clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

THE REWATCH — MARYLAND

New, 33 comments

There is good defense, there is great defense, and then there is what Iowa did to Maryland.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Iowa
This is a NO FLY ZONE.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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.

The defensive performance Iowa put on against Maryland was one of the best efforts I’ve seen by any team, ever. I’m sure there are other examples of where a team has done similar things to what the Hawkeyes did to the Terps (some of which are illegal in 42 countries) but this was a supremely fine display from a talented unit.

Rewatching that part of this game was tremendously satisfying for someone who likes to watch a truly good defense shut an opposing offense down.

The Hawkeye rushing offense was also solid on a day where the wind prevented them from doing any sort of throwing the ball much more than 15 yards down the field. Iowa used all three of its backs throughout the afternoon and just wore down Maryland’s defense, which was on the field for over 40 minutes.

Excellent work.

One thing I am going to bitch about before we dive into this, however, was how awful the broadcast was. I don’t often listen to the commentary and never do during my rewatches, but the camerawork and the cuts were atrocious. I think the producer was going for something of an ‘artsy’ experience and it made it very hard to watch the football game. Waiting to cut back to the main feed until the quarterback snaps the ball (and sometimes after) is not a way to produce a football game.

/end rant

We’ll start with the defense today.


Defensive snap counts

Defensive line: Chauncey Golston (25), A.J. Epenesa (25), Anthony Nelson (23), Parker Hesse (23), Cedrick Lattimore (18), Brady Reiff (18), Matt Nelson (16), Sam Brincks (16).

Linebacker: Kristian Welch (41), Djimon Colbert (37), Nick Niemann (20).

Defensive back: Riley Moss (41), Julius Brents (41), Jake Gervase (41), Amani Hooker (39), Geno Stone (23), Michael Ojemudia (4).

Defensive penalties

— None!

With Maryland running just 39 offensive plays (the snap counts above also include two plays that were negated by penalties) the Iowa defense was hardly on the field. A little over 19 minutes, in fact.

The Terrapins had just four third-down conversions and seven first downs overall. There are a whole bunch of numbers that tell the story of this win, but the Hawkeyes allowing seven total first downs during a shutout is a fairly incredible stat.

With the wind blustering, both teams opted to keep things on the ground. It worked for Iowa. It did not for Maryland. The Terps had just 68 rushing yards and averaged 3.0 yards per carry.

Even more impressively, 31 of those yards came on two carries during Maryland’s last drive. Throw those two garbage time rushes out and the Hawkeyes allowed 37 yards on 21 totes, which works out to a little less than 1.8 yards per carry.

So why was that?

For starters, Iowa ended the game with five tackles for loss for 23 negated yards. Two of those were sacks, but throughout the game Maryland consistently struggled to get to the second level of the Hawkeyes defense — if they even got to the first at all.

Here’s one from Golston:

Maryland’s offensive motion did not phase the Iowa defense at all in this game. Phil Parker had his players ready and they responded with an excellent game of disciplined football.

This is a jet sweep to Terrapin running back Anthony McFarland, who is sitting in more of a slotback position. There are two wideouts to the right of the screen, one of which makes a fairly nice block on Kristian Welch (#34), taking the linebacker out of the play.

Meanwhile, the other receiver engages one of the Iowa corners (I think it’s Brents). Another Terps running back, Ty Johnson (#24) goes and blocks. But Geno Stone, playing safety, starts to come up after he reads run. He’s in good position to make a play, but Golston is already there.

The sophomore defensive lineman, playing defense end on this snap, is unblocked and he stays home and makes a tackle (albeit, by the RB’s shoestrings) in a great display of disciplined football.

Iowa did this all day long.

McFarland (who lost 15 rushing yards on the day) is again dropped in the backfield. It’s a similar play, but this time Johnson isn’t blocking — he’s headed up the middle. This play is being ran to the short-side of the field and the wide receivers aren’t anything but decoys.

Unless I’m mistaken, Maryland quarterback Kasim Hill has the option to hand off to either back here. He makes a bad decision. McFarland has nothing in front of him but a slotback to help block. Including Hesse, the Iowa defenders in position outnumber the Maryland offensive players 4 to 2. That’s not a battle most players are going to win.

And, again, Hesse is being disciplined here. While Colbert (#32) and Gervase (#30) both read the play correctly from their linebacking and defensive back positions, McFarland can’t even get up to full speed to even potentially elude them.

Why? Hesse. He stays home, makes the play, and Maryland loses a bunch of yards. Exactly what you’d expect your veteran defensive end to do.

Or, really, your talented young one, as the third non-sack tackle for loss was from Epenesa:

It’s harder to watch the pre-snap stuff here (seriously, these cuts and angles from the broadcast were beyond frustrating — they were absurdly bad) but this time it’s Johnson who is in motion.

Tayon Fleet-Davis (#8) is the ball carrier for Maryland here. After he gets the ball, Hill finishes his responsibilities for this play by faking the QB draw. Perhaps it’s simply a poor fake, but Epenesa immediately reads this play correctly... and chases down the running back. From the opposite defensive end spot.

