“Bottom line, we came here to get the win. That’s the best you can do.” - Kirk Ferentz
Following two big victories to open the season, Iowa hosted their first non-Power 5 opponent of the season. As Coach Kirk Ferentz mentioned, you just want to win the games and make progress. Iowa was able to get Tyler Goodson going scoring three touchdowns with two of them as breakaway runs. Another component of the offense was to make progress at wide receiver. Juniors Tyrone Tracy Jr. and Nico Ragaini each made multiple receptions and true freshman Arland Bruce IV and Keagan Johnson saw 20 and 17 snaps respectively. On the offensive line another true freshman, Connor Colby, saw 50 snaps and looked like he belongs. The defense, well, it continues to dominate. As fellow Blackheartgoldpants writer Bartt Pierce stated in our Slack
Kinda feels weird getting scored on
And you know what..he’s right.
Goodson enjoys much of the day in the end zone
Tyler Goodson continues to find his way into the end zone this year, and is frequently doing it while starting outside the red zone. Of his five touchdown runs, three of them are 35+ yards.
Early in the game, Kent State showed a lot of 8-man boxes forcing them into a single high safety. On 3rd and 1, Iowa went 22 personnel with tight ends Sam LaPorta and Luke Lachey lined up to the boundary. Kent State brought all 11 defenders within 7 yards of the line of scrimmage and all 11 were to the boundary side of field. Only a stand up linebacker was to the field of the Iowa left tackle.
At the snap, the entire Iowa offense starts to the boundary, but after a quick jab step Tyler Goodson sprints to his left catching a flip from Spencer Petras. By the time his hands are on the ball, only one defender is even to the field side of the near hashmarks. That linebacker quickly loses the footrace to the perimeter as Goodson races in from 46 yards.
Again on 3rd down Iowa utilizes their formation to manipulate the defensive numbers. This time, with 3rd and 9 Iowa is in shotgun with all three wide receivers to the field. LaPorta is opposite he receivers as he is inline toward the boundary. The single high safety takes a poor angle giving Goodson his second score of the day.
The offensive line play is clinic-worthy as Ince, Linderbaum, and Colby are able to get their helmets to the play side of their man and flip their hips and shoulders to seal off any backside pursuit. On the perimeter, LaPorta and Richman start with a double team on the boundary linebacker before Richman works to the next level and the cornerback.
For the hat trick, Goodson is able to punch in a goal line score in the 4th quarter. Once again backside pursuit is negated via cut blocks as Ince and Richman work a great double team. Pottebaum and LaPorta nail their blocks play side as well. A running back can ask for nothing better than Tyler Linderbaum to be his lead blocker into the end zone. Don’t be afraid to replay this one a few times to enjoy Linderbaum mauling his man all the way through the back of the end zone.
Play action progress
Through the first two games, Iowa’s play action passing attack has been very ineffective. What is usually a staple of this offense was extremely inefficient and not hitting any of its usual notes.
This week, we saw progress as Petras connected with LaPorta beyond the line of scrimmage multiple times as well as forcing a defensive holding call on Pottebaum.
I’ve felt like up until this point Petras has first looked to the underneath route and dumped the ball off before allowing deeper crossing routes to develop. On his first play action bootleg, you can see that Petras waits and actually gets his eyes to Tyrone Tracy on his crossing route first. When he does this, the play side safety is forced to deepen his drop to cover Tracy. This leaves LaPorta open as the secondary option underneath with room to get upfield following the catch. Had he dropped it off to LaPorta immediately the defender would have been in position to limit the play to under five yards. With the additional space created LaPorta was able to make that safety miss to pick up the first down.
From a more traditional drop back off play action Petras delivers one of his best throws of the day to LaPorta on a corner route. Presnap motion with Arland Bruce IV brings the safety into the box. The linebackers actually do a really nice job of reading the pass sets by the offensive lineman and do not bite on the play action fake. The safety attempts to get his hands on LaPorta to jam him, but LaPorta easily avoids being rerouted by the smaller defender while gaining outside leverage. Petras shows great touch throwing the ball where only LaPorta can make a play on the ball to pick up 18 yards.
One area of frustration for the Iowa offense was a lack of touches for Tyrone Tracy Jr in the first two games. On Iowa’s opening drive facing 3rd and 10, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz dials up a great tunnel screen call to Tracy catching Kent State bringing a blitz. In an attempt to cut back outside Tracy loses his footing and falls down before gaining the first down. Had he not slipped, I really believe this was going for a touchdown because the entire side was opening up in front of him.
Keeping this play in the back of his mind, Brian Ferentz goes back to it in the 3rd quarter facing another 3rd and long. This time he doesn’t catch the defense in a blitz, but is still able to pick up the first down.
While Iowa kept their route tree very vanilla for the non conference matchup, Petras did deliver his most on target throws of his career.
His lone touchdown pass was to Sam LaPorta near the goal line. As Petras moves his eyes to his LaPorta running his crossing route, the boundary corner starts to leave Tracy and work toward LaPorta. Petras delivers a perfect pass to the lead shoulder of LaPorta before the second defender is able to close the window completely.
It wasn’t just LaPorta and Tracy who benefited from Petras’ improved accuracy. Nico Ragaini saw his best game of the season hauling in four catches and the longest play of the game for Iowa.
While Iowa kept things very vanilla in their passing attack, they did take advantage of Kent State only having one safety in the middle of the field in the 4th quarter connecting with Ragaini off a double move. Petras does a good job of not waiting too long after the initial fake and does not allow the safety to come over to make a play on the ball. He hits the window between the safety and corner, and Ragaini nearly gets his first score of 2021.
Meet at the quarterback
Iowa’s defense continues to dominate opponents and this week was no different. I really don’t know what to say anymore other than Phil Parker is a magician and has this entire until playing so well together. Iowa recorded 7 sacks with Joe Evans and Lukas Van Ness leading the way at 2 a piece. They did it with speed rushes, twists, stunts, and bull rushes. Iowa has effectively rotated 9 players along the defensive line in each game and each of those players is grading positively. As you will see, Iowa’s coverage units also deserve a lot of credit for forcing Dustin Crum to hold onto the ball longer than he wants.
Play of the day
It doesn’t matter if Iowa’s defense has their backs against the wall. They continue to rise up in the biggest of moments.
Kent State is at the Iowa one yard line looking to make it a one score game. Budding superstar Jestin Jacobs splits the gap between the backside tackle and tight end before diving toward the running back. He is able to latch on to his right leg as Jack Campbell makes his way to fill the run lane. Campbell is joined by Jack Koerner, who fights off the block from the motioning receiver. Together they stall the ball carrier short of the end zone. While trying to make a last ditch effort for the goal line the ball falls out of the running back’s hands where Riley Moss is able to recover the fumble leading to a touchback.
While the fumble recovery gets the headlines, it is important to talk about the play prior to the turnover.
From the 4 yard line, Kent State runs the ball up the middle nearing the end zone. For a moment it looks as if the running back is going score thanks to a late push from the trailing left tackle. As this is happening, defensive tackle Yahya Black begins to wrestle for the ball. He is able to get both hands on the ball and with help from Jack Campbell is able to keep the running back from falling into the end zone. The next play, Iowa takes the ball for good.
It wasn't the turnover play, but it gave the defense one more chance to secure the goal line stop.
Speaking of Campbell, why not take a moment to enjoy his incredible awareness and speed to stop a screen pass from turning into a huge play. The amount of ground he covers on a play that gained zero yards is amazing.