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The Rewatch: Minnesota

Explosive plays and an explosive pass rush

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

“Floyd’s a good statue...that’s a legitimate statue” - Kirk Ferentz (Post game press conference)

It was a blackout night in Iowa City, and the Iowa Hawkeyes knocked off a top 10 team visiting while trying to extend a special season. Once again, Floyd of Rosedale gets to continue to stay in his cozy home in Iowa City.

Coach Kirk Ferentz mentioned they knew they were going to need to score points, and Iowa came out firing. The Hawkeyes scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions and were sparked by freshman running back Tyler Goodson, who was making his first career start. In addition to Goodson, redshirt freshman wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. made play-after-play in the first half.

Facing 3rd and 1 early in their first possession of the game, Iowa brings out its traditional short yardage 22 personnel. Pre-snap, both tight ends, Nate Wieting and Shaun Beyer, shift to the boundary side of the formation. Minnesota countered by shifting the outside linebacker inside and moving the defensive end wide. Multiple times this season, Iowa has given the ball to fullback Brady Ross in short yardage situations, and Minnesota’s linebackers crash and the defensive end scraped on the fake to Ross. Goodson took a small step right, before quickly switching to the left to receive the pitch from Nate Stanley. With no cornerback on that side of the field and the front seven all crashing inside, it gives Goodson all kinds of open turf in front of him. The single high safety has an angle, but isn’t able to slow Goodson down until he is over 20 yards downfield.

Goodson continues to show special ability

It wasn’t just great play design that led to the big day for Goodson. He routinely picked up extra yardage using his unique blend of quickness and strength.

On the following possession, Iowa runs outside zone, which had been pretty ineffective for much of the season, to the boundary. Wieting, who is lined up next to left tackle Alaric Jackson, does a fantastic job of turning his man and creating an edge, but Jackson is not able to connect on his block at the second level. Despite this, Goodson is still able to outrun the linebacker to the edge and also beat the boundary corner, who is playing well off the line and is unblocked, to the edge. He turns what might have been a two yard gain into a pickup of nine on first down.

That run created 2nd and 1, which opens the entire playbook to offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. He choses to use 20 personnel, which pushes one of Minnesota’s linebackers out of the box to cover the third receiver. With just a seven six man block, Iowa has a numbers “win” with five lineman and a fullback to handle those defenders. In addition to that, with the run going to the field, the backside defender doesn’t even need to be blocked.

Right guard Kyler Schott and Brady Ross throw perfect blocks, which guarantee a first down. All-World right tackle Tristan Wirfs isn’t able to fully connect on his block on the linebacker though, and the play looks to be shut down for a short gain. Goodson uses his speed and balance to step through the diving tackle from that linebacker. What could have been a one or two-yard gain is turned into 21 yards and the offense is into scoring position again.

The most impressive of the runs comes next though on 2nd and 6 deep inside the Golden Gophers’ red zone. Iowa plans to follow Wirfs on this play, but he gets his head too far out over his toes and does not maintain proper balance. This allows the defensive end to push Wirfs to the ground and shoot the gap between the guard and tackle. Goodson uses an excellent stiff arm to force the first missed tackle three yards deep in the backfield. From there, it is pure speed as Goodson is able to outrun an unblocked linebacker creating enough space to use another stiff arm to get the edge.

At this point, he has the corner turned, but the corner and safety still are between him and the end zone. Ihmir Smith-Marsette does a great job of battling the corner for as long as he can and Goodson lowers his head at the four and bulls into both defenders. Despite his size, he does a great job of dropping his hips and shoulders right before impact and explodes through the tacklers.

(From the overhead camera angle (replay) you really can appreciate his change in direction and the little stutter he does before the second defender approaches.)

Getting Goodson into space

When you have great speed, the ability to get a little more creative as a play caller really opens up. Once again it is 2nd and 1 and the entire playbook is open and available. This is one of the first times I’ve noticed Iowa scheming to leave an unblocked defensive lineman on the play-side. Iowa is simply banking that Goodson is too good for the defender, who is unblocked, to be able to corral or tackle in the open field. This allowed blockers to get to the second level and create a massive hole for Goodson to run through. I really like this play design and creativity to create a numbers advantage to open space for a dynamic playmaker. It’s another strong punch with the stiff arm to finish the play as well.

