Each week we’ll rewatch the Iowa game and try to figure out what went right — and wrong — for the Hawkeyes. Catch all the previous rewatches right here.
Usually I don’t rewatch these with the sound on. I find it easier to concentrate when I have some music playing in the background and more often than not the commentators suck.
This week, however, I wanted to actually hear the crowd noise and was pleasantly surprised with the job Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Todd McShay did on the call. Levy did mess up names on occasion and called Iowa “Iowa State” more than once, but considering the Hawkeyes were playing Ohio State, I can see how in the moment you can misspeak.
Between the three of them I thought the analysis and anecdotes were good, to the point and kept the broadcast interesting. McShay’s part about Iowa studying old NFL defenses Greg Schiano had coached was absolutely fascinating. Levy has a knack for being able to call good moments and I thought the broadcast was pretty unbiased.
Kudos to them, I enjoyed hearing it all again immensely. Having a good call made the game that much sweeter.
Anyways, let’s get to the good stuff.
I’m still in shock at how thoroughly Iowa dismantled Ohio State. Forcing J.T. Barrett into bad throws was key and as I said yesterday, I felt like the pick-six at the beginning of the game gave Iowa some needed confidence.
Barrett just didn’t see Amani Hooker. The safety read the quarterback’s eyes and made a tremendous play on the ball. Touchdown.
While Hooker’s interception jolted some early life into the game, it was Josh Jackson, I think, that won this for the Hawkeyes. Not to say it was him alone, of course, but sometimes a single snap can dictate how the rest of the game plays out.
One of the biggest plays of this game — well, there’s actually one other pretty impactful one too and we’ll get to it later — was Jackson’s first interception with a little over 90 seconds left in the second quarter.
Here’s the situation. Iowa just scored a huge touchdown to go up 24-17. The Buckeyes get the ball back with 3:06 left in the first half and a couple timeouts to work with.
Barrett, to this play, is 8-of-14 for 129 yards passing and has two touchdowns against a single interception. He’s also rushed 10 times for 49 yards. Point being, he’s having a pretty good day and tOSU was able to find some holes in the Iowa defense early on.
He opens the drive with two straight throws to J.K. Dobbins, before a holding call on Josh Jackson bails the Buckeyes out of a third-down incompletion.
There’s a little bit of momentum going in Ohio State’s direction and it kinda feels like they’ll be able to make something out of this drive, or at least flip the field position a bit and go into halftime down just a single score.
Instead, Jackson again reads Barrett perfectly and the junior corner gets his third interception of the season.
Four plays later Nate Stanley finds Noah Fant from three yards out and the Hawkeyes have all the momentum in the world heading into halftime.
Jackson (rightfully) earned Walter Camp Player of the week honors for his interception hat trick.
And his B.J. Lowery-esque pick, of course. Seriously, this is one of the best interceptions I’ve seen in a looooong time and will hopefully be on highlight reels for years to come. Seriously. This was special.
I certainly hope Jackson sticks around for another year, but will not at all blame him if he decides to take his talents to the NFL early.
While Jackson’s first pick might just have been the catalyst to Iowa’s upset win, the way the entire team shut down the Ohio State offense in the second half cannot be overlooked.
If you’ll remember, the Buckeyes had some success moving the ball. Ohio State had two touchdowns in the first half, both of which were direct answers to an Iowa score.
Buckeye wide receiver Terry McLaurin blows past Manny Rugamba and Barrett finds him for an easy score. I think Rugamba is watching Dobbins (2) a bit here and by the time he recognizes what’s going on, he can’t get up to speed quick enough to catch up with McLaurin.
Amani Hooker is also playing a bit up here and is late to the party as well. This is one of those explosive plays Iowa absolutely hates to give up.
In the second quarter, the Hawkeyes are burned again.
Johnnie Dixon is in one-on-one coverage with Hooker and there’s really not a lot of players that are going to be able to match that type of speed. Barrett throws a nice ball and the Buckeyes tie the game.
