Five things we learned at Tuesday's press conference:
1. The up-tempo thing isn't dead yet. Iowa's offense was extremely effective for one quarter Saturday, and its problems in the second half weren't busted plays or bad communication as much as minor, easy-to-fix mistakes. Compared with last season, this offense was the 1998 Minnesota Vikings. No need to overreact and throw the baby out with the bath water.
Fortunately, Kirk agrees:
Q. Are you comfortable with the tempo your offense has set, which is so much faster than it has been in the past? (Scott Dochterman, Cedar Rapids Gazette)
COACH FERENTZ: It will be week-to-week. I thought for the most part we operated well on Saturday. Communication for the most part was pretty good. It was fairly effective but we still want more points. And yardage is one thing, but when you get the turnovers and come up short on points, that's tough. But we did a better job when we got in there. At least we finished with some touchdowns.
The question remains whether Iowa actually slowed down in the third quarter or not. After taking 47 snaps in the first half, Iowa ran just 11 plays in the third quarter. With that said, the pace between plays didn't move significantly in the third quarter; again, it was an issue of -- I can't believe I'm saying this -- execution over structure. And that's why Ferentz's answer to the follow-up on whether they should have slowed down in the second half will blow your mind:
Q. There were times where it was 12 to 14 to 19 seconds in between plays where in the past where you may have slowed it down. (Scott Dochterman, Cedar Rapids Gazette)
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, there were a couple actually where the officials kind of slowed us down a little bit, too. We would have liked to have gone a little quicker. It's something we started on in the spring, and like I said, what we will choose week-to-week, how much or how little we do of it but it's something our guys are executing a little more
proficiently; if we think we can use it to our advantage, we will try to.
Question: Shouldn't you have slowed down?
Answer: The refs slowed us down or we would have gone faster.
2. Situational awareness. The other new, very un-Iowa development Saturday was the advent of the pass rush specialist. The Hawkeyes shuffled backup linebacker Quinton Alston and sophomore Nate Meier in at defensive end. Alston's never played end, at least not at Iowa, and Meier is undersized at the least, but on a team that is seriously lacking in explosion at end, it's another step in the right direction. Kirk apparently agrees:
Q. Defensively, you were using Quenton [sp] Alston on the pass rush, much like you were with Nate Meier earlier back in fall camp, how did you feel he did with, that and is that something you're looking to get more out of during the course of the season or is that just specific - (Brendan Stiles, hawkeyedrive.com)
COACH FERENTZ: Well, we'll fool around with that on the passing, obvious passing downs, and just hoping to get a little bit more change of tempo out there a little bit. He's done some good things in practice that was good. I thought Nate Meier for the first time, he's really played -- certainly he's never played with his hand on the ground. That was a good positive start for him. I think he got 10, 12 snaps, something like that.
Jordan Lynch's running ability forced Iowa into a defensive strategy focused on containing the quarterback. Expect a lot more experimentation on the defensive line this week.
3. LeShun, LeShunned? After telling everyone he'd play, Ferentz opted to sit LeShun Daniels throughout Saturday's game. In a vacuum, it made some sense: Damon Bullock and Mark Weisman were both extremely effective against Northern Illinois, and there was no need to work in a third back. Leaving a guy out after talking about him as much as Ferentz had this August has an effect, though. Daniels' brother, a key offensive line recruit for 2015, was reportedly on the sideline Saturday and probably would have liked to see his older brother in action.
He'll probably see him this week:
Q. Are you still looking to get LeShun in there? (Tom Kakert, hawkeyereport.com)
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, our plan was to play him all the way. Just didn't open up the other day. He's definitely on the straight-ahead list right now.
Ferentz also mentioned the Reese Fleming is "working through a leg issue" that kept him out Saturday, and should be ready for this week.
4. Wherefore art thou, Damond Powell? Iowa's fastest wideout, junior college transfer Damond Powell, spent Saturday running go routes almost exclusively. Ferentz chalked that up to his recent arrival -- he was not on campus for spring practice -- and a lack of knowledge of the offense. Expect more:
Q. Is Damond Powell's role minimized right now because of the familiarity with the offense and will it expand as the season goes on? (Scott Dochterman, Cedar Rapids Gazette)
COACH FERENTZ: Certainly we will try to grow him, grow his role a little bit. He wasn't here in the spring so it's a disadvantage. So it's how fast can you learn things, how fast can he pick things up, and also can we make it
fit with what the other guys do. He's a high-energy guy, likes playing football. So we are going to try to keep him involved.
Iowa so desperately needs a deep threat, and Powell provides it. But it also needs a playmaker in the flat and a guy who can generate some yards after the catch. Powell can provide that, too, as he showed at a lower level last year. Saturday wasn't the best day ever for Iowa's wide receivers, but they looked better than they did at almost any point last year. Powell can be key in their development going forward.
5. Gary Barta would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you snoopy kids! Not in Ferentz's press conference but important to Tuesday's event was Gary Barta's statement on the ticket situation. Iowa is about 6,000 tickets short of a sellout for its next two home games, Missouri State and Western Michigan. Big Ten games are approaching sellout status, but there have been some empty seats in the student section:
"Our biggest missing factor right now is students," Barta said. "We want students in the stadium and in the arena because they create that great collegiate flair and excitement. But if you looks historically across the country and certainly at Iowa in football and basketball; when we win the students fill it up. When we lose, traditionally and historically, those are the seats that empty out first. So I guess the answer is we just have to find a way to win week after week and the students will come back."
"They still haven't purchased a lot of them, so we're starting to sell them to the general public," Barta said. "Were it not for the students, we're pretty close to sellouts in several of our games and we weren't that far away the other day minus the students."
As someone who was a student during the 1-10 1999 season, I completely understand the desire to stay at the tailgate. But Barta's already moved the students into worse seats than they used to be in, and has steadfastly refused to improve student seating at Carver Hawkeye Arena for basketball. If student attendance doesn't pick up and ol' Bloodpunch decides to take back another section of seats, it would be a travesty. And I have no doubt that is where he is going with statements like this.