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The Rewatch: Minnesota

The Hawkeyes flex their muscles as they batter and bruise the Gophers

NCAA Football: Iowa at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

“We figured we’d take Floyd with us and leave the timeouts.” - Kirk Ferentz (post game)

Iowa pushed Minnesota around at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and Kirk Ferentz had one last punch in him with his post game comments. The Hawkeyes racked up 235 yards on the ground and the combination of Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent averaged 7.9 yards per carry. During the game, Goodson went over 1000 career yards and tallied his 10th career rushing touchdown.

The Hawkeye offensive line was constantly able to reset the line of scrimmage and move defenders off the ball. On outside zone, running backs were able to wait patiently behind the line and follow their lead as they stretched the field horizontally. Iowa’s tight ends were also a big part of the blocking scheme and Iowa frequently followed those tight ends on the outside. On the replay, watch how Shaun Beyer turns and pancakes the outside linebacker down field and Mark Kallenberger then buries another linebacker over top of them.

It didn’t matter if it was to the boundary, field, right side, or left side. Iowa was able to consistently create massive run lanes using outside zone and following the tight ends. This time, it is Cole Banwart with the pancake from his left guard position.

In an effort to keep Iowa from being able to get to the outside so easily, Minnesota started to push their edge defenders up the field, but that just created a bigger seam between the guard and tackle for the running backs to burst through.

The Counter

Last week, I continued to point out the Iowa has been doing an excellent job of using motion, specifically jet motion, in short yardage situations. During the game against Michigan State, Iowa twice used jet motion near the goal line to force the defense to hesitate before handing to the running back to the left. This week, Iowa ran the counter to that by handing to Nico Ragaini on the motion with the running back and offensive line going left. As right tackle Mark Kallenberger slants, the defensive end starts to scrape behind him. With his step inside, he has no chance to react to Ragaini as he raced around the end with Monte Pottebaum and Sam LaPorta leading him home. Perfect call and execution to counter what Minnesota saw on film.

It is no secret Iowa likes to use quarterback sneak for short yardage as well. Iowa added a nice wrinkle this time by using jet motion prior to the sneak. Once again, it is a small change of tendency to help Iowa be more effective in those short yardage situations by keeping the defense from charging up field on the snap.

Wild for Wildcat

It wasn’t just outside zone that was working for the Iowa running game. With Goodson as a Wildcat quarterback and Monte Pottebaum as he personal protection, Goodson was able to walk into the end zone untouched. While the left side of the offensive line slants inside, right guard Justin Britt pulls around to pickup an inside linebacker. Pottebaum does what he does best by smacking the edge defender leaving a crease for Goodson as he waltzes in for his first score of the game.

Take cover from the Linder-Bomb

Yes, I’m running with the phrase that is floating around Twitter as people discover how dominant Tyler Linderbaum is at the center position. Typically, when the cutback is open on outside zone, it is because the defense’s over pursuit. On Goodson’s long carry, the cutback is there because each lineman does his job, and Linderbaum goes above and beyond to obliterate his second level target. The pancake finish is nice, but Linderbaum drives the linebacker backwards for 8 yards before panting him on his back. It is also important to point out how well receivers Brandon Smith and Tyrone Tracy Jr have blocked downfield on carries this season. Smith locks on to defensive backs and helps Iowa gain a lot of additional hidden yardage on the perimeter and downfield.

Finding the formula for Petras

Without the traditional spring, summer, and fall, Iowa is still in the learning process with dialing in the offensive pass game and Spencer Petras. We knew coming into the season that Petras would have a talented group of pass catchers. Offensive Coordinator Brian Ferentz used a variety of quick, short passes to the perimeter to settle Petras into the game and put those weapons in open space.

All of these passes are from the first quarter and create yards after the catch. Petras has shown accuracy issues this season, but has been excellent with his three step passes to the sideline this season. We also saw improved accuracy on the move as well as short crossing routes. This isn’t to say the accuracy issues are solved, as evident by the second quarter, but we are seeing improvements in areas that were concerns in previous games.

