During the seven-hour trip home from West Lafayette, I had plenty of time to reflect on yesterday’s game. Although I was initially displeased with how the second-stringers performed and stole some of Iowa’s style points, I came to the conclusion that this game was never in doubt and Iowa’s starters could have named the score. We can gripe about Ferentz’s ultra-conservative second half playcalling all we want, but we’ve seen this movie before and nothing is going to change. There aren’t many takeaways from yesterday, other than the running game looks normal again and we definitely see why the 1’s are the 1’s and the 2’s are the 2’s.
What went right?
Rushing Offense/Answering Purdue’s TD’s: I said in our weekly predictions that to win, Greg Davis needed to call run plays at least 70% of the time. Iowa’s playcalling has been inconsistent, to put it mildly, during the Greg Davis era. So I was skeptical that he would actually come close to that number. Much to my surprise, Iowa had 53 runs out of 73 offensive plays (72%). Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels combined for 326 yards on 38 carries, an amazing 8.6 ypc average, and 3 TD’s. Racking up numbers like that just makes everything else Iowa does look better, including play action. I still think the shuffling of the OL has helped and Keegan Render did an admirable job filling in for Cole Croston.
Daniels’ and Wadley’s longest runs both came on the first play immediately following the first two Purdue touchdowns and crushed any Purdue momentum had. That was awesome to see.
Rushing Defense: Purdue was forced to abandon the run very early in the game. Iowa’s front 4 completely dominated the line of scrimmage. Purdue was held to 46 rushing yards on 22 attempts. Purdue had a whopping 60 pass attempts and we can probably dissect that in further detail because Iowa looked shaky there, but forcing teams to get one-dimensional is key for any defense. And yes, I know that’s just Purdue, but we all saw how juggernauts like Northwestern, Miami of Ohio, and North Dakota State gashed Iowa’s run defense. Consecutive weeks of excellent run defense is encouraging.
Out of the gates: Iowa came out firing and set the tone for the rest of the game. I think it’s safe to say that Iowa’s offense is not built to score quickly when playing from behind. That just makes it even more important that they come out of the gates and jump on their opponent.
What went wrong?
Penalties: Damn it guys! 12 penalties for 96 yards. What has happened to the one of the hallmarks of Iowa football? Granted, that number includes one or two intentional delays, but that number also includes four of the 15 yard variety. I have harped on the penalty issue for a couple weeks now and it is becoming alarming. Iowa is just not good enough to overcome almost 100 lost yards against the Wisconsin’s and Michigan’s of the world.
Zero pass rush: As mentioned before, Purdue had an amazing 60 pass attempts. This should have provided an opportunity to rack up a few sacks. Not so much. Iowa was credited with two sacks but those came very early when Purdue wasn’t forced to pass. When it was apparent Purdue had abandoned the running game, I really would have liked to see an occasional blitz or something to break up David Blough’s rhythm in the second half. Iowa’s DL seems to have re-gained their focus on their run stoppage, but they still lack the strength to bring a serious pass rush. Iowa is going to need that weapon to slow down the stronger teams coming up. This also leads me to my final critique...
Take the shackles off the 2nd string: The performance of the 2’s seems to have led to a pretty deep divide between fans. Did Iowa pull the starters too early? Did they leave the 2’s in too long? Should Iowa have tried to run it up, Michigan-Rutgers style?I think the question really is “Why didn’t the 2’s get any help?” The playcalling for the backups was garbage. Purdue had been stacking the box with 10 defenders since midway through the second quarter. The starters are good enough to compensate for that. The backups are not. But instead, the backups ran stretch-stretch-play action pass for two consecutive three-and-out’s. Those were followed by two punts inside the 40 yardline which became touchbacks (puke). I’m all for easing off the throttle when the game is out of reach, but if the backups are going to be playing against a starting defense, please mix it up a little bit to at least give them a chance to succeed. Michigan is able to get by with its backups because their backups are still 4 and 5 star athletes. Iowa’s are not. Help them out a little bit.
Same with the defense. Iowa was consistently in a nickel with the backups in but they let a woefully undersized DL try to generate a pass rush and it gave Blough all day to pick apart the rest of the defense. Help the guys out a bit. Send someone on a blitz. Do a stunt. Something.
That was my biggest gripe yesterday. I’m happy to see the backups get in there, but at this stage, they need to build some confidence. They’re only an injury from being in the real thing. The coaching staff needs to help them out a bit.
Otherwise, the starters really dominated. At one point in the second quarter, the yardage differential was 322-38. The pick 6 by Desmond King, and the big play answers by the RB’s showed that Iowa was clearly superior and the game wasn’t close and was an ass kicking, despite the score.
Bring on the Badgers.