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View From The Cheap Seats: We’re All Mad Here

I’m mad, you’re must be, or you wouldn’t have come here

NCAA Football: Purdue at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The word mad has two primary meanings, either of which can be readily applied to Iowa football fans at any point during an Iowa football game. We are all mad about Brian Ferentz’s ability to ruin quarterbacks. We are all mad that Kirk Ferentz does not seem to be all that bothered with this team’s continual offensive ineptitude. We are all mad that WRs are not targeted enough. We are all mad when those WRs drop the targets they get. But, just maybe, we are all truly mad for subjecting ourselves to the emotional terrorism wrought by Iowa football for a minimum of 12 Saturdays each fall.

To wit, another Saturday has come and gone, and like most of you I am simultaneously happy and angry about Iowa’s sloppy victory over a Purdue team that proved to be significantly worse than any of us thought. By my count Iowa left a minimum of 14 points on the table Saturday afternoon, and had they managed to win this game 34-14, I think we would all be much happier.

Now, before we get too far down the rabbit hole, let’s run through a few quick stats:

  • Iowa’s offense put up 291 total yards Saturday
  • Tory Taylor posted 284 punting yards
  • Iowa converted just 3 of 13 3rd down attempts (23%)
  • Deacon Hill completed just 6 passes, and the WRs had 0 catches on the day
  • Iowa’s average drive lasted ~1:31 (excluding the drives that ended each half)

If any other team had posted those numbers, I would, almost certainly, be writing about how they had been thoroughly dominated by their opponent en route to a loss that dashed their hopes for any chance at a Division crown, but this is Iowa we’re talking about, so of course we won. We are through the Looking Glass people, up is down, down is up, and Iowa football is the maddest of Hatters (this is the last Alice in Wonderland reference, I promise).

Return of the Back

Man, how good is it to have KJ2 back in tip-top shape?

This is the best outside Zone play Iowa has run this season, bar none. KJ2 loves putting up big numbers against Purdue (2 games, 39 carries, 334 yards (8.5 ypc), 2 Tds), and it was good to see him bust the run that we had been waiting for all season. No other Iowa RB has the top end speed of KJ2 and having him back helps the running game a lot. This next run did not result in a TD but reemphasized what we had been missing the last few weeks.

Now, if only we could do this consistently. Both KJ2 and LeShon WIlliams had some solid runs on Saturday, but there were also a lot of stuffs for no gain or short losses, including an absolutely terrible run up the gut on 3rd & 1 to end the drive following Purdue’s final TD. I’m not sure why BF didn’t call for the sneak there and just try to extend the drive, but he didn’t. I mean, it’s not like we have a 6’3”, 258-pound bulldozer playing QB or anything.

“Hamburger” Hill

Yeah, I’m sticking with the nickname, and it’s pretty fitting for Saturday’s performance (given what the movie Hamburger Hill is about). The view from my couch led me to a couple of thoughts:

First, Deacon was pressing, a lot. He was trying to win this game single-handedly and that led to a lot of forced throws and overlooking a lot of open receivers on routes a little closer to home. (Sidenote: When did we decide that only TEs can run slot routes? Nico made his money on those short to medium routes across the middle for two years, and now they’ve all but disappeared.)

Second, the playcalling on Saturday was not altogether bad and I appreciated the increased number of passes downfield, but Deac needed plays that would get him comfortable, not 50/50 balls that, even if thrown perfectly (which most were not), are not sure things. We needed more of what we saw in the below video, and a lot less of everything else:

Last, though certainly not least, WRs need to catch balls (I cannot in good conscience blame Deacon for this pick).

Deac had a rough day Saturday, but he stuck with it and did not give up on himself. The TD pass to All was his best pass of the day, it was also his last. Hopefully, that pass is a harbinger of better things to come.

Doin’ it All

This is a terrible heading and Iam ashamed of the laziness in that description, but I just can’t come up with any other way to describe the way Erick All has played the last couple of weeks (and who doesn’t love a good pun). 5 catches for 97 yards and a TD is a hell of a line for any TE, even one at TEU. But what those numbers do not tell you is how valuable he is in the run game, both as a pulling blocker and from the FB/HB position.

Do me a favor and go back and watch KJ2’s long TD run again but pay particular attention to All. Johnson gets the glory, but All’s block sealed the backside of the enormous hole that he ran through. Then rewatch KJ2’s second chunk run, where he was the lead blocker clearing the way. All’s block knocked a Purdue LB (Karlaftis I believe) into the DB coming up in support, taking them both out of position and springing Kaleb for 33 yards. He has been doing this all season, and it should be recognized.

