“When we had opportunities we capitalized. Made big plays.” - Kirk Ferentz
Iowa only possessed the football for 19:41 during the showdown for Floyd of Rosedale, and it didn’t even feel like that much. But the Hawkeyes were able to strike enough to produce their largest offensive output since the beginning of October. When you only run 50 offensive plays, you better make them count.
Sluggo Home Fleck
The Hawkeyes found themselves down three early in the third quarter, but just forced a stop and earned an extra fifteen yards due to a punt catch interference call to dig them out of a hole.
With two tight ends in the game, Minnesota pulls five men to the line of scrimmage as well as dropping the field safety to within seven yards of the ball. On the opposite side of the field Iowa has their two leading targets, Keagan Johnson and Sam LaPorta. With Johnson’s downfield ability, the boundary safety needs to be positioned slightly deeper. The field corner is noticeably positioned outside of Charlie Jones, and Iowa’s offensive staff had noticed this trend throughout the game.
The previously mentioned safety steps up to take Luke Lachey who is running a hitch in the middle of the field leaving Jones with man coverage on the outside. As Padilla hits his back foot on his five step drop Jones takes his outside break. The corner jumps even farther outside before Jones cuts back inside and upfield for his sluggo route. From there it is just a matter of not overthrowing with wide open receiver.
Iowa would not relinquish the lead from this point.
Big time players make big time plays
Sometimes there is nothing more to it than a dude just making a dude play. After Minnesota brought the game back to within one, Iowa was driving an had just entered field goal range. Iowa draws up a screen pass to Johnson with the plan of just having left tackle Jack Plumb as his lead blocker. To move the defense, Iowa brings in a short outside zone fake to Tyler Goodson. That fake moved both linebackers away from the play, but Johnson’s defender was in press man coverage and reacted quickly to his movement back to the ball before Plumb could get out to block. Somehow Johnson is able to break the tackle of two Gophers and then turns on the jets to race in for the momentous touchdown.
Earlier in the drive Johnson was able to pick up fifteen yards via penalty by outracing the corner on the other side of the field.
Iowa goes with a fullback and tight end on 2nd and 6, signaling a probable run call near midfield. This look drops the field safety deep into the box and within six yards of the line of scrimmage. With no fear of Iowa’s deep passing game, the corner who does not have safety help is in press coverage. At the snap Johnson is able to give the corner a quick shake before getting a clean outside release. Padilla recognized the matchup pre snap and correctly floats the ball downfield. With nothing between Johnson and the end zone, the corner is forced to tackle the standout freshman receiver before he can get to the ball.
Fakes...Fakes are good
Last week we took notice of a clear change in play calling when Padilla entered the game. The biggest change, was a drastic increase in play action calls. This week, that trend continued with 10 of the 24 passes coming off of play action. With Spencer Petras at quarterback, Iowa was only featuring play action on about 20% of their pass calls. That number has rocketed to over 40% the last two games. This is a good trend for a program trying to ease the burden of a young quarterback as well as slow down the pursuit of defenses keying on Preseason All-Conference running back Tyler Goodson.
Padilla’s ability to get to the edge is one thing, but it is his footwork in the pocket that is also opening up the run fake playbook. Another way Iowa has attempted to slow down linebackers and safeties who have been triggering once the quarterback turns his back is to introduce more counter and misdirection concepts with the run game. In order to play fake out of this, the quarterback needs to open in one direction, turn the other way to fake, and then snap back around to roll out. Padilla executes all three flawlessly here before getting to the edge and finding LaPorta for a first down. His mobility is important here because Iowa chooses to pull right guard Connor Colby away from the rollout to really sell the run fake.
With two tight ends in the game Minnesota, like most Iowa fans, is expecting a run play. Instead, a slant route following a short fake leads to an easy completion that would have led to a first down prior to the fumble.
A small, but important detail I want to highlight here is to watch Tyler Linderbaum at center and Colby at right guard. As the fake comes in their direction, they fire their first step forward to a double team on the defensive tackle. This adds to the run key for the fake-side linebackers who quickly react by stepping toward the line of scrimmage. Padilla fires the ball to Ragaini directly behind where those linebackers (one who is falling over trying to recover from the fake) would have been for an easy completion.
With 3rd and 2 from the Gopher 39 yard line, you have an opportunity to take a shot downfield knowing you are likely keeping the offense on the field for 4th down in the event the play doesn’t work. That is exactly what Iowa’s offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz does in this instance. With two tight ends and a fullback (22 personnel), Minnesota is clearly expecting run and drops nearly the entire defense to within 4 yards of the line of scrimmage. Prior to the snap Iowa motions Sam LaPorta across the formation and draws a follow from the Minnesota corner indicating man coverage. With the long developing deep crossing route, Iowa keeps tight end Luke Lachey in for extra protection. Jones is able to make a highlight level catch on a well positioned pass for Padilla that leads to Iowa’s first touchdown on the night.
Ground game remains grounded
Iowa’s running game continues to struggle to gain traction in 2021, but Iowa did have success at times and tried a few different looks that I liked.
When your offense has struggled, it is vital to turn red zone trips into touchdowns. This year, Iowa has struggled in those situations and it has been in large part to an inability to pick up normal games in a condensed space. By going to the shotgun with three receivers to the field, Iowa is able to force one linebacker and one safety outside of the defensive box. Even though the touchdown was overturned, getting nearly five yards in this situation is a major upgrade from the output this offense has been getting in previous goal to go situations.
Coming into the season most Hawkeye fans expected big things from junior receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. While the season has not turned out as anyone expected for him, he still has a skillset that Iowa is looking to use to help open things up for the rushing attack.
One of my favorite recent changes has been the increased use of 10 personnel where Iowa is able to get Tracy, Johnson, and Jones on the field together. Following the handoff, Goodson flips the ball to Tracy on the reverse looking to attack the over pursuit by the defense. The backside corner stayed home well enough to make contact with Tracy behind the line of scrimmage, but as he often does Tracy is able to fight through contact and turned a short loss into enough of a gain that put Iowa in a much better position for 3rd down.
Supplementing the run game with these reverses and more jet sweep touches will benefit the run game over the final two regular season matchups.
All indications point to Padilla continuing to be the man at quarterback going forward. While his numbers are not drastically different than what we saw from Spencer Petras, the ability to extend plays is noticeable. This isn’t an offense that can strike at any moment, so keeping drives alive is pivotal. Third down conversions like this is something necessary for this offense to be successful. Padilla is the only guy in the quarterback room capable of making this play.