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THE REWATCH — INDIANA

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Does Iowa have the two best tight ends in the nation? Sure might.

Iowa v Indiana
Hockenson outran the entire Indiana secondary on this play
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Each week we’ll take a look at what went right — and wrong — for the Hawkeyes on Saturday. Catch all the previous rewatches right here.

For the second week in a row, Nate Stanley threw for over 300 yards (his second straight week doing that) as Iowa beat Indiana 42-16. He also tossed six scores, which is tied for second-most in single-game Iowa history, a place in history Nate Stanley now shares with Chuck Long.

It was the 11th multi-touchdown game of Stanley’s career (19 starts) and his fourth-straight. The Iowa passing offense is for real and it’s dangerous. Both T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant topped 100 yards receiving and five different players caught touchdowns against the Hoosiers.

Nick Easley had four receptions while Brandon Smith had three. On the ground Iowa ended with 159 yards rushing on 32 totes, a healthy average of 5.0 yards per carry.

Defensively the Hawkeyes were able to limit Indiana and ended two likely scoring drives by forcing turnovers. In all, it was a good day to be a fan of Iowa football.

Let’s dive in a little deeper to what allowed it to be such a fun one.


Offensive snap counts

Wide receiver: Brandon Smith (55), Nick Easley (51), Ihmir Smith-Marsette (19), Max Cooper (15), Kyle Groeneweg (12).

Tight end: T.J. Hockenson (60), Nate Wieting (27), Noah Fant (23).

Running back: Mekhi Sargent (38), Toren Young (34).

Fullback: Brady Ross (20), Austin Kelly (11).

Offensive penalties

— TE Noah Fant, one, -30 yards total (pass interference x2); Special Teamer Ryan Schmidt, one, -10 total (illegal block); TE T.J. Hockenson -10 total (illegal block); OT Tristan Wirfs, one, -5 total (false start); Team, one, -5 total (false start).

Personnel packages

— 65 offensive plays: 2WR/2TE/RB (24); 2WR/TE/FB/RB (16); 3WR/TE/RB (12); 1WR/2TE/FB/RB (12); 3WR/2TE (1).

In a messy, penalty-filled game, a somewhat banged-up Iowa offense still managed to find some rhythm throughout the day. With Ivory Kelly-Martin out, the Hawkeyes used Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young exclusively, and they rushed for 64 and 96 yards, respectively.

They were both solid running the ball, which was setup by a devastatingly effective aerial attack. Noah Fant was limited in this game, which is why his snaps are lower, but he still managed to be extremely productive, hauling in four catches for 101 yards.

Nate Wieting saw a ton of time in this game and was often part of Iowa’s two tight end sets. T.J. Hockenson also spent a ton of time on the field and had a number of great blocks in addition to his game-high 107 yards receiving.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette was injured during the game, which (I think) caused the Hawkeyes to use less three wide-receiver sets, which you can see reflected in the personnel packages above.

Speaking of wide receivers, Nate Stanley was dropping dimes, including one of the more impressive cases of avoiding the rush I’ve seen in awhile.

Indiana redshirt sophomore defensive back Marcelino Ball (#42) comes on a blitz and is unblocked. The Hoosiers are only rushing five, but left tackle Alaric Jackson engages the defensive end along with left guard Ross Reynolds.

Stanley sees the blitz early and seems to be looking at Noah Fant. The junior tight end is running what’s basically a little flat route out of a bunch formation (which he’s in with Hockenson and Nick Easley), but Stanley has to move before Fant can break.

Meanwhile Hockenson is running what I think was an out route to the left side of the end zone. Easley is basically running a fade, but breaks it off and gets to the right side of the end zone as soon as he sees Stanley moving that way.

The ball actually glances off Brandon Smith’s hands and is tipped up as it goes over the wide receivers head. Luckily there are no Hoosiers in the immediate vicinity and Easley is in the perfect place to make a nice grab.

