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THE MONDAY REWATCH — NORTHWESTERN

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Better late than never, amirite?

Iowa v Northwestern
It’s all getting frustrating, you know?
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Each week I’ll rewatch the Iowa game and try to piece together just what happened. Sorry about the delay on this, was having some technical issues with the video.

You can find all the previous rewatches I’ve done right here and all these videos (sometimes there are extras I can’t fit in) on the BHGP Film Room YouTube channel.

It’s been two days and I still don’t feel any better about Iowa’s loss to Northwestern on Saturday. I mean, you never feel good when your team loses but dear goodness this was a game the Hawkeyes could have and should have won.

Overarching thoughts:

  • The defense again played well despite being put in bad situations numerous times. They couldn’t come up with a turnover, however, and that very well might have decided the game. Ben Niemann was solid at the middle linebacker spot and Kevin Ward was okay at the outside. Ward is a much smaller player than Niemann and it showed during the game. Phil Parker needs Josey Jewell back pronto.
  • Ryan Gersonde had a terrific day punting and while he was helped a bit by the wind, he looked a lot more comfortable than he did against Illinois. We might have a punter, everyone.

Miguel Recinos also missed what ended up being a critical field goal in the first quarter from 37-yards out. It’s just his second miss of the year, but points are at a premium with this offense.

  • Offensively Iowa looked great — or at least above mediocre — in the first quarter but struggled to string together drives after that. The Hawkeyes had three drives of 11 or more plays on the day: the first two in the first quarter and the very last drive of regulation. In between Iowa ran 30 plays for 123 yards — 61 of which came on one throw.

That is, as you say, not ideal.

Iowa’s now averaging 21 points per game in four Big Ten contests, which ranks seventh in the conference. If you take out the fourth quarter against Illinois, that average would drop to 16 points per game — a mark that would tie with Indiana as the 12th-worst in the league.

Yikes.

There really weren’t a whole lot of positives to take from this game, though the first two offensive drives of the were solid. Iowa used a lot of its 22 package (RB, FB, two TE, and one WR) and it certainly had its effective moments.

This is the second play of Iowa’s second drive.

The wide receiver in this set is normally Ihmir Smith-Marsette and you can see him at the bottom of your screen. Stanley puts Fant in motion and loads up left side of the field.

Northwestern shifts a bit, perhaps expecting a stretch run to the outside, but instead the Hawkeyes run it up the gut. Brady Ross makes an excellent block on the linebacker and Akrum Wadley’s speed is enough to get him to the second level.

Noah Fant avoids a block in the back late in the play and while it does allow the defender to catch Wadley, Iowa still gets a nice little gain.

The very next play, Iowa uses a similar formation. It’s a 13 now (three tight ends) instead of a 22, however.

Brian Ferentz subs Ross out for Nate Wieting, which is the only personnel change on this play. Stanley motions Wieting into a traditional fullback spot and away we go.

Northwestern is completely sold on the run here. Both of the linebackers bite on the play-action fake and Fant has plenty of room to work with. He runs about a 15-yard post route and makes an easy catch for a gain of 17 yards.

Iowa being Iowa, they again used the same formation on the next play and it did not work.

Iowa keeps Wieting on the field and again motions him into the backfield. This time, however, Northwestern decides to run a stunt with their outside linebacker Nate Hall and defensive end Trent Goens.

It’s brutally effective. Goens takes Wirfs out of the play completely and Hall has a free shot at Wadley, which he takes without hesitation.

Iowa shies away from the 22 package for a couple plays, before going back to it on a 2nd and 4 later in the drive. Stanley swung the ball out to Wadley, who was dropped for a loss.

The Hawkeyes didn’t use the 22 or 13 formation again, until its last offensive play of the half, a touchdown to Noah Fant.

Northwestern again is expecting nothing but a run, but Iowa doesn’t even use a play fake. Nate Stanley has plenty of time to complete the pass and whips it to Fant, who has just put the finishing touches on a nice stick route.

Iowa used a 22 or 13 eight times against Northwestern. This was the last time:

3rd and 1, late in the game and... Wadley is stuffed. Was it a bad playcall? Maybe. Northwestern knew Iowa was going to try and run it up the cut with that play and brought eight defensive players into the box.

It never had a chance. Would a QB sneak, or a fullback dive (which Iowa still has yet to run this season) or even a sneaky bootleg or something been a better choice here? Maybe.

If you want to criticize the play calling (and there is plenty of reason to) then this might be one of the plays you scratch your head at. Iowa went conservative on the next play, electing to kick a field goal after a false start cost them five yards.

Anyways, I thought the usage of those packages were interesting, if nothing else. It worked at the beginning, so it almost seems like they thought it’d work when they needed it most.