Guess Who’s Back?

The Iowa defensive line awoke from its 3-week slumber to erupt for 6 sacks (should have been 7, we’ll get to that later), 11 TFL’s and 45 total tackles. Logan Lee led the sack party with 2 sacks, and Joe Evans seemed to return to form with 1.5 sacks. Lee and Evans combined for 7 TFL’s alone, including this stop of former Hawkeye Tyrone Tracy.

Lee’s first sack of Hudson Card featured the first of a few head-scratching moments from the Texas transfer:

Deontae Craig also got in on the act which is nice to see, a lot of people were expecting him to be the next Hercules (given that he, Evans, and Van Ness tied for the team lead with 6.5 sacks each last season), but he’s gotten off to a bit of a slow start.

Maybe the strangest play on the day came from Hudson Card when he avoided this sack courtesy of Joe Evans and Max Llewellyn. I had honestly been wondering since Coop’s pick if Card was, perhaps, concussed. This play convinced me that he should not have been on the field.

I am still not sure why Coop let that ball go to the ground, that should have been pick #3 on the season, and would have been just a little bit of payback for the pinball pick Purdue picked up in the 1st quarter.

The Best Player on the Field

Speaking of Coop, he may not have put up staggering numbers – 3 tackles (2 solo) and a pick that he almost took to the house – but he almost completely shut down Deion Burks all afternoon. Yeah, he had a DPI (though I’ll go to the grave thinking that was a bad call, Burks came back into him AND pushed off to draw that flag), but it could have been a TD, so no complaints. Burks came into the game averaging around 15 ypc, on Saturday he averaged less than 5. He did an awful lot of jawing but was unable to back any of it up on the field.

This pick was a beaut, I just wish he’d cut inside a tad earlier on the return, because I knew the moment he went down on the Purdue 5 that all we were getting was a FG:

The Big Brain Hall of Fame

We’ve all spent far too much time sitting at home, or in the stands at Kinnick, wondering just what Brian Ferentz is thinking, but for me this play call should be immortalized as his shining moment of idiocy.

One of the other BHGP staff members called this play call “too cute by half”, I’ll go much further. This was the worst play call I think I have ever seen from Brian Ferentz. You have the ball 1st & goal on the Purdue 6 yard line, you have KJ2 and LeShon Williams picking up 6.8ypc on average, and your first thought is, hey, why don’t we try a tackle eligible screen pass to a guy who was listed as “questionable” coming into the game. That is not cute, it is not even creative, it is just flat-out stupid. Granted, if it had worked someone, somewhere (possibly even me) would be calling it one of his best playcalls, and we can talk about the potential for hypocrisy some other time, it did not work, it was stupid. The fact that it completely killed any momentum the offense had picked up from the 33-yard dart that All picked out of the air on the previous play just adds insult to injury. I don’t know about you guys, but I remember when Iowa having 1st & Goal from the 5 was a near guaranteed touchdown, not three offensive fails and a FG.

Let’s wrap this up on a somewhat positive note and speak briefly about the Offensive Line. To be blunt, the Oline has been bad this season, like historically bad (yeah, worse than 2022). Coming into this game Iowa was averaging 102 rushing yards per game (very bad). If you take out the 254 yard explosion against 2-4 WMU (and their 130th ranked defense) that number drops to 51.2 (worst in the country by 7.3 yards per game). Iowa’s passing attack is legendarily bad (131st out of 133 with the only “worse” teams being Navy and Air Force, both of whom run the Triple Option), and while the running game is not as bad (108), it is well below what we’ve all come to expect from the Iowa ground game. Saturday’s performance wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better than the last two weeks. Maybe, just maybe, Coach Barnett has found a good starting lineup with Feth moving to LG and Colby to RG in place of the injured Nick DeJong. Also, it looks like Daijon Parker has finally cracked the 2 deep, so maybe we’ll get to see what the transfer from Saginaw Valley State can do up in Madison. Let’s hope he’s moved past the injuries that have plagued him all year and can be a difference maker.

Iowa opened as 9.5 point dogs on the road against Wiscy, and the line has bumped up to 10 (o/u at 36.5) as I write these final words. Wisconsin is no longer Iowa’s twin to the north, and having watched Tanner Mordecai handle Rutgers’ defense last weekend, I am not particularly confident that we’ll be bringing the Bull back to its rightful home in Iowa City, but if we can drag them down to our level and beat them with experience, we may just have a chance.

As always, GO HAWKS!