continues to be distributed and multiple backs are helping out, I think Iowa will continue to have a strong ground game this season.  Also, a shout-out to Adam Cox, who made two very key plays on Saturday (his reception set up Iowa's first TD and his run gave Iowa a first down late in the game to ice the win). Using the fullback hasn't been quite as en vogue at Iowa in recent years as it was in the early days of KF's run, but it's always fun to see the big guys actually get to do something other than block once in a while.

WIDE RECEIVERS + TIGHT ENDS

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AVG: 7.3
PREV. AVG RATINGS: 5.8 (NIU), 5.6 (MOST), 6.2 (ISU), 8.0 (WMU)
SEASON AVERAGE: 6.4
STATS: 11 catches, 176 yards, 1 TD

Kevonte Martin-Manley: 6 catches, 56 yards
Damond Powell: 1 catch, 74 yards, TD
Jacob Hillyer: 1 catch, 14 yards
C.J. Fiedorowicz: 1 catch, 13 yards
Tevaun Smith: 1 catch, 11 yards
Ray Hamilton: 1 catch, 8 yards

KMM's trend of a big week every other game continued here (he had six catches on Saturday, following games with 1 catch, 7 catches, 3 catches and 9 catches).  Powell followed up on his big showing last week with just one catch here -- but what a catch and run it was.  He also seemed to be on the field more than he was earlier in the season, so he does seem to be learning more and more of the playbook and (as promised) is seeing more snaps as a result.  The next step is getting him more actual touches because he remains Iowa's most explosive talent on offense.  Meanwhile, the quest continues for consistency among Iowa's other receivers; KMM has 26 catches this year, but no other Iowa player has even 10 catches this year, even though we're five games into the season.  Better defenses (perhaps as early as this weekend) are going to blanket KMM and force other receivers to make plays -- hopefully we have some guys who will be up to that challenge.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Ol_minn_medium

AVG: 8.6
PREV. AVG RATINGS: 6.8 (NIU), 6.2 (MOST), 8.0 (ISU), 7.9 (WMU)
SEASON AVERAGE: 7.2
STATS: n/a

More high ratings for the offensive line, which is what tends to happen when the running game goes off for 200+ yards (again) and Rudock has plenty of time in the pocket (usually).  The left side of Iowa's offensive line was particularly fruitful in the running game on Saturday, although that's not too much of a surprise -- Scherff is anchoring that spot on the line and having a very, very good season so far.  Ra'Shede Hageman is probably the best defensive lineman Iowa has come up against this season -- he's a future NFL draft pick for sure -- and Iowa's hosses up front kept him from doing too much damage on Saturday.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Dl_minn_medium

AVG: 8.7
PREV. AVG RATINGS: 4.9 (NIU), 5.1 (MOST), 6.5 (ISU), 8.0 (WMU)
SEASON AVERAGE: 6.1
STATS: 18 tackles, 4 TFL, 3.0 sacks

Dominic Alvis: 6 tackles (4 solo), 2 TFL, 2.0 sacks
Carl Davis: 4 tackles (0 solo)
Louis Trinca-Pasat: 3 tackles (0 solo), 0.5 TFL
Drew Ott: 2 tackles (0 solo), 0.5 TFL
Mike Hardy: 1 tackle (1 solo)
Nate Meier, 1 tackle (1 solo), 1 TFL, 1.0 sack
Darian Cooper: 1 tackle (0 solo)

I thought that 8.0 last week would be the high water mark for the defensive line this year.  Oops.  They managed to not only match last week's ratings -- but improve upon them.  But those high ratings were well-deserved, as this was definitely the defensive line's best showing this season. 3.0 sacks is a solid total (especially considering that the sack totals in previous weeks could be measured in imaginary numbers), but that only hints at how disruptive this unit really was.  They weren't credited with any official QB hurries, but Nelson rarely seemed comfortable in the pocket, and that's usually because an Iowa lineman was busting through Minnesota's line and coming after him.  Alvis had one of the best games of his career, racking up six tackles and a pair of sacks.  Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat are really coming into their own as a devastating duo at defensive tackle and Drew Ott and Nate Meier managed to get some quality pressure on Nelson, too.  The improvement this unit has shown so far this year is impressive; my only hope is that it continues through the rest of the season.