It didn’t and instead of having an opportunity to win the game in regulation, the Hawkeyes fell in overtime.

SNAP COUNTS

Wide receiver: Nick Easley (54), Matt VandeBerg (43), Ihmir Smith-Marsette (25), Brandon Smith (12), Max Cooper (2).

Tight end: T.J. Hockenson (55), Noah Fant (34), Nate Wieting (9).

Running back: Akrum Wadley (59), Toren Young (7).

Fullback: Brady Ross (9), Drake Kulick (2).

Nothing too out of the ordinary here, though Hockenson had significantly more snaps than Noah Fant did. Wieting is really getting himself in the mix as well, though a lot of it has to do with the formation I discussed above.

Nick Easley and Matt VandeBerg both had similar snap counts to what they did last week. Brandon Smith found himself in the game early and fairly often as well. Max Cooper played for two snaps on the first drive and then didn’t see the field on offense for the rest of the game.

I was scratching my head about that one.

As far as the passing offense goes, it had its ups and downs. On the bright side, Stanley completed one of his longest passes of the season late in the second quarter.

Just a nice pass with good touch and a nice catch. Excellent stuff.

There also were some... not so great moments. Stanley completely misses a wide open Akrum Wadley (in space, I might add) for a double-covered T.J. Hockenson. To be fair, Hockenson nearly made the catch and the ball wasn’t really in danger of being picked, but still.

Just one of those frustrating woulda, coulda, shoulda plays.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, Iowa again struggled to come up with effective offense in the final two quarters of play. It was incredibly hard to watch at some points and all came to head for me on the drive following Northwestern’s first touchdown.

Iowa started the drive strong with a nine-yard completion to Nick Easley and then a six-yard Akrum Wadley run.

The next three plays — Wadley -3 yard rush, the monstrosity you’re about to watch, and finally a -1 yard pass completion on 3rd and 15.

If you pause at the six-second mark, you’ll see three Northwestern players three yards past the line of scrimmage, Nate Stanley desperately try to block all three and Alaric Jackson behind everyone else. It’s an awful play call and awful execution of said awful play call.

Jackson didn’t have a very good day and also allowed a drive-killing sack on Iowa’s second drive of the game.

Disappointing, to say the least.

Let’s move to the defense before I go insane.

POSITIONAL SNAP COUNTS

Defensive end: Anthony Nelson (50), Parker Hesse (44), A.J. Epenesa (31), Sam Brincks (27).

Defensive tackle: Matt Nelson (52), Nathan Bazata (49), Cedrick Lattimore (32), Brady Reiff (15), Garret Jansen (8), Parker Hesse (5).

Iowa went goal line (Epenesa, Reiff, Lattimore, Bazata, Matt Nelson, Parker Hesse) four times, those snaps aren’t included because basically everyone’s a defensive tackle in that situation.

The Hawkeyes went nickel six times to varying degrees of success. We also had the long-awaited return of the RAIDER package. Stand-up defensive lineman. Wow!

On this play it actually worked rather well mostly because I don’t think Northwestern had any idea what the hell they were looking at.

It’s really more of a nickel and while it was kinda hard to tell from the video, I *think* it’s Manny Rugamba, Josh Jackson, Jake Gervase, Amani Hooker, and Michael Ojemudia in for the Hawkeyes. Bo Bower and I believe Kevin Ward are the linebackers here, with Ben Niemann off the field.

Your defensive line was Epenesa and Anthony Nelson at defensive end with Jansen and Parker Hesse at defensive tackle. Hesse also normally plays tackle in Iowa’s base nickel package, so this doesn’t really surprise me.

After working twice, it stopped working. Most notably on one of the most important plays of the game. Iowa has Northwestern in a 3rd and 15 situation and...

This time Kevin Ward is off the field.

Iowa can’t stop Thorson, Northwestern gets down the field and a couple plays later Jeremy Larkin is gets into the end zone. Disappointing.

Speaking of linebackers, however, I thought Ben Niemann played fairly solid at the middle linebacker spot. Two plays where I thought he was exceptional:

Ouch.

Niemann’s not terrible in pass coverage normally, but this was really just an excellent play to bat the ball away. He didn’t seem out of his element, honestly, and seemed comfortable with the shift in position.

That said, the only play he couldn’t make cost Iowa the game.

Justin Jackson is a tremendous player and he’s hard for anyone to stop, but Niemann was still so, so close to stopping him and potentially saving the game.

To be fair, this game shouldn’t have even gone anywhere near overtime in the first place. Sigh.

Iowa’s 4-3 (1-3 B1G) on the season with Minnesota on the horizon. I’ll be back next week with another wrap. Hopefully it won’t be as depressing as this one.