This is getting hard to write about anymore. The offense is so broken, so dysfunctional in everything it does that it’s hard to write something new. Thankfully, if there’s one thing the Iowa offense is good at, it’s finding new depths to plumb! They give us new material every week! This week’s installment in “What the hell is Iowa’s offense?” Brian Ferentz does ok in some of those post-scripted drives, then completely loses the plot in the red zone.
Two examples of this that, against better opponents, will be costly. After a Cooper DeJean interception - can’t say more about him, though I think I’m going to take a stab at his brilliance in the coming weeks as we draw closer to the end of his Iowa career - Iowa takes over at the Purdue 5. After a 2-yard Kaleb Johnson run to the Purdue 3, Iowa lines up in 13 personnel. Only this time they’re in 13 out of shotgun. Fun! Breaking tendency! Not fun - Iowa can’t get out of their own way, getting too cute by half and the snap sails over Deacon Hill’s head for a 15-yard loss. Iowa settles for 3. What should be an easy 14-0 lead is only 10-0. Good territory, but still uncomfortable given Purdue explosions against Iowa in recent years. Regarding 13 personnel, Scott Dochterman has been on this for awhile now.
That second-down play was the first time this year Iowa was in shotgun in 13 personnel. Iowa entered the day with 44 snaps under center in 13, 0 in shotgun. Then the ball goes over the QB's head.— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) October 7, 2023
I get Iowa attempting to break tendency. That’s a positive development. But what is Iowa doing, a program that has run 13 personnel more than they should and has run everything under center in that personnel grouping, getting too cute by half with 13 and running that play out of shotgun, and from the Purdue 3? If you’ve paid attention to me in the comments over the years, you know I can’t stand teams running shotgun in those situations. Nebraska did it all the time under Scott Frost, usually ending in a comically bad result for the Huskers. A handoff to the running back means he gets the ball from what is essentially a standing position, with no momentum toward the goal. Then of course there is the issue of a bad snap, which we saw today. Iowa always has mitigation of risk at the top of mind, so let’s introduce shotgun in that scenario? This cost Iowa points - Iowa of course turtled on 3rd and goal from the 18, making no attempt to score a touchdown.
The next sequence was Iowa attempting a throwback to a left tackle. Re-read that sentence. If you follow anyone in the Iowa press corps, you noted that they all jumped on the fact that Mason Richman was listed as questionable Saturday. So naturally, with Iowa putting an excellent drive together, inside the Purdue 10, they run a designed throwback to Richman. A trick play to...the left tackle. Too cute by half again, so we’re now fully too cute. Two trips inside the Purdue 5, and just 6 points to show for it.
Iowa tries to be a program that prides itself on excellent defense, good special teams, and an offense that can make hay when presented with the opportunities provided by the other two phases. “Complementary,” though we know Iowa’s been anything but of late. Iowa usually plays it straight and somehow gets it in the end zone in those situations when they’re on the doorstep, but has a total change in direction now, in the middle of a crisis on the offensive side of the ball. Does Iowa even know what they’re trying to be? 13 personnel run too much, under center all the time, but NOW suddenly out of shotgun? You try to break tendency there? A throwback to an eligible tackle that was a question to even play? This is a horrific scheme - it’s always been bad, but now the excuse of personnel is gone given they hit the transfer portal so hard; in that regard, this year is a disaster for the Ferentz regime - that then overthinks things at the worst times. An identity crisis too. GREAT.
As I sat on my couch, flabbergasted by the Iowa drive that “featured” the Richman throwback, I texted a group of friends about how unfun Iowa football has become. One friend, usually quick in his responses, was curiously absent for a few minutes. He replied shortly after Iowa went up 13-7.
“I took an edible and did a hike instead.”
Finally, a good decision regarding Iowa football.
- Kaleb Johnson. OHHHHH KALEB! This guy has a grudge with Our Most Hated Rival. In two games against the Boilermakers, KJ2 has 334 yards rushing on 39 carries and two touchdowns. That’s a robust 8.5 yards a pop. He’s had chunk plays of 75 (TD), 67 (also a TD), 44, and 33 yards in those two games. He has a gear no other back on the team has and it’s so nice having him in the lineup again. He’s Iowa’s response to David Bell.
- The Iowa defense, again. 12 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 2 interceptions, and they could’ve had a third when Hudson Card was sacked late and flipped the ball over his head, back to the field of play. Cooper DeJean could have picked it off but he let it fall harmlessly to the ground (it’s one of the dumbest plays I’ve ever seen from a quarterback; Card looked like he was hurt on an earlier Cooper DeJean pick then played the rest of the game). Somehow, they had to make another stop...
- ...due to more overthinking/identity crisis shit. Iowa’s last full drive, 3rd and short, sneak is back in the playbook with the Deaconator going into Skid Loader mode...and they run a counter into a stacked box. Slow-developing play, for a loss and a punt back so the complementary football has to be a 99-1 ratio on defense-to-offense complements. Seems overly complementary to Phil Parker! I honestly can’t stand that the defense had to answer the call one more time. Tale as old as time. Fortunately Purdue threw at DeJean on fourth down.
Throwing at Cooper with the game on the line. pic.twitter.com/b7P7t4OrJY— Hawkeye Nation (@hawkeyenation) October 7, 2023
- Seriously, Iowa had to make one more stop in this game. Coaching malpractice.
- If the wide receivers want to get more targets, catch the ball. Yeah, some of the throws from Hill were bad. Spencer Petras wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Hill was on a few throws. One of the few good passes hits Seth Anderson in the facemask and caroms directly to a Purdue safety though? That has to be caught. You can survive that against Purdue. You can’t survive that against Wisconsin.
- Speaking of wide receivers - Kaleb Brown didn’t play due to “personal reasons” but wasn’t on the pregame list of pregame inactives. Gulp.
- Next week might suck. Buckle up.
- Hill felt really amped for this game, so much so that he reminds me of the first Drew Tate start back in 2004. Tate was beyond amped for the game, so amped he didn’t properly hydrate and missed part of the game due to dehydration. Hill didn’t miss snaps but wow - dude clearly had all week to think about this start and was amped up to 11. Everything had a little extra heat on it, which is crazy given all of his throws have a little extra heat on them. He’ll be amped next week too, given his ties to Wisconsin. So memo to the guys that never played quarterback - maybe build a gameplan that allows for some easy throws?
- I sound like Kirk, citing back to 2004. I am to 2004 Iowa football as Kirk is to 1980 Pitt football.
- BHGP had more boots on the ground than usual in Iowa City. They all noted weird vibes in the air. Things just felt...off. Whole experience with Iowa football feels off. It’s been this way for a long time. That isn’t healthy.