Sorry about this running on Tuesday, things got a little hectic. It’ll be back on Monday next week.
Week 1: Wyoming
Welcome back to the film room. Hope you enjoyed last week's edition... this has been a fun little project for me.
So last week we talked quite a bit about how good the Iowa defense was against the Cowboys. How Iowa shut down a potential first-round draft pick. How Josh Jackson had shades of some really great Iowa corners in his game. Heck, I even said Jake Gervase might truly be a great safety.
Against Iowa State, things were not great for the Hawkeye defense. In fact, it was actually the offense that stole the show. Nate Stanley was pretty solid, throwing 5 touchdowns and passing for 333 yards with a respectable 65.8 percent completion rate.
In fact, Iowa’s offense as a whole looked... quite competent for long portions of the game after not being all that great against Wyoming. The script, as one might say, was flipped.
The Iowa State game was never going to be easy for the Hawkeyes and it was anything but, needing overtime to decide the game. The Cyclones were able to spread out the Iowa offense — which stubbornly refused to spend a lot of time outside its base 4-3 — and paid the price, giving up 467 yards on 78 plays (almost six yards per play!).
As one can imagine, when I asked on Twitter for your suggestions as to what to look for this week, a lot of it had to do with the defense.
There’s some great points in here and if you’d like to see something next week, don’t hesitate to drop a line.
I started with the defense and then slid into the offense last week and I’m going to keep that in mind, but I’d like to start trying to focus on a couple smaller things and use them to help understand how the game went down.
So let’s start with Iowa State’s first drive of the game. Iowa elected to defer to the second half (a decision that ended up paying off pretty well) and the Cyclones got the ball first.
ISU’s first couple drives, in my opinion, pretty much defined what they wanted to do the rest of the game. Quick passes with a few deep bombs and a side salad of running plays. It didn’t really start to work until the last half of the game, but it did eventually work.
After giving up a four-yarder to David Montgomery and a pass to Deshaunte Jones, Iowa State found themselves with a first and 10. Matt Campbell and Co. decided to give the ball to Allen Lazard on a quick little throw.
Josh Jackson read it all the way.
Overall, it was not a great day for the secondary. Iowa got beat numerous times, but I’m not entirely unhappy with ultra-aggressive corners. That said, this happened on the very next play.
First off, Michael Ojemudia is giving Marchie Murdock far, far too much space. It’s almost 10 yards, which I didn’t really like. Josh Jackson, on the bottom of the screen, is giving up about seven or so. Now, I know Jackson has help and Ojemudia doesn’t. This is important.
As the play develops, Ben Niemann covers the middle receiver, while Miles Taylor takes the inside guy. Park immediately recognizes Murdock is going to be open and fires, completing the pass easily.
Now Iowa State uses a lot of quick passes and they were mightyy effective against Iowa. This play was also indicative of how the line played throughout the rest of the game. They were able to generate some pressure, but weren’t always able to get to Park.
Iowa had just one sack on the day, though it did have four quarterback hurries. It’s a tad worrisome the Hawkeyes weren’t able to generate more pressure — the QBH were all from defensive linemen and it was Anthony Nelson and A.J. Epenesa who combined for the sack.
None of the linebackers had so much as a tackle for loss. Now, again, Park was whipping the ball out of his hand fast and Iowa State was going quickly, but not getting pressure on the quarterback led to some pretty bad breakdowns.
Take a look at two ISU chunk plays on their first TD drive.
These were back-to-back plays where the ISU wideouts simply were able to get behind the Iowa secondary. On the first, Jake Gervase is late to the party and Bo Bower is too slow to make much of an impact.
Iowa’s mostly sitting in a zone on the first, though I believe Jackson and Niemann are in man on the second. Regardless, Iowa State’s able to use its speed and bite them. They give up 45 yards between these two plays and all of the sudden ISU is knocking on the doorstep.
These are quick plays, too. Iowa isn’t able to get any subs on — and was in fact called for a substitution infraction in the second half. The speed of Iowa State calling the plays didn’t exactly bode well for the Hawkeyes, and I’ve always felt Kirk likes to play some matchup games sometimes — especially along the defensive line. By taking away the ease of substitutions, it hurts Iowa a bit and I honestly think the team looked a little gassed later in the contest.
Iowa’s okay with giving up some yards as long as it can clamp down in the red zone which... didn’t really work. ISU was 5-of-5 in the red zone, though two of those were field goals. Lazard had two touchdowns in the red zone — including at the end of this drive — and Montgomery trucked everyone for the other.
I’ll skip a bit ahead here and throw in Lazard’s second touchdown from the third quarter. Amani Hooker gets left on an island against the best wide receiver in Iowa State history and, well, it doesn’t end all that great for the young sophomore from Minneapolis.
Lazard is a matchup nightmare, but it’s worrisome because the wide receivers in the Big Ten are just as large.
Anyways, after the nice little drive capped by the first of Lazard’s touchdowns, Iowa State really doesn’t do much else in the first half.
In fact, it’s really Iowa that starts to assert its will on a mediocre Cyclone defense. It started with a 10-play 76-yard drive immediately following ISU’s touchdown.
