“Nicest thing about winning on Friday is you get Saturday off.” - Kirk Ferentz post-game
In a game that featured 6-for-6 (twice), 3-for-3 (twice), and A.J. Epenesa getting to the quarterback (twice), it was Iowa’s most dynamic players making those game changing plays. In addition to those three, Tyler Goodson continued to shine as he recorded his first career 100+ yard rushing game. Iowa used explosive plays to build an early lead before needing to kick a game winning field goal as time expired.
Early Game Success
Iowa’s run game saw its best success of the season early in this game and used a variety of formation alignments to gain advantages against the Nebraska defense. Iowa started true freshman Tyler Goodson again and he delivered early with play-after-play.
Iowa starts the game in 11 personnel with tight end (and true freshman) Sam LaPorta offset in the backfield as an H-back. On what looks like outside zone, the offensive lineman slant right with Alaric Jackson cutting the end on his side, Landan Paulsen and Tyler Linderbaum go for a double team on the nose tackle, and LaPorta stays to the right to block the outside edge defender. Nebraska has a linebacker in the hole at the line of scrimmage to kill the play, and Goodson puts him on a highlight real with quick juke move. Next he avoids the backside pursuit to fall forward for five yards. This is the common theme to his play.....unblocked yards.
Hats off to the Iowa film crew for this amazing shot of the play.
That juke by Goodson defender right on his back pic.twitter.com/AFrKvfob1Z— Chris Ruth (@ChrisRuthIOWA) November 30, 2019
Again in the first quarter, a Nebraska defender is in position to make a play at the line of scrimmage. This time, it’s the spin move to pop a big run. The list of running backs from the University of Iowa in the past 40 years who could do this is not very long. Once again the line slants, and Goodson takes advantage of the over pursuit and finds the cutback lane.
In the second quarter, Iowa runs misdirection, and Alaric Jackson isn’t able to hold his block. Goodson has a Nebraska defender (two actually) in his face for what should be a 3 yard loss. He’s able to avoid both defender and jump forward for a one yard gain. That play will not jump off the stat sheet, but that’s a four yard difference for the offense.
Goodson didn’t spend the entire first half having to avoid defenders at the line. On outside zone from a heavy 13 personnel package, Iowa is able to get a hat-on-a-hat and Goodson is able to burst to the outside for 10 yards. On this play, Kyler Schott does a great job getting to the second level to give Goodson the crease he needs.
Goodson’s long touchdown run is a similar story. Once again Iowa is in 13 personnel with the strong side to the boundary. This time Alaric Jackson and Mark Kallenberger cave in the weak side of the defense leaving just enough room for Goodson to shoot up the middle of the field. From there, all he needs to do is step through the attempted tackle by the safety and he is off to the races.
Run Game Opens Play Action
For the second consecutive week, Iowa uses swap boot successful to pick up easy yards. On these two plays, Nate Stanley is able to find LaPorta and Nico Ragaini for easy completions and gives both of them space to get up field. I like that Stanley makes the quick read to hit the underneath player and take what the defense gives up in these situations.
Iowa wasn’t able to hit on the next play, but play action opened up what could have been another big play. Seven Nebraska defenders all step forward as Stanley turns to fake to Goodson. This allows Tyrone Tracy Jr. to get wide open as he crosses the field and crosses routes with Ihmir Smith-Marsette. It ends up as an incompletion, but it shows what starts to open up as Iowa has a little success on the ground.
Speed. Lots and lots of speed.
These videos do not need a lot of explanation. Ihmir Smith-Marsette is really fast and he hit the open field twice against Nebraska to score huge touchdowns. On both of these, it is amazing how much open field is out in front of him. It is both excellent execution and design on Iowa’s part, and equally poor execution on Nebraska’s part.
Favorite play of the year??
Who doesn’t love quarterback sneak on 3rd and 3 for an easy first down? I’ve joked that Iowa should open the game with this play to guarantee positive yardage.
He can throw too
It wasn’t Stanley’s best statistical game, but he made of of the biggest plays late in the game. The first big pass to Smith-Marsette, reminded me a little of the big play they connected on late against Iowa State. Smith-Marsette gives a great little should fake and step to avoid contact and stem his route up the seam. I made this point on a play last week as well, but I don’t think this is a play he makes last season. He mistimes the jump a little, and still makes it look smooth.
Both that pass, and the following big play to Sam LaPorta are great examples of Stanley making a quick read and putting the ball right on the money. In addition to the catch, this is a really smart play by LaPorta to get down quickly to preserve as much time as possible.
Defense making winning plays
The first thing defensively that stood out to me was how well Iowa’s defenders were able to shed blocks to make plays. Nebraska was relying heavily on their horizontal passing game, and Iowa’s defenders did an excellent job of shedding or avoiding the initial block to make the stop.
Senior Michael Ojemudia has had a tremendous season and that play continued on Friday.
On what could have been a big play, even a touchdown for Nebraska, Ojemudia recognizes the fake quickly enough to get depth on his drop. This forced the pass to be floated and ends in an overthrow. Just a great example of sprinting to his spot to make the pass more difficult for the quarterback.
Ojemudia wasn’t the only guy who was getting through blocks to make plays. Djimon Colbert ran right through the attempted block by the wide receiver and stones the tight end for a loss. Initially it looked like Nebraska had a numbers advantage, but a great play by Colbert negates any initial advantage they had.
A special player had a special day on Friday. A.J. Epenesa was wrecking run plays, pass plays, and ruining the plans of the Cornhusker offense.
Iowa was able to move him around with stunts and alignments to keep Nebraska from knowing exactly where he was coming from. Because he’s so hard to block, teams have tried to put him in a read position by not attempting to block him. That didn’t go well for Nebraska.
When they were attempting to block him, he was tossing lineman to the side and getting to the quarterback for sacks.
Epenesa ended the game with a ridiculous 14 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. It doesn’t get better than that for a defensive lineman.
By the way
I think my celebration was similar to Wieting’s running down the field as the kick is happening.
See you all again in late December/early January.