I’m sure there is a GoFundMe somewhere for #23’s ankle surgery he will need following the final pass to Tracy.

The best throw of the night, and maybe his season, came in the fourth quarter. An Iowa staple with CJ Beathard was quick play action to the skinny post between the safety and linebacker. Petras delivers a dime through the shrinking window to Tracy. In the next few weeks, I think we see this design go for 6.

Monster in the middle

Not only is Iowa dominating the middle of the line of scrimmage on offense, but the duo of Daviyon Nixon and Jack Heflin are punishing offenses with their interior play this season. Nixon is the athletic marvel who wows you several times a game, but I want to focus a little on the less heralded Heflin and what he brings to this Hawkeye defense.

Heflin’s role is typically to eat blockers and allow the interior linebackers a clean path to pursue the ball. What makes Heflin special is his ability to do that and pursue the ball at the same time. On the snap, he rather casually holds the left guard in his spot while reading the play. As the running back breaks his way, he discards the lineman with quick hands and swallows Mohamed Ibrahim.

Once again Heflin is too much for the left guard as he drives the Minnesota lineman into the backfield. Ibrahim bounces off his own blocker three yards behind the line of scrimmage before being driven out of bounds for a tackle for loss.

Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week

Another newcomer to the Iowa defensive front, Zach VanValkenburg, won conference honors this week with his three sack performance. VanValkenburg consistently won on the outside and took a step forward with finishing those plays as well.

Knowing he had a linebacker filling the gap between the tackle and guard, VanValkenburg jumps off the line at the snap and is able to ignore Minnesota’s play action. Once he is past the outside shoulder of the left tackle, he does an excellent job of getting parallel to the line of scrimmage and closing to Tanner Morgan’s back shoulder. It’s a quick wrap around the waist and an important negative yardage play.

VanValkenburg has been near the quarterback frequently this season, but the D2 transfer has been working through adjusting to life in the Big Ten. Several of his pressures have gone as near misses, but not this week. After twisting across the entire offensive line, VanValkenburg is able to take advantage of the pressure created by Joe Evans. From a spy position, he quickly closes and finishes the play once Morgan attempts to leave the pocket to his right. Getting to the quarterback is step one and the ability to finish those plays is the separator between the good and great players in that conference.

It wasn’t just his sacks that created momentum changing plays. During the 4th quarter red zone interception by Riley Moss, VanValkenburg drove the tight end directly in front of Morgan. Because of this, Morgan’s lead foot steps horizontally instead of toward the receiver and leads to an under thrown pass. The pressure also disrupts Morgan’s follow through. Moss takes advantage of the under throw and nearly had his second Pick 6 in as many weeks.

Welcome back Jack Campbell

Sophomore middle linebacker Jack Campbell was scheduled anchor Iowa’s linebackers prior to his diagnosis with Mono before the first game of the season. Campbell split time with Seth Benson at middle linebacker and looked good in his return to the field.

Campbell’s size and ability to move sideline-to-sideline is what separates him from anyone else on Iowa’s roster. At 6’5” 243 pounds, Campbell’s physical stature stands out on screen. Most players with that frame would be asked to put on a little weight and slide down to a three point stance, but most players don’t move like Campbell.

You would use the following clip to teach linebackers how to play against an RPO scheme. On the snap, Campbell comes forward to the line of scrimmage and traces the running back’s path parallel to offensive line. Once he reads the quarterback keeping the ball, he quickly flips his hips and begins his back pedal to his coverage depth. While reading the quarterback’s eyes, he recognizes the running back releasing to the flat and once again changes direction. On the tackle, notice how Campbell, a tall player, drops his weight and target window to make an excellent open field tackle on Ibrahim.

After dropping the first two games due to a combination of turnovers and mental penalties, Iowa has looked dominant at times the last two games. The combination of formation and motion varieties have sparked the run game offensively the past two weeks, and Phil Parker once again has put together one of the best defenses in all of college football.

Bonus Coverage

We all know that punting is winning. So sit back and enjoy the views as Tory Taylor awaits his national awards.