After this touchdown, however, the Hawkeye defense buckles down in a big way. Ben Niemann shuts down Ohio State’s next drive with an absolutely vicious hit on second down.
Backup tackle Joshua Alabi (58) never sees Niemann coming and the Buckeyes are lucky they’re able to recover the ball.
Very little goes right for Ohio State after this point and it carried over into the second half. Barrett went 10-of-19 for 79 yards and two picks in the final 30 minutes of play.
Perhaps most importantly, Iowa was able to limit his damage on the ground to just 23 yards in the final two quarters. He gashed the Hawkeyes several times for first downs, but his longest run of the day was just 18 yards.
Iowa’s been able to shut down, or at least limit, mobile quarterbacks this season and it’s certainly a welcome change of pace.
This play really stands out to me as representative of that.
At this point, midway through the third quarter, Ohio State is very much still in this game. Iowa was forced to punt on each of its first two possessions of the second half, which was a big win for the Buckeyes.
Facing a third-and-five on its second drive of the half, Ohio State needs something to go right here. The game certainly isn’t out of hand, but Iowa has been moving the ball and the Buckeyes needed to create some sort of offensive rhythm.
That doesn’t happen. It starts with the Iowa defensive line, which gets a pass rush and is then able to contain Barrett. The secondary does an excellent job covering the receivers and he’s forced back inside to try and pick up those five yards on the ground.
He’s stopped well short of the first-down line and tOSU is forced to punt.
Iowa then marches 78 yards down the field in nine plays, scores a touchdown, and the game is effectively over. By the time Ohio State gets the ball back, there’s just 2:30 left in the third quarter. The Buckeyes — again — are forced to punt and Iowa is able to put a bow on things, scoring a touchdown on the first play of the final stanza to go up 28 points.
Game. Set. Match.
There’s one place to start with the offense and it’s Nate Stanley.
The sophomore completed 20-of-31 passes for 226 yards and five touchdowns. Iowa’s performance in the red zone was the best it’s been all season it went 7 for 7 inside the 20 yard line, scoring five touchdowns and hitting two field goals.
The red zone is a place Iowa has struggled at times this year, but it did not on Saturday. Before we dive too deep into this, let’s take a look at the snap counts. (P.S. sorry about not having defensive snaps, it was nearly impossible to see the numbers of the defensive line and I didn’t want to guess.)
OFFENSIVE SNAP COUNTS
Wide Receiver: Nick Easley (48), Matt VandeBerg (46), Ihmir Smith-Marsette (34), Brandon Smith (8).
Tight end: T.J. Hockenson (61), Noah Fant (37), Nate Wieting (19).
Running back: Akrum Wadley (45), James Butler (20), Toren Young (6).
Fullback: Brady Ross (16), Drake Kulick (15).
The first thing that jumped out to me is that Iowa went heavy. A ton. It relied on its tight ends for a huge chunk of the offense (Hockenson 5-71-2, Fant 4-54-2) and brought in a fullback 31 times to a good deal of success.
Stanley had tons of time to throw the ball and made the most of it. Hockenson had a monster first half, with three of his catches and 56 of his yards coming in the first 30 minutes.
I love this play.
Noah Fant is a bonafide red zone threat and takes two defenders with him to the right. Nick Easley takes another, which leaves Hockenson with plenty of room to get open. He makes a nice adjustment to catch the ball and Iowa goes up 17-10.
Later in the quarter, Hockenson has two more big catches that happened to come on back-to-back plays.
Stuck back near its own goal line, Iowa needs a big play to get itself out of a hole. If nothing else, getting a first down or two would help flip field position.
Hockenson finds some space in the middle, Stanley has little pressure to deal with, and the result is a critical first down.
Now, Iowa has some more room to work with. What do they do? They run nearly the same play and it works to perfection.
