The Good: Red Zone Defense
As a whole, Iowa's defense was excellent on Saturday. Wisconsin was held to 86 yards rushing, 234 yards passing, and turned the ball over a total of four times. Iowa forced Wisconsin to make Joel Stave beat them and ultimately, he couldn't. They made him turn the ball over either by fumble or interception and Iowa's offense capitalized on his mistakes, scoring all 10 points off of Stave related turnovers. And when it really mattered, Iowa's defense held in the red zone.
It's tough to believe that Wisconsin only made it into the red zone twice, both times in the fourth quarter and walked away with zero points. The first trip came with around 10 minutes left in the game when Wisconsin almost started in the red zone thanks to Joe Schobert forcing Beathard to fumble on Iowa's 27-yard line. A couple minutes later, Wisconsin was knocking on the door and drove to Iowa's one-yard line. It was there that Stave made arguably his worst decision of the day.
Wisconsin fans will say that Stave tripped on Micah Kapoi, made the horrible decision to still try to get the ball to Taiwan Deal and the ball just ended up in Iowa's hands. I'd partially agree with that. As an Iowa fan I would argue that the reason he tripped over Kapoi was because Nate Meier forced Kapoi into that position, yes Stave made a bad decision to try to get the ball to Deal instead of just tucking it and yes the ball ended up in Iowa's hands. I mean, Meier actually tackled Deal onto the football and Faith Ekakitie still ended up recovering the fumble. Remember FFI's piece on fumbles? Sometimes you just catch breaks your way. Iowa caught a break by recovering that fumble.
The second trip into the red zone was during Wisconsin's last grasp at victory late in the fourth quarter. Starting the drive at their own 47-yard line, they quickly drove to Iowa's 24 and set up for what would be their final series. On 1st and 10, Dare Ogunbowale rushed for a three-yard gain. 2nd and 7, Dare drops a pass. 3rd and 7, Stave completes a five-yard pass to set up 4th and 2 on Iowa's 16. Iowa then calls a timeout and prepares for what would be Wisconsin's final offensive play of the day. The play was a simple four yard out by tight end Troy Fumagalli. Stave dropped back, had decent protection (though it looked like Niemann jumped and tried to disrupt the throw at the last second) and looked for Fumagalli the whole way. Fisher, who had coverage, was beaten as Fumagalli cut to the outside past the first down marker...and Stave just overthrew it. Iowa gets the ball back and game over.
The Bad: Red Zone Offense
Alternatively, Iowa's red zone offense was less than spectacular. Of the four opportunities, Iowa only converted on half of them. First, Ferentz made the decision to go for it on 4th and 2 on Wisconsin's eight-yard line. Beathard was hurried by (who else) Schobert and the pass to HKC was incomplete. You can make your own arguments about whether or not that was a good decision. Iowa's second opportunity came midway through the second quarter when Marshall Koehn missed a 27-yard field goal from the Wisconsin nine-yard line. We won't discuss this again, Marshall.
The third and fourth opportunities came late in the second quarter when Iowa scored all of their points off of Joel Stave turnovers. Iowa's only touchdown of the day came on a play action bootleg with George Kittle in the flat. He was wide open and Wisconsin was probably expecting the run. Iowa converted their final trip into the red zone with a 33 yard Koehn field goal, but they might not have had to settle for a field goal had they not shot themselves in the foot. The Hawkeyes had a 3rd and 4 from Wisconsin's nine-yard line when they were flagged for delay of game, one of two delay of game penalties they incurred. This set up a 3rd and 9, C.J. was hurried on his throw and Iowa had to settle for a field goal.
The Ugly: Everything Involving the Passing Game
Beathard's stat line was not pretty: 9/21, 77 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception. What's of greater concern was that he was sacked four times, thrice by Joe Schobert. Didn't they know Schobert was going to be a problem? He had eight tackles, forced two fumbles and hurried Beathard FIVE (!) times. This wasn't all on Beathard. He was doing what he could with the time he was allowed and made some decent throws even when his wide receivers weren't open. And yeah, missing Tevaun hurt. Regardless, pass protection was less than decent Wisconsin's defense made it tough to throw. Oh well: