The story of the Minnesota game is one that has been rehashed over and over again: a string of insane, hideous, frustrating missed opportunities. A good way to appreciate this is to look at the number of "Expected Points" Iowa left on the field. The concept of Expected Points allows us to estimate the number of points a team can be expected to score on average on a drive, given a certain down and distance.* Here's how Iowa rated on a few choice drives Saturday:
- 13:30 left in 1st quarter, 1st and 10 at the Minnesota 39. Expected Points: 2.72; Actual Points: 0 [turnover on downs]
- 8:15 left in 1st quarter, 1st and 10 at Iowa 49. Expected Points: 1.98; Actual Points: 0 [punt]
- 3:00 left in 1st quarter, 1st and 10 at Minnesota 14. Expected Points: 4.44; Actual Points: 0 [missed FG]
- 12:00 left in 2nd quarter, 1st and 10 at Minnesota 11. Expected Points: 4.65; Actual Points: 0 [missed FG]
- 3:45 left in 3rd quarter, 1st and 10 at Minnesota 20. Expected Points: 4.08; Actual Points: 0 [sack/fumble]
Step 2: Crazy wide defensive linemen
- Credit where credit is due: the Hawks took a smart gamble going for it on 4th and 6 from the Minnesota 35. By my calculations, going for it made sense (as compared to landing a punt at the Minnesota 15) if Iowa felt they could make it more than 20% of the time. The break-even percentage for a field goal is roughly the same -- 21% -- so that would have been a decent option, too. It didn't work out, but it was still a decent bet. The problem is that none of the options are particularly good from the opponent's 35.
- Missed field goals from 24 and 43 yards: more proof that field goals in college are for suckers. The one that came on 4th and 2 from the 6 was an especially dubious choice.
- A lot of people have been talking about the decision by Iowa to sit on the ball going into the half, and I'm of two minds on the issue. Obviously, if the Hawks thought they had a better chance of scoring than getting scored on as a result of that drive, they should have tried to get some points. But given their struggles in obvious passing situations, I sort of understand why they are so skittish about the two minute drill. That's not really an excuse, though. The two minute drill is such a critical skill for any team to master that admitting you just can't do it is sort of like a pilot admitting he can fly the plane, just not at night.
- Iowa's defense again had trouble with a running quarterback, and you can see how it's starting to affect Iowa's pass defense. On the 61-yard pass play that set up Minnesota's first touchdown, you can see on the replay that the Hawks are in quarters coverage, but that Shaun Prater's eyes are focused on MarQueis Gray as he rolls to his right. A second later and the pass is over Prater's head and complete for a big gain that got the Gophers back into the game. It's not totally clear if Tanner Miller was expected to help out over the top on that play (he certainly wasn't covering anyone else), but it looks like Miller is focused on covering the middle of the field, not the outside. There was also a play near the goal-line where Prater had his eyes on Gray and ignored a tight end breaking open late for a touchdown pass. There have been a few plays this year where Prater's eagerness to get to the ball and make a tackle (I'm thinking of the Sunseri run/pass option play against Pitt) has taken him out of position in coverage. It's a tough dilemma to be in, especially when the other option is letting the quarterback run free for 15 yards, but there needs to be some understanding between Miller and Prater on those plays.