Iowa is able to use motion to create another advantage as Wieting’s shift to the field-side bounces the Minnesota edge defender inside. On this play, that creates a perfect angle as Wieting is crashing down on the end allowing both Schott and Wirfs to pull around the outside to lead Goodson to the edge. Those two both land their blocks and Goodson is eight yards downfield before first contact.

Keep feeding the man

In the second quarter, Iowa went to Tyrone Tracy Jr. four out of five plays on their third scoring drive. Since moving into the starting lineup for Brandon Smith, Tracy has been the most explosive receiver for the Hawkeyes. His ability to make a play after the catch continues to impress.

With Iowa having so much success with their running game early on, it opens opportunities for play action. On the first play of the series, Iowa uses play action to find Tracy on a post in the area vacated by the linebackers cheating up on the play fake. Following a short run play, Iowa makes a smart decision to go back to Tracy. This time, it’s the 12 yard out and Tracy breaks the tackle and picks up an additional 15 yards. Iowa follows that with an end around to Tracy for another 11 yards pushing the Hawkeyes inside the red zone. Finally, it’s the speed-out for another near first down. Tracy tries to escape another tackle, but is pulled down leading to another 2nd and short situation.

The following play Iowa scores it’s third consecutive touchdown on a crossing route to Smith-Marsette. It’s a pretty standard mesh route in the low red zone, but the fact that it’s 2nd and short really stresses the defense to defend both the pass and rush. The corner gives Smith-Marsette the inside release and has no chance to stay with him across the field and through the traffic.

Goodson and Tracy contribute together

Not only were they making plays on their own, but to start the 4th quarter a play action fake to Goodson and pass to Tracy puts the offense across midfield once again. Stanley has a wonderful pocket thanks to his offensive line and also Goodson. Following the play fake, Goodson is able to squarely meet the blitzing corner and give Tracy’s route time to develop. Perfect play call and execution against the boundary blitz.

Few can do this

I could watch the following play on loop all day. The first thing that stands out is obvious fact that Stanley delivers an absolute frozen rope to Smith-Marsette on the deep out. I estimated the ball travels approximately 38 yards in the air. Watching the play over-and-over, I found what might be an even better part of the play, Sam LaPorta’s blocking. The true freshman tight end gets a little help from Jackson, but does a terrific job of constantly moving his feet and winning that battle clearly. It was a very impressive rep for the young and promising LaPorta. Is he the next in line in the list of outstanding blocking and receiving Hawkeye tight ends?

What could have been

Overall, quarterback Nate Stanley graded very well on the day. He was able to lead the offense and showed off excellent decision making and arm talent. Early in the game, he looked twice for Smith-Marsette deep down field. On the second, Smith-Marsette runs a terrific route getting the defensive back to bite on the double move. Stanley lofts the ball downfield, but it lands just beyond Smith-Marsette’s outstretched arms. The play would have been a touchdown had Minnesota’s defender not reached out and grabbed Smith-Marsette’s arm to slow him down. I’m not sure what the back judge is looking at because it was right in front of him and he didn’t even think about throwing the flag.

Sit back and enjoy

A.J. Epenesa was a one-man wrecking crew recording 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 9 quarterback pressures. He’s a compilation of him making life absolutely miserable for the opposing offense. Just enjoy, because I’m not sure when we will see someone like this in black-and-gold again.

Can’t block him...Tackle him

I know the end of the play was the big story for most, but none of that should have mattered had the officials called the obvious hold. The left tackle was tired of getting destroyed so he decided to simply tackle Epenesa, and somehow it goes unnoticed by those carrying yellow flags in their belt.

Hey Coach Fleck, where should Minnesota go in the polls?

(Tanner Morgan does not seem very happy about being forced to the sideline for the final plays of the game)

Facing an explosive offense, Iowa needed big plays from its offense and defense. The coaches went to Goodson, Tracy, and Smith-Marsette to create those big plays and each of them delivered. The defense created just enough of their own big plays as well. Iowa keeps Floyd, and that’s a legit trophy.....and win.