LINEBACKERS

Lb_minn_medium

AVG: 8.9
PREV. AVG RATINGS: 6.9 (NIU), 6.8 (MOST), 7.6 (ISU), 8.5 (WMU)
SEASON AVERAGE: 7.5
STATS: 26 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.0 sack, 2 INT

Anthony Hitchens: 10 tackles (2 solo), 0.5 TFL
James Morris: 8 tackles (4 solo), 1.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 1 INT
Christian Kirksey: 5 tackles (2 solo), 1 INT
Reggie Spearman: 2 tackles (0 solo)
Marcus Collins: 1 tackle (0 solo)

Adam already waxed poetic about the linebackers on Monday, so I'm not going to belabor the point, but... the linebackers had another really, really good game on Saturday.  They were at the forefront of most of the good things the defense did in that game and their high ratings here certainly reflect that.  Morris had a game-icing interception and also picked up a sack to go along with his usual assortment of tackles and smart line calls, Hitchens his was usual tackling-machine self, and Kirksey did a little bit of this and a little bit of that, as usual.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Db_minn_medium

AVG: 6.4
PREV. AVG RATINGS: 3.6 (NIU), 4.5 (MOST), 5.3 (ISU), 8.8 (WMU)
SEASON AVERAGE: 5.6
STATS: 16 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 2 passes broken up

Desmond King: 4 tackles (2 solo), 0.5 TFL
Johnny Lowdermilk: 3 tackles (3 solo)
Tanner Miller: 3 tackles (3 solo)
B.J. Lowery: 3 tackles (1 solo), 2 passes broken up
Gavin Smith: 2 tackles (1 solo)
Anthony Gair: 1 tackle (0 solo)

Those are lower ratings than you might expect for a unit that gave up just 135 yards and 1 TD through the air, but I don't think the ratings are undeserved, either.  While the final numbers for the defense were solid, there were still some breakdowns in coverage that could have been very costly (in particular, a play in the fourth quarter where the Minnesota receiver had the Iowa defense beat and would have likely scored a touchdown to cut the score to 20-14 if he'd caught the ball; luckily, Nelson overthrew him) if not for Minnesota's ineptitude in the passing game.  The Iowa defense deserves some credit for forcing them into bad decisions, but there were also plenty of overthrows by Nelson and dropped passes by his receivers.  I do think the secondary is playing better lately, but they're still the weak link of the Iowa defense and there's still ample room for improvement.

KICKING GAME

K_minn_medium

AVG: 4.5
PREV. AVG RATINGS: 5.8 (NIU), 5.5 (MOST), 4.6 (ISU), 8.2 (WMU)
SEASON AVERAGE: 6.1
STATS:

Mike Meyer: 3/4 FG (made: 49, 23, 46; missed: 39), 2/2 XP, 2/6 touchbacks
Jordan Cotton: 2 returns, 40 yards (long 25)
Minnesota kick returns: 4 returns, 158 yards (long 66)

Not surprisingly, the kicking game garners the lowest ratings of the day.  That's expected when the normally sure-footed Meyer pulls a field goal from a makeable distance (39 yards) and the kickoff coverage gets gouged for back-to-back big returns.  The latter is far more concerning than the former; Meyer may miss the odd kick here and there (especially at TCF Bank Field, where the winds seem to give some problems), but he's proven to be a pretty reliable weapon (and he did bang home three other field goal attempts).  But the kickoff coverage issue is a problem that's been getting worse week by week; at this point it's just a matter of time before an opposing return man is able to take one all the way for a touchdown.  I'm not sure what the answer is, exactly -- they brought in more starters on the return after the 66-yard return... and the Gophers still brought it back 53 yards, before a penalty lopped off 15 yards of that return.  I can only hope they've been working hard on kickoff coverage during practice this week.  There's been some speculation that Meyer was being strategically coached to kick the ball short of  the end zone; if that's the case, I hope they scrap that plan and let him boot as many kickoffs through the end zone as possible.  Yes, it's nice when you can pin an offense inside the 20 on a kickoff, but given Iowa's recent tendency to give up big returns, I'd rather just eliminate that possibility and let the opposition start on the 25-yard line.

PUNTING GAME

P_minn_medium

AVG: 6.5
PREV. AVG RATINGS: 5.8 (NIU), 5.7 (MOST), 5.7 (ISU), 9.6 (WMU)
SEASON AVERAGE: 7.0
STATS:

Connor Kornbrath: 2 punts, 59 yards (29.5 avg), 1 punt inside-20 yard line
Kevonte Martin-Manley: 2 returns, 14 yards (long 12)
Minnesota punt returns: 0 returns, 0 yards

A ho-hum day in the punting game, frankly.  Kornbrath wasn't very busy (just two punts all day) and Martin-Manley didn't get many returnable punts, which prevented any hopes of him repeating last week's stellar performance.  He did have one pretty good 12-yard return, though.  And while the decision to punt from the MINN 39-yard line was controversial, Kornbrath at least made it work by pinning the Gophers on their own nine-yard line.  In all, a quiet but solid day for the punting game.

NEXT WEEK: Sparty tries to spoil Iowa's Homecoming.  I predict more good ratings for the defense.

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