Think about that for a second. That’s actually kind of incredible. I mean we know he’s athletic, but still — damn. If not for Golston laying out to try and grab Davis’ ankles, Epenesa probably pulls the running back down a second sooner.

It’s just impressive. Brents (#20) is also in good position, shaking off the receivers block easily. Colbert is also around to clean up the mess if need be. Three Hawkeyes around to make a play within two yards of the line of scrimmage is exactly what you want to see.

Speaking of linebacking play, Welch was in good position the vast majority of the day as well.

Epenesa doesn’t do as great of a job reading the play here and bites on the fake. That said, I’m not entirely sure if this is because of his responsibilities against this particular look, but regardless he’s not going to be involved here.

Luckily for Iowa, Welch and freshman CB Riley Moss immediately read the jet sweep correctly and get themselves in good position to make the play. Made easier, of course, because it’s to the short side of the field and everything is compressed.

I was not at all impressed by the Maryland wideouts blocking during this entire game and this was an instance where it wasn’t great. While one does a decent job holding blocking Colbert, the other doesn’t really do anything to Moss.

This allows the corner to be in solid position. Welch is just unblocked. In all, an excellent day from a well-prepared Iowa run defense. When your opponents longest play of the day is a 19-yard run down 23 points in the fourth quarter, you’re doing something right.

It also didn’t help the Terrapins that they couldn’t pass. At all. Granted, Maryland has certainly not been much a passing team all year, but they were able to make a couple plays through the air in previous games.

Not against Iowa.

Maryland had two plays in Iowa territory during the entire game. The first was Epenesa’s tackle for loss. The other was this interception.

Amani Hooker is at his safety spot here (though Phil Parker moved him around, almost using him as a hybrid linebacker at some points) and simply makes a tremendous play on the ball. The receiver never had a chance.

Hooker read the route perfectly and was in a good position. The junior has been one of Iowa’s most effective defensive players this season and continued that trend in this game.

All of a sudden it seems as if the Hawkeyes have a wealth of players at defensive back and Hooker wasn’t the only Iowa DB to have a good day.

Kasim Hill gets the one-on-one coverage Maryland wants here, but Moss is step-for-step with wide receiver Dontay Demus. The true freshman corner is in excellent position without getting tagged for pass interference and knocks away the ball.

Moss has gotten better each week and at this point I don’t see taking away either freshman corner’s starting spot. That’s probably a tough pill for Michael Ojemudia and Matt Hankins, but the Hawkeyes are getting exactly what they need from Moss and Brents right now.

Next week against Penn State will be interesting (and quite possibly telling) but I don’t see any reason to not continuing to roll with them.

It certainly helps to have the kind of defensive line the Hawkeyes possess and it was again strong this week. Hesse, who finished with five total tackles, a sack, and the tackle for loss mentioned above, had one of his very best days in an Iowa uniform.

Here’s the sack:

This was against Iowa’s pass rush defensive line (Hesse/Golston at DT & Anthony Nelson/Epenesa at DE) and Hesse is able to fairly easily slip through the offensive line.

He pushes past the center, isn’t really touched by the guard and drags Hill down for a solo sack. Just a tremendous play.

Oh, Iowa got a defensive touchdown out of its line as well. It was really being in the right place at the right time, but still, it was fun:

It felt like the cherry on top a beautiful defensive performance. Iowa will need this unit to show up again next week and I think they will.

Let’s move on to the offense.


Offensive snap counts

Quarterback: Nate Stanley (63), Peyton Football Mansell (12), Spencer Petras (1).

Wide receiver: Brandon Smith (53), Nick Easley (49), Kyle Groeneweg (23), Ihmir Smith-Marsette (14).

Running back: Ivory Kelly-Martin (41), Mekhi Sargent (22), Toren Young (14).

Tight end: T.J. Hockenson (71!), Noah Fant (40), Nate Wieting (22), Shaun Beyer (3), Drew Cook (3).

Fullback: Austin Kelly (27), Joe Ludwig (2).

Offensive penalties

— None!

Personnel packages

— 76 offensive plays: 2WR/2TE/RB (40); 1WR/2TE/FB/RB (19); 2WR/TE/FB/RB (9), 3WR/TE/RB (5), 4WR/RB (1); 1WR/3TE/RB (1); 3TE/FB/RB (1).

Run, run, run. I personally wasn’t sure how Iowa would respond in a game where they absolutely had to move the ball on the ground, but those fears were mostly unfounded. The personnel packages and snap counts both reflect the game plan, which was very obviously to only pass when they absolutely had to.

I’m fairly sure that’s the highest number of snaps Hockenson has had in his career and overall, two tight ends were on the field for 59 of 76 plays. Nate Wieting continues to see his usage rise, while Noah Fant was right about where he’s been all season.

Iowa finished with 224 yards rushing on 52 carries (4.3 ypc) and just grounded the Maryland defense down. The Hawkeyes’ longest run of the day was only 16 yards and it didn’t even come from a running back.