There was a lot of Imhir Smith-Marsette. A couple plays from the drive:
First, both of these plays use three wide receiver sets which is something Iowa only used 18 times this week. It was more prevalent against Iowa State and something I’d like to see more off. Getting Smith-Marsette, Nick Easley, Matt VandeBerg, Noah Fant and Akrum Wadley/James Butler on the field at the same time is dangerous as hell and I love it.
Iowa has a lot of options.
The Hawkeyes got Smith-Marsette going this week after deciding not to bury him on the depth chart. He only had four catches, but two of them were touchdowns. His first, a little nine-yard gain, was exactly the type of throw Stanley needed to get in rhythm.
The corner has backed off Smith-Marsette, giving him some cushion, Stanley sees it and makes an easy throw. The second half of that video is an end-around that actually works.
Nice. It’s creative and those type of wrinkles keep defenses guessing. Iowa scores on the next play with an easy swing pass to Nick Easley, who waltzes into the end zone.
Later in the second half, Iowa goes back to the three wideout set, this time in gun.
I love this play. Screens have blown up for Iowa before, but this was a good place and time to call this. Iowa State has absolutely no idea it’s coming and by the time they do get into the right spot, MVB is already down the field with his blockers. Joel Lanning is late to the party, as he was for much of the game, and it’s really a fairly easy play for Iowa make. Good stuff.
This drive fizzles out, but when Iowa has the right personnel in the game, it can get a little fancy with what it wants to do. I like that.
Sometimes, however, getting fancy isn’t always for the best. Iowa struggled with some basics in this game, including tackling. I hope Kirk has this on replay in the locker room for the next week.
Iowa State didn’t end up turning this drive into points, but it was basics like this that nearly cost the Hawkeyes the game. Part of the reason they didn’t on this particular drive was because Jacob Park missed both of his next two throws. One was due to pressure, while the other was just a wide receiver he missed.
Accuracy was not his strong point against Iowa, nor has it been during his career. He just hasn’t been able to put things on the money every time. Now, outside of a fluky interception late in the game, he doesn’t really get picked off, it’s just that some of his throws seem to just be completely... off.
Nate Stanley can, at least a little bit, relate. While our Visored King did end up with a fairly accurate day overall as I mentioned earlier in this post, there were some pretty bad moments as well.
I picked out four:
1 — Nice little pump-fake but, man, you had Smith-Marsette wide, wide open. The receiver has the corner completely beat and if that ball is a bit more inside... just have to drop it in there. Also, I like how there are four guys crowding around T.J. Hockenson.
GOOD JOB YOU GOT THE BACKUP TIGHT END LOCKED DOWN.
2— Not really entirely sure what’s going on here. Thinking that he saw the coverage and didn’t want to risk it. I don’t think this is the worst thing in the world, but it’s too bad he couldn’t get MVB in some space.
This actually made me think a little bit. Through two games, MVB has only been targeted nine times. Fant? 13. Easley? 13. Just kind of strange. I promise you this is something I’ll be coming back to.
3— Another pump fake! It’s too long though.
4— This one KILLED ME during the game. Off his fingertips. Right then and there I almost turned off the game.
There certainly were some good decisions by Stanley as well — I mean obviously, he finished with over 300 yards — but he needs to get more accurate. He’s young and it will come. I really don’t think this is something that cannot be fixed.
I love Stanley’s mechanics. He has a good release point and, man, can he sling that thing. He was getting time to throw, too. I thought overall the protection was fairly decent — Stanley was only sacked once and hurried four times. Exactly the same numbers as Park. Weird.
As the third quarter shifted into the fourth, however, it was Park doing a lot of the slinging. Twice he found Hakeem Butler late in the game for touchdowns. It’s somewhat amazing, really, that Iowa gave up to 30+ yard TD passes in the final 16 minutes of the game and still managed to come away with a win.
Here they are (NSFW) — I kid, but there’s some bad, bad coverage.
The call on 4th-and-1 is simply brilliant by Iowa State. Credit where credit is due. I mean Josh Jackson falling down certainly helps, but it was still a good playcall.
As for the 74-yarder that broke the 31-all tie. My lord, Gervase. He bit on the play-action — hard — and was completely out of place and Butler was completely open. This is a problem and something he did last week against Wyoming as well, though I’d hope he had learned something.
Yes, Iowa State was in a position where running the ball made sense. That said, outside of a few stray carries it wasn’t really something they were committed to doing the entire afternoon. They were more than happy to let Park, with fairly good protection, sling it.
It’s just something to continue to watch as the season progresses. Iowa has what should be an easy game against North Texas this weekend before getting Penn State at home under the lights.
I have no idea what’s going to happen against the Nittany Lions in two weeks, but I would like to see Iowa completely demolish North Texas like it did in 2015. That gave me some good vibes then and it would definitely give me some good vibes now.
I will say I was happy to see Iowa open up the playbook a bit against Iowa State. I think there’s still a good bit we haven’t seen yet, but this team does feel a bit different from last year.
Throwing the ball 41 times after only doing that 15 times last week was awesome. Akrum Wadley continues to be a playmaker and it is absolutely encouraging to see wide receivers other than Meerkat get a chance to catch the ball.
A total of nine different players caught a pass last week, which is a good thing to see as well. Iowa has weapons and it’s time for them to use them.
Like Drake Kulick.