Iowa’s wide receivers combined for just eight catches, but there were some solid one’s in there. I liked this play on second-and-one on the Hawkeyes’ first drive to Brandon Smith.

Stanley places the ball well and Smith is in a good position to make the catch, which he does.

Iowa’s doesn’t even bother to play fake here. It’s supposed to be a quick throw, as it’s just a two-step drop for Stanley. Smith gets down the field quickly and makes the play work. The sophomore wideout has eight catches for 111 yards over the past two games and is quickly starting to become a player Stanley can rely on.

Which brings me to something I thought about earlier. Is Iowa’s passing success due more to play calling or its receivers and tight ends coming up with balls that they perhaps didn’t a year ago? And, to add to that, I think it’s also Stanley’s progression showing here. He’s making some damn good throws.

But back to the wideouts, sure, there’s still been some drops this season, but it feels like they’re just making the plays they didn’t last season. Especially Noah Fant. I can’t remember off the top of my head when the last time this year he’s had a true drop.

His hands have been better and it’s paying off for everyone. Take his lone touchdown of the day, for example:

This ball, for starters, is perfectly placed. Stanley leads Fant just enough and as announcers love to say: The football was in a place where only the receiver could get to it.

Fant makes an excellent catch and shows good concentration while doing so. He’s got a defender close on his heels and showcases his speed a bit here, especially considering he’s matched up with a defensive back. In fact it’s the same one mentioned earlier — Marcelino Ball.

The play came at a fairly important juncture for Iowa as well. They’re looking at around a 40-yard field goal attempt if they don’t get either a first down or touchdown on this play. There’s a big difference between being up 14-3 as opposed to 10-3 that early in the ball game.

It was Iowa’s second drive and for the second-straight week, the offense scored touchdowns on each of its first two drives. That’s big and it’s nice to see the Hawkeye offense come out with their guns blazing.

Another interesting tidbit: including this play, Stanley is now 39-of-58 (67.2%) for 693 yards and four touchdowns on third down this year. Of those 39 completions, 30 of them have gone for first downs or scores.

The Hawkeyes were 8-of-12 on third downs against the Hoosiers and have converted 44-of-90 attempts through six games. The 44 conversions are tied for 17th in the country, while Iowa’s third-down percentage of 48.89 ranks 14th.

That’s extremely good. It also certainly helps to have tight ends that can do things like this on third down:

This play looks like it was designed specifically to go to Hockenson here.

Stanley puts the tight end in motion and he starts his flat route. Meanwhile the defensive back covering Nick Easley tries to jam him at the line, with a little success, but it causes linebacker Thomas Allen (#10) a bit of a problem.

The Hoosier defender starts following Hockenson once he’s in motion, but gets caught up a bit trying to get around Easley. That allows Hockenson enough time not only for this place to get the three yards Iowa needs, but tack on 27 more to get the ball deep inside the red zone.

Part of this, of course, is due to Hockenson’s speed, which he showcased more than once on Saturday.

Again on third down, Hockenson turns a play into something even more special. It looks like the tight end was running a 10-yard out here and after a missed tackle, turns it up field.

It’s a perfectly thrown ball by Stanley and a solid job of down-field blocking by Nick Easley as well. The wide receiver does a solid job of being in the way without committing a penalty and it allows Hockenson the time to get to full speed.

The defensive backs close in, but Hockenson is just quick enough to get to the end zone and score the longest touchdown of his career. It’s pretty incredible how good he’s been over the last two years and we’re certainly going to miss him whenever he leaves.

It wasn’t Hockenson’s only touchdown of the day, as he scored Iowa’s first, as well.

Hockenson does an excellent job of high-pointing the ball and is athletic enough to go up and get it while staying in bounds.

He’s a special guy. Hockenson has 22 catches for 394 yards midway through the regular season. His yardage currently ranks No. 9 in the conference.

