The Good: Red Zone Offense & Defense
One of the most impressive statistics from Saturday's game was Iowa's perfect red zone scoring percentage. Of the five red zone scoring chances, Iowa scored touchdowns all five times. These were:
- Jordan Canzeri's 16-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, giving Iowa a 7-0 lead.
- Canzeri's 10-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, set up by C.J. Beathard's 16-yard pass to Jacob Hillyer, giving Iowa a 14-0 lead.
- Canzeri's 3-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, set up by Beathard's 12-yard pass to Henry Krieger-Coble, giving Iowa a 35-13 lead.
- Canzeri's 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, set up by a North Texas penalty (although Canzeri had rushed to the Mean Green 4-yard line prior to the pass interference penalty coming on third down), giving Iowa a 42-16 lead.
- Akrum Wadley's 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, set up by Wadley and Derrick Mitchell running wild on the Mean Green second string (that's fun to say), giving Iowa a 55-16 lead.
There was a mixture of impressive runs from 10-yards or more from Canzeri, Beathard and Co. giving Jordan easy scoring opportunities and Wadley and Mitchell simply beating the Mean Green into submission late in the game. When taking on an opponent there should be no reason why you have to settle for a field goal. Iowa had no reasons on Saturday and made the best out of every opportunity.
If it seems like North Texas was in Iowa's red zone more than three times it's because they almost made it twice but ended up settling for field goals on the 21-yard line. North Texas went 2/3 in the red zone, which doesn't sound great for Iowa's defense, but consider the circumstances:
- North Texas's first red zone scoring opportunity came on a fumble recovery following a botched trick play by Iowa. They were set up on Iowa's six-yard line and needed a trick play of their own to score their only touchdown of the day, cutting Iowa's lead to 28-13.
- North Texas's second red-zone scoring opportunity came on their first drive of the third quarter when they marched all the way down to Iowa's 14-yard line after starting from their own 25. With how the defense played for the majority of that series, they were fortunate to hold North Texas to a field goal. On second down the Hawkeyes brought pressure and Andrew McNulty was hurried by Cole Fisher into throwing an incomplete pass. On third down the Hawkeyes, for lack of a better word, got lucky that McNulty threw a pass a foot too high in the end zone, because Carlos Harris had found the soft spot in Iowa's zone. The Mean Green had to settle for a field goal, making the score 35-16.
The Mean Green's sole failure in the red zone came late in the third quarter when both team's second units were on te field. North Texas started at their own 19-yard line and drove all the way down to Iowa's 11, before being backed up by a false start penalty and calling their final red zone play from the 16. It was there that North Texas quarterback Josh Greer made a questionable decision and his pass ended up in the arms of Bo Bower. The linebacker decided that an interception wasn't enough so he ran 88 yards in the opposite direction, completing the pick six and giving Iowa a 62-16 lead.
The Bad: The Edge
I initially wanted to fault the defensive line as a whole but considering the tackles did a relatively decent job at stuffing the middle, the ends and outside linebackers will have to suffer. Consider that Iowa was 5th in the nation in run defense entering Saturday's contest, only allowing 51 yards per game. The Hawkeyes had given up 53 yards at halftime and gave up (by my count) another 84 in the third quarter, prior to the second team coming in. That's 135 yards against one of the worst (sorry, D-Mac) teams in the nation.
The problem was Iowa's problem in 2014: The inability to seal the edge. This was never more evident than on the Mean Green's first two drives of the third quarter when they accumulated 56 of their 104 total yards by rushing to the outside (primarily the left). Iowa's ends would get sucked into the scrum, lose containment and Iowa's outside (and inside for that matter) linebackers would have to chase down the running back after a solid gain. Fortunately, North Texas couldn't throw the ball to save their life so Iowa's inability to stop the run was ultimately irrelevant. But Wisconsin doesn't have the same problems North Texas does...so let's work on that, Iowa?
The Ugly: MARSHALL NO!
A bit of humor here. Iowa had the nation's longest streak of games without a missed or blocked PAT attempt. The Hawkeyes had gone 59 games without a missed PAT. Kickers had made 185 straight attempts until Marshall Koehn missed the PAT late in the third quarter after Josey Jewell's pick six. Per Rick Brown:
Koehn said he was upset that his kickoff hadn't gone into the end zone for a touchback and was still stewing about it when Jewell had his interception return for a touchdown two plays later. So Koehn wasn't zoned in for the PAT and missed it right.
Can you believe this kid? Koehn went 7/8 on touchbacks, missed one and he's so upset about a missed touchback that he misses a PAT? Talk about a perfectionist. What's more impressive is that on two of those touchbacks (or more, correct me if I'm wrong), he actually hit the uprights. You're doing fine, Marshall. Believe us when we tell you.