The Maryland defensive end overpursues, Iowa’s wide receivers (Brandon Smith, in this instance) can actually block and Ihmir Smith-Marsette gains 16 yards on a jet sweep.

On third down.

I love it. Mekhi Sargent also throws down a beautiful block on the Maryland corner, which is really what sprung this. It also helps Smith-Marsette is quick and weaves his way through the defenders.

Iowa’s sweeps have actually (for the most part) worked fairly well this year and that’s nice to see. The rest of the Hawkeyes rushes weren’t exactly sexy, but they worked.

Tristan Wirfs (#74) misses a chop block here which is part of the reason why Maryland defensive lineman Lawtez Rogers (#95) nearly catches Sargent from behind,

But the young back has enough speed to get around the edge for a first down. The offensive line has several good blocks to help create a hole and Wieting holds his just long enough for Sargent to squeeze by.

Here’s another example of the Hawkeyes getting plenty of push up front:

Smith makes a good block here, as does basically everyone else. Keegan Render (#69) and Dalton Ferguson (#76) both do a good job of clearing the way. Wirfs seals the other side, while Ross Reynolds (#59) also engages his man long enough to open a hole for Kelly-Martin.

Iowa still doesn’t have a 100-yard rusher this season, but Kelly-Martin got close as he finished with 98 yards of 24 carries. Unlike Maryland the Hawkeyes avoided the negative rushes (just two from its running backs all day) and was able to dominate the line of scrimmage.

The wind, of course, was what caused the massive percentage of running plays by both squads... it was downright nasty.

The ball flew so far backwards that on the stat sheet, this actually went down as a run play. Nate Stanley wasn’t really going to be able to pass the ball in this weather, so they weren’t even going to try.

And, honestly, kudos to Easley here. That would have been a disaster to lose a fumble so early in the game.

Kirk Ferentz even called timeouts with the wind in mind. I mean look at how the ball travels on this PAT. It’s incredible. I’ve never seen something like this before except, in like, a game app for your phone where you try to kick field goals.

Just absurd.

Nate Stanley was just 11-of-22 for 86 yards, a touchdown and an interception. It was the second-lowest passing output in games he’s started (only the 41 yards in that horrific Wisconsin game last season were lower), but he did enough to keep the Iowa offense moving.

With the deep ball — something the Hawkeye offense has started to find over the past few games — out of the question, Iowa obviously ran the ball. But they did a couple interesting things in the passing game as well.

First, this beautiful screen play to Hockenson.

The play design here is absolutely phenomenal. After snapping the ball, Stanley starts rolling to his left. Bootlegs are something Iowa’s had success doing this season already, and two weeks ago Stanley had a nice first down to Brandon Smith on a rollout against Minnesota.

This play and the Minnesota one I just linked to are a bit different, but it feels like maybe Iowa was waiting for the right moment to pull out this screen. Anyways, Hockenson pass blocks for a second (though isn’t engaged) and calmly slides back to wait for the pass.

By this time the defender responsible for covering Hockenson has lost interest. He realizes — late — what’s happening just in time to get flattened by offensive lineman Cole Banwart and Keegan Render, who are lead blocking.

They do a great job and Hockenson isn’t touched until well after he’s converted the third down. The tight end also converted a third down earlier in the game on Stanley’s longest throw of the day.

This ball travels right about 23 yards in the air (it was a 16-yard gain to Hockenson) and even on this intermediate ball you can see a bit of movement due to the wind.

It was just hard to throw much longer than that in those type of conditions. Iowa, for the most part, did a good job of avoiding must-throw situations and with the defense playing the way they were, the offense didn’t need to do a whole lot.

The one other throw of real note was Stanley’s touchdown to Brandon Smith. The score was Smith’s first at Iowa and just a tremendous catch through interference from the defense.

Just a fade into the back of the end zone. Smith has really come alive over the past couple weeks and it’s been nice to see.

Stanley wasn’t sacked in this game and never really seemed to be in duress, though that’s partly due to the quick nature of the throws. Like I said before, it was just enough passing to get the job done.

Iowa did what it had to do and now sites at 6-1 heading into a showdown with Penn State. If the Hawkeyes can get their rushing and passing offenses going on the same day, I’m really not sure this team can’t beat just about anyone.

And damn if that isn’t a nice thing to even think.

BONUS:

Iowa got Peyton Mansell into the game and, well, it was fun as hell. The redshirt freshman QB missed on his only passing attempt, but ran three times for 17 yards.

This fourth-down scramble looked like something we haven’t seen from an Iowa QB in a very long time.

Between the shooting sleeve and wearing number two, it’s fairly obvious the player whose style of play Mansell wants to emulate. I mean they’re even from the same state. Hopefully Mansell doesn’t have some of the, uh, we’ll say... character concerns Johnny Manziel does though.

Anyways, Mansell looks like he could be a real, real fun player. If Kirk does end up letting him have the reigns at QB down the road... that might just be interesting.