Under Coach Kirk Ferentz the Iowa Hawkeyes have always been a developmental program. Despite losing a few players early every year, the Hawkeyes are known for being fundamentally sound, tough football players who improve their craft each week. Throughout the course of a season, more often than not, the Hawkeyes are a better product in January than in September. Even though this seems obvious, many college teams fail to improve from fall camp to bowl prep. Coach Ferentz, despite a conservative offensive approach, excels at skill development. The Hawkeyes once again put points on the board on defense and now head back to Iowa City with a huge challenge/opportunity ahead of them. More than likely, Michigan will smoke us, but I also think back to the B1G Championship game when the Wolverines, up big, ran a trick play to run the score up. That play may be on a loop at the Iowa football complex this week. Anyway, let’s take a look at the Rutgers game.
Spencer Petras has looked like a serviceable signal caller the past two weeks for the black and gold. His grades have been tricky this year. I admittedly have been too lenient on him; I think he’s a good dude and teammate. I also have always given a quarterback “bonus points” for a win, even though this doesn’t make sense. I’m a basketball guy and I’ve always felt the same way about point guards. Anyway, the Iowa State game was a tipping point for me when I gave Big Spence a big, fat “F” burger. Petras made some throws against Nevada and took his game up another level against a legitimate Rutgers defense. On the day Petras was 11 for 17 for 148 yards with no interceptions (or TD’s). These are very pedestrian numbers, but from where we were to this, I will take it. On the day Petras’ QBR (total quarterback rating) was 58.3. This was a far cry from the 1.0 score that Petras graded out as against South Dakota State. Petras jumped all the way to number 125 in the nation (he is now ahead of Joey Yellen of Hawaii). Petras’ QBR is 11.6 vs Yellen’s 8.5. As a comparison the FBS leader is Jalon Daniels of Kansas with a QBR of 98.0. If Petras keeps improving and winning I will be a happy Hawk.
Leshon Williams played the best game of his life a week after he lost his father. Whether you are a Hawkeye or a Scarlet Knight, that’s everything that’s right about the world. Williams ran the ball eleven times for 64 yards (5.8) and a score. Kaleb Johnson toted the rock 15 times for 58 yards (3.9). He’s a home run waiting to happen. Gavin Williams ran the ball seven times for a 2.4 yard average. The Williams duo also caught two passes each out of the backfield.
Offensively we can’t have nice things. If our wide receivers put up decent/good numbers, our tight ends are invisible and vice versa. This was again the case against Rutgers. Of Arland Bruce IV, Brody Brecht, and Nico Ragaini (the “new” pronunciation is now even cooler - it should be as it’s 28 syllables) hauled in a total of one pass. That remind me of the Bob Uecker (Harry Doyle) scene in Major League. “That’s all we got? One &*%$$ *&@#% hit?!”
Sam LaPorta and Luke Lachey combined to make six catches for 114 yards.
That’s Iowa football! Now, let’s get everyone involved!
In football you go as your lines go. Iowa has been batting .500 in that department then. Our offensive line has not been hitting on all (many) cylinders so far this year. There are glimpses of progress, but the progress can be gauged on a sundial. The Hawks averaged a respectable 3.4 yards on the ground. The negatives were pretty ugly. Spencer Petras was sacked three times and the Scarlet Knights’ defense accumulated another five TFL’s. That’s gotta get cleaned up before Michigan or it will be a blowout.
Iowa’s defensive line gathered 2.5 sacks. The usual suspects Lukas Van Ness and Aaron Graves collected these. The Scarlet Knights averaged 2.5 yards on the ground. Joe Evans blew up a play that deserves a couple looks.
This is flat-out bullying. Kinda a jerk move by Evans if you ask the parents/guardians of that poor Rutgers kid.
Iowa’s linebackers were 1, 2 in tackles as expected. Seth Benson led the Hawks with 9 and Jack Campbell added 8. Jay Higgins has done a fine job filling in for Jestin Jacobs. Higgins had five tackles. Jacobs returned to action. Hopefully the Hawks have a healthy stable of ‘backers for the Michigan game.
I haven’t given a plus in my three years of doing these grades. I’m tempted. The Ball Hawks were all over the field on Saturday. Kaevon Merriweather was a boss. He had three tackles, a pass breakup, an interception, and a scoop and score.
You can’t do much better than that. After the Nevada game I had written the following regarding Cooper DeJean, “My guess is that he will find the end zone in the next couple of weeks.” (dang, I just quoted myself.)
DeJean is our best football player. I love that he was back returning punts, by the way. DeJean housed his interception on a play where he ran about 70 yards. The Hawkeyes were without Terry Roberts; this allowed the Hawks to get Sebastian Castro on the field a bit more. Castro is a fierce hitter. His forced fumble allowed Merriweather to get the Hawks another defensive touchdown on the season. It was fun seeing former Hawk and current New York Giant Dane Belton celebrating with his fellow D-backs after their scores.
Special Teams: A
This doesn’t come as a surprise, but Iowa’s special teams get more A’s than Oprah could hand out in two lifetimes. Iowa has found a pretty dang good kicker in true frosh Drew Stevens. He was 3-for-3 on his extra points and he banged field goals from 25 and 51. In the return game the Hawks have passed the torch to Cooper DeJean (punt return) and Kaleb Johnson (kick return). Both are excellent examples of LeVar Woods continuing to raise the bar/target for his special teams. Pssst, Kirk and Brian, CDJ as wildcat QB 3x/game, please. In the battle of the punters, Tory Taylor had a slight edge over Adam Korsak. Taylor punted five times for an average of 42.6 yards. He also had four balls downed inside the twenty.
Up Next: Michigan
No one is going to give our boys a chance this upcoming weekend. We all know that “Chip-on-its-shoulder Iowa” is the best Iowa. The Hawks will have to play near-flawless football to have a chance, buy you know the Kinnick crowd, the Wave, the Pink Locker Room, and Iowa’s defense and special teams will have something to say about it. As always, Go Hawks!