Each week I’ll be rewatching the week’s game. What worked? What didn’t? Film don’t lie.
Week 1: Wyoming
Week 2: Iowa State
Week 3: North Texas
Iowa nearly pulled the upset. We all saw it, of course but my God was this game close.
I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise — after all, it was in Kinnick Stadium. Magic happens there. Sometimes, though, the clock turns to midnight and everything comes crashing back down. As Kirk Ferentz would say, that’s football.
Let’s take a look at just what happened.
First and foremost, the Iowa defense was incredible in this game. Josey Jewell received co-Big Ten defensive player of the week honors for his valiant effort but a ton of credit should go to the D-Line as well. We’ll get back to Jewell later.
Anthony Nelson was a beast in this game and finished with 2.5 sacks, two pass break-ups, a blocked field goal and a QB hurry.
Iowa used a bunch of different players on the defensive line. On this play, Parker Hesse is actually playing defensive tackle, which happened several times during this game. A.J. Epenesa and Anthony Nelson are at the defensive end spots, while Brady Reiff is at the other tackle spot.
Almost immediately, Epenesa shoots hard toward the quarterback and falls, but takes the offensive tackle with him. Nelson is gunning hard from his spot, and after Trace McSorley is forced to move up in the pocket, he disengages from his man and cleans up the play.
Iowa’s in a base 4-3 on this play, has good coverage down the field, and gets a stop on PSU’s second series. Speaking of 4-3, Iowa ran with its base personnel nearly the entire game. The Hawkeyes used nickel on nine plays — on a 3rd and 12 on the opening drive and eight times on the Penn State’s final march.
Here’s Epenesa’s first sack of the day, which came on Penn State’s first drive.
Both Nelson and Hesse get a good push off the snap here and immediately push McSorley back inside. Once again, Nelson cleans up the play with a nice sack
Oh, and his critical blocked field goal.
Defensive end snap counts: A. Nelson 65, Hesse 55, Epenesa 37, Sam Brincks 33. Brincks played a decent game, but Epenesa didn’t have the edge in snap counts until PSU’s final drive. Personally, I’d like to see even more of Epenesa.
I know he’s a freshman and still adjusting to the rigors of the game but this dude can ball and needs to be in the game as much as possible. Look at him destroy Saquon Barkley on a read option.
Jewell takes McSorley on this play and brings down the quarterback for a loss. Nice play.
Later in the game, the duo combine for another great play.
The announcers were whining this play should have been reviewed, but I thought it was pretty clearly a fumble. Epenesa blows past his guy and Jewell is there to grab onto the ball.
Jewell had a hand in both turnovers the Iowa defense forced, the second being this beauty of a pick.
Brincks has the pressure and helps disrupt the throw. Jewell read the ball perfectly and set Iowa up in great field position with a 33-yard return. Iowa scored one play later on a 21-yard touchdown to Nick Easley that gave the Hawkeyes a 7-5 lead going into halftime.
One of the knocks on Jewell people love to come up with is that he’s not as quick or athletic as other linebackers. Against Penn State he did have a couple miscues, but for the most part he was solid when asked to help out in pass coverage.
I thought this deflection was an excellent example of both his athleticism and football intelligence.
Phil Parker dials up a blitz, sending Bo Bower and Jewell after the quarterback. Bower gets eaten up by a lineman but Jewell isn’t touched as he runs after McSorley. Timing his jump perfectly, he helps prevent the drive from being extended.
This is an excellent play-call, and Penn State would missing the ensuing 41-yard field goal. That’s a win in every sense of the word for the defense.
Jewell’s true value, however, comes with his innate ability to stop running plays. Penn State did rush for 295 yards on the ground, but only scored two touchdowns on the day. Why? Because Iowa kicked ass and took name inside the red zone.
Jewell displays incredible patience on this play, allowing Ben Niemann — who’s coming off the top edge on a blitz — and the defensive line to stop Barkley. He doesn’t get sucked into the play or fooled by the read option and stops McSorley before he can across the goal line.
Iowa held Penn State to a field goal, another win for the Hawkeye defense.
Not everything was perfect, obviously, and Barkley did score a red zone touchdown in the third quarter. Take a look:
Jewell nearly makes the stop here, too. Miles Taylor can’t quite slow down Barkley and he races in for an eight-yard score. If Taylor gets a slightly better angle and causes the Heisman frontrunner (don’t even argue) to pull off more of a move, Jewell probably either pushes him out or tackles him short of the goal line.
Barkley hurt Iowa a bunch in this game both through the air and on the ground. He’s a shifty back, makes people miss and has those plays that make you just go wow. I know this run was shortened because he stepped out a little early, but this still was a great, great play.
That said, the biggest chunk-yardage plays in this game... belonged to Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ three scoring plays:
Nick Easley displays some really great body control and comes down with a clean catch. It’s a nice ball from Stanley, too. However, Iowa’s passing offense really wasn’t all that impressive during the game.
VandeBerg had a drop and Stanley missed him a couple times. Easley was only able to come down with two of his targets. Ihmir Smith-Marsette had a real, real nice grab but other than that it was mostly short stuff.
Fant had just one catch and actually wasn’t even exclusively the No. 1 tight end for the whole game — T.J. Hockenson had 14 snaps as the lone tight end. That’s not something that’s really happened a whole lot this year and mean’s he’s earned a bit more playing time.
The Hawkeyes went two tight ends just 10 times which is, by far, the lowest number they’ve done that this year so far.
Circling back to the touchdowns, however, it was again Akrum Wadley who gave Iowa life. His two second-half touchdowns were both things of beauty and were simply great moments.
This kills me, but think about this — if Wadley would have been flagged for that high step — Iowa is probably able to run enough clock to win this game. That said, the high step looked justified as he was pretty obviously trying to avoid tripping over a Penn State defenders arms as they were diving towards the running back.
Couple other notes: Toren Young did not play and Ivory Kelly-Martin was on the field for just three plays. Interestingly enough, Kelly-Martin had catches on two of his three snaps.
Lastly. Just. Damn. There’s not much to say about this.
Game of inches indeed.