His counterpart at tight end, Fant, ranks No. 19 in the Big Ten with 298 yards and is tied for the third-most touchdown catches with six. While he wasn’t able to quite break this one for another score, this deep pass play was a thing of beauty.

Stanley and the Hawkeyes were firing downfield all day and Indiana wasn’t able to do much at all about it.

Iowa is four-wide and sends Fant down the field. Stanley again throws an absolute dime. If not for a shoestring tackle, it seems like Fant would have gotten to the end zone on this play.

Several plays later Stanley did hit back-up fullback Austin Kelly for a score, so the drive ended the way they wanted it to regardless. In all, another impressive day from the Iowa passing offense.

Stanley did throw his fifth interception of the season, though with how much the Hawkeyes have been passing, it’s almost to be expected.

Stanley’s got quite a bit of pressure in his face as Indiana defensive lineman Gavin Everett (#69) gets by Alaric Jackson.

Jackson’s in something of a bad spot as he’s got a defensive lineman and a linebacker coming at him. After getting a piece of Everett, which gives Stanley just enough time to get the ball out of his hands, Jackson engages the blitzing linebacker.

In the chaos it seems as if Stanley simply never sees Thomas Allen (#10) who makes an easy interception and goes 30 yards before getting chased down by Nate Stanley. These things happen, but this killed a drive that was very likely going to end in points.

Instead, Indiana ended up scoring a touchdown two plays later. Before we get to the defense, however, the Hawkeyes did have a couple nice runs on the ground.

Mekhi Sargent is the back here and the play is obviously out of shotgun. The Hawkeyes had a bit of success spreading the field out and running from the gun and I hope they continue to do this.

Sargent gets to the outside, where Keegan Render (#69) is the second car in the train of blockers in front of him. Wirfs attempts what kinda looked was maybe supposed to be a chop block, which delays the DB for later in the run.

Meanwhile, Render shoves the linebacker out of the way and Sargent decides to almost hop back inside. He quickly gets back up to spend and rams forward for an 11-yard gain.

Later in the game, Sargent rips off a 14-yard gain on third down out of a nearly identical formation. This time, however, it’s a draw.

In the right situation, setup the right way, draws can absolutely work on third-and-long plays.

Iowa’s offensive line is tremendous here and Sargent breaks a tackle before spinning his way to a first down. Render and Ross Reynolds (#59) both make solid blocks here to help spring Sargent, who quickly gets to speed.

It’s a good run and helped the Hawkeyes salt away the game. Iowa would score a touchdown a couple plays later to squash any hope of the Hoosiers making a miraculous comeback.


Defensive snap counts

Defensive line: DE Anthony Nelson (57), DE/DT Parker Hesse (54), DT Sam Brincks (41), DT Matt Nelson (40), DE A.J. Epenesa (32), DE/DT Chauncey Golston (30), DT Cedrick Lattimore (16), Brady Reiff (13).

Linebacker: Amani Hooker (71), Kristian Welch (71), Djimon Colbert (58), Barrington Wade (1).

Defensive back: Jake Gervase (71), Julius Brents (71), Riley Moss (71), Geno Stone (70), Michael Ojemudia (13).

Defensive penalties

— DB Michael Ojemudia, one, -15 total (pass interference); DB/LB Amani Hooker, one, -10 total (holding); DT Brady Reiff, one, -10 yards total (holding); DE Anthony Nelson, one, -5 total (offsides)

With Iowa down heavily at linebacker, Amani Hooker basically took outside backer duties and was all over the field. With Nick Niemann expected to be back this week, it’ll be interesting to see how that effects everyone else’s playing time.

Geno Stone has been very, very good in the secondary over the past few games and has earned playing time. Meanwhile, Michael Ojemudia played just 13 snaps and unless I’m mistaken, only was on the field when Iowa went to its nickel package (though, with Hooker on the field, it was almost like a dime).