Plenty of time, a throw that’s right on the money and all of the sudden Iowa’s gained 46 yards on two plays.
With time ticking away in the second quarter, it prevents the Iowa defense from having to cover a short field if the drive would happen to fizzle out. Obviously the Hawkeyes are looking for more here, but getting out of bad field position has been something they’ve struggled with this year.
That didn’t happen in this game. I’m going to go out of this drive for a second to another play that Iowa ran deep in its own territory later in the game.
Empty backfield! On it’s own 10-yard line! This is confident playcalling we haven’t seen Iowa have inside it’s own 20 all season.
Yes, your options shrink once you’re backed up, but still. This was a huge step forward in this area and I loved every second of it.
Anyways, back to the second quarter. Momentum on the Hawkeyes side, this drive (I’m calling it the tight end drive) is looking like it’ll end in points. A bad decision from Nick Bosa makes it even more likely.
You know how earlier I said there was maybe another play that completely changed the game? Well, here it is.
The ball is away and Bosa launches himself at Stanley.
You can argue about the targeting rule all you want, but this was a pretty obvious call. It’s helmet-to-helmet contact and it didn’t take long for the refs to eject Bosa from the game.
Iowa’s offensive line had contained him pretty well to this point, but it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before Bosa made his presence on the field felt.
The Buckeyes are a deep enough squad that this isn’t really the reason they lost, but having one of their best defensive players ejected certainly didn’t help them.
Capitalizing on the momentum, Iowa takes a shot.
It works and suddenly the Hawks are up 24-17.
Fant and Hockenson both added another touchdown, including one for the end-of-year highlight reel.
Sam Hubbard (6) is one of the best defensive ends in the conference and he’s clinging to Stanley’s leg. Our visored quarterback pays no mind and rockets a ball to Hockenson in the back of the end zone to put Iowa up 38-17.
It takes tremendous strength to be able to do something like that and Stanley just makes it look easy. His ability to shrug off sacks and evade defenders has been lauded numerous times this year and this was just another example.
I just can’t stop being impressed with Stanley this year. He’s thrown for 22 touchdowns (tied-11th most nationally) against just four interceptions. There’s the 145.80 passer rating, the 1929 yards, the 7.4 yards per attempt... it’s all just been great.
But you wanna know the other big advantage of your quarterback going on an absolute tear?
It opens up the run game.
Iowa rushed for a total of 243 yards on just 38 attempts for an extremely healthy 6.39 yards per carry. That’s the most the Hawkeyes have rushed for all season. Akrum Wadley and James Butler simply found space and exploited it.
These two from Wadley were pretty great.
He made four guys miss on this play alone. I’m gonna miss that dude when he graduates.
Great blocking, Wadley finds the crease and away the senior went. He finished with 118 yards on 20 carries and added 40 yards receiving on three catches.
Meanwhile, for the second straight game, Iowa had James Butler back. Every game the graduate transfer from Nevada has played in, the Hawkeyes have won. That’s not a coincidence.
For Iowa’s offense to really rumble, it needs a change-of-pace back. Don’t think for a second Butler lacks an extra gear, though.
Outside of this carry Butler had just 21 yards on nine carries, but the importance of having someone else help carry the load can’t be understated.
The Hawkeyes were also able to go to him late to help salt the game away. Butler being effective gives Iowa a much better chance to do something as the season winds down.
I have a feeling he’ll be called upon quite a few times next week. They’ll certainly need every weapon to upset the Badgers.
This win was unexpected in nearly every way, but it wasn’t just simple luck. For the first time all year, Iowa was able to handle a good opponent from start to finish and looked like the better team throughout.
Brian Ferentz’s playcalling was excellent and as much a part of this win as Stanley throwing five touchdowns.
Iowa was able to execute exactly what BF wanted to do, something it hasn’t been able to do for an entire game this season. If they can tap into this type of play consistently, the ceiling for the next couple years is high.
And that’s just exciting to think about.