Anyways, it worked. Iowa’s defense was fine throughout the day, though it did give up 330 total yards. It’s just the third time this season Iowa’s given up over 250 yards of offense. The Hawkeyes rank fifth nationally in average total yardage given up (282.0).

Indiana only managed 67 on the ground, which was actually below the Hawkeyes average of 81.50 per game. Iowa’s rushing defense currently ranks third in the country. Plays like this are why:

This really isn’t anything super special, it’s just Colbert showing patience and waiting to stop the running back for a very minimal gain.

You can see him quickly shimmy to the side and as Ronnie Walker Jr. (#23) tries to get through the hole, Colbert is right there. Parker Hesse, it should be noted, is able to shed his blocker and got the first hit on the running back.

The Hoosiers did not have a run longer than 13 yards against Iowa and averaged just 2.7 yards per carry on 25 totes. The Hawkeyes were also able to shut down the Indiana read-option game with relative ease.

This play in the second quarter on third down was especially nasty.

First, Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey probably should have handed it off here. He’s staring straight into Hesse and Welch, who easily make the tackle.

Ramsey ended with just 11 carries for nine net yards, though he did have the Hoosiers’ lone rushing score. It also came on an read-option, which he read correctly.

The majority of the defense is caught watching the running back and Ramsey gets into a one-on-one situation with Gervase, which the Hoosier wins. This was one of the few real breakdowns for the Hawkeyes on defense during the game.

When it came to passing, it was an up-and-down day for Indiana signal caller. While the sophomore did complete 31-of-42 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown, he also threw two interceptions and was sacked twice.

The first sack was A.J. Epenesa’s fifth of the season. He, along with Anthony Nelson, are now part of a tie for 33rd-most in the country.

Epenesa fights through Indiana tackle Delroy Baker (#71) with almost no issue and gets the sack.

Iowa’s in its pass rush defensive line (Epenesa, Anthony Nelson at DE; Chauncey Golston, Parker Hesse at DT) and it’s effective. Golston is on a stunt and comes around the end, nearly untouched, to help clean up the mess.

Golston later got a sack of his own and the Hawkeyes are tied with several other teams for seventh in the nation in sacks per game, with 3.33. Iowa has 20 total through six games.

As a point of reference, the Hawkeyes had just 10 at this point last year. The pass rush is also helping create turnovers, like this late Jake Gervase interception.

Iowa’s again in its pass-rush defensive line package and this is more of a dime look, secondary wise. The Hoosiers are desperately trying to come up with anything and Ramsey tosses a ball to the end zone.

Golston — who is really starting to become a phenomenal player — gets the most pressure here and forces Ramsey to step to the left of the pocket. He’s throwing into three Iowa defenders and Gervase grabs the relatively easy interception.

It wasn’t the only pick Iowa would get. Geno Stone got the third of his career (and second in as many games) in the fourth quarter to kill an Indiana drive.

This was another important play at a critical juncture. At 11 plays and 74 yards, it was the Hoosiers second-longest drive of the day and with 13:23 left in the game, a touchdown would have made it a two possession game.

With three timeouts and an offense with the ability to score quickly, getting back in the game was not out of the realm of possibility. Geno Stone, however, ended that particular dream for Indiana.

It looked like Ramsey was trying to get the ball to wide receiver Luke Timian (#25) but he seems to stumble a bit while being covered by Hooker.

Stone then hops up and tips the ball to himself. Iowa’s offense would then march down the field in a nine-play, 80-yard drive to ultimately seal the game.

Stone had a nice game overall, finishing with five solo tackles (including a tackle for loss) and was credited with a forced fumble. The sophomore, along with the other young defensive backs, have really stepped up to the challenge so far this year.

It’s one of the many reasons Iowa’s 5-1 and looking like a very competent team midway through the regular season. The Hawkeyes get a tough Maryland squad — who will try to do some of the same things Indiana did — this week and will need to again play well over all three phases of the game.

Do that and Iowa just might be 6-1 heading into an afternoon showdown with Penn State.