Well that was a good time, wasn’t it? Turns out that it’s fun to watch a halfway decent offense sustain drives and put points on the board (even if they left several more on the field) while the defense and special teams slowly squeeze the life out of their opponent. Finally, we got to watch Iowa play “complementary football”, as opposed to slogging through another Sickos Game of the Week.
The defense and special teams were great as always, holding an above average Rutgers offense to just 127 yards of offense on just 41 plays (nearly 30 less than the Defense’s average snap count for the season) and log their first shutout of the season (and their first conference shutout since blanking Northwestern in late 2019). Rutgers’ last two trips to Kinnick have resulted in shutouts, talk about the defense being inhospitable.
As great as the defense was, the big story Saturday was the offense and, for the first time in a long time, it wasn’t due to incompetence. From an offensive standpoint, this game had just about everything any of us want from an Iowa offense. Iowa won the TOP battle (38:22 to Rutgers’ 21:38) along with every other offensive category aside from TOs (which was a tie). I mean, the stats almost look like Brain knows what he’s doing:
- 50% 3rd down conversion rate (+24% on the season avg.)
- 21 first downs (+8)
- Multiple 6+ minute drives (we had one all season coming in to the game)
- 223 yards passing (+122), 64.5% completion (+17%), 7.2 ypp (+2)
- 179 yards rushing (+58), 3.9 ypc (+.4)
- 402 yards of offense (+159) at 5.22 ypp (+1)
- And we got to see MULTIPLE QB SNEAKS!
Someone who was unfamiliar with Iowa’s offensive woes may have even assumed that our offense wasn’t mired in concepts from the 1980s that have little place in college football circa 2023. It wasn’t perfect, by any measure, but man was it good to see the Iowa offense contribute to a win like they used to.
Deacon Hill – B1G Quarterback
Deacon Hill was not ready to be a QB1 when he was at Wisconsin. He was not ready to be QB1 when the season started, nor was he ready to be QB1 when called into service after Cade’s season ended against MSU. He certainly did not look like a QB1 through his first 3 starts, and tbh, he didn’t look ready to be a QB1 until there was about 1:30 to go in the 2nd quarter. On Iowa’s last drive before halftime, Deac went 5 for 7 for 62 yards to put Iowa in position to go up 10 at halftime and dropped a couple of absolute dimes, like this one to Seth Anderson:
Deac to Seth - https://youtube.com/clip/UgkxctuUYrDZTXqQpEDeXyf2B6wOVj8c4DLi?feature=shared
His 8th pass of the drive was disastrous (yeah, the play-call was pretty bad too, we should all be asking why that pass wasn’t, at least, thrown into the endzone) and he’s lucky it wasn’t returned for a TD, but he was showing signs of growth.
Then this happened:
Yes, the drive was scuttled on the next play when an ill-timed reverse to Nico went for a loss, but that pass was a beauty. After making this throw (with 6:22 left in the 3rd quarter) Deacon completed 8 of 10 passes for 108 yards and a TD (QB rating of 145). While his QBR for the game was only 83.3, he had a BR of 122.92 in the 2nd half, which is just slightly better than Joe Labas’ QBR against Kentucky. I think we’d all take that outcome just about every game.
Welcome to the Family Kaleb Brown
I can’t count how many times this season someone has asked “where is Kaleb Brown?” The announcement of his transfer this summer had pretty much every Iowa fan in a stir, with visions of Cade to Brown for long TDs the likes of which Iowa hasn’t seen in years. The clamoring for more Kaleb Brown didn’t die down with Cade’s injury and, as of Saturday, we may finally get what we want. While he didn’t put up superhuman numbers against Rutgers (3 catches for 27 yards, 2 rushes for 20 yards, 1 TD), there was definitely a tingle of excitement every time the ball found its way into his hands.
His first touchdown in an Iowa uniform gave me Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s 3rd TD against USC vibes:
Needless to say, I think we all hope to see a lot more of #3 on offense (or #86 if they decide to bring Coop over in the next couple of weeks).
I don’t think anyone expected to see Addison Ostrenga leading Iowa TEs in receptions in any game this year, but here we are. No Luke Lachey, no Erick All, no Steven Stillianos, but this is TIght End University and Abdul Hodge isn’t about to let injuries lead to a drop in targets now, is he?
Enter Addison Ostrenga and Zac Ortwerth. Ostrenga led all Iowa receivers with 8 catches and was very, very close to tip-toeing into the end zone for his 2nd career touchdown here:
He made several good catches on the day, though he’s still got some work to do when it comes to blocking, as evidenced by this missed block on that, aforementioned, ill-timed, reverse to Ragaini:
Ortwerth only had one catch, but it was a big one (the biggest of the season so far) and I imagine we’ll be seeing more of him over the last couple of weekends if Stillianos is unable to return from injury. I’m not sure if we’ll see All or Lachey don the Black & Gold again, but Ostrenga certainly has all the tools to be the next great Iowa TE, and the snaps that he, Johnny Pascuzzi, and Ortwerth are getting this season will go a long way towards accelerating their development.
Jay Higgins led Iowa with 8 tackles on Saturday, which is well below average for the nation’s 2nd leading tackler, and Cooper DeJean recorded no tackles and had only 1 pass defensed. Seems like the defense had an off week, until you realize that Rutgers only ran 41 plays, averaging just under 4 plays per drive. Rutgers’ 2nd half drive results are a testament to just how good this defense is:
- 7 plays, Punt
- 3 plays, Punt
- 3 plays, Punt
- 3 plays, Punt
- 1 play, Interception
- 3 plays, Punt
Yes, Rutgers averaged a 3 & out for the entire 2nd half on Saturday, managing just 10 total yards of offense. Remember, this was a team that was averaging 330.9 yards per game, and Iowa held them to 127. In comparison, Rutgers put up 361 yards of total offense two weeks ago against the Buckeyes, rushing for 232 of those. Iowa’s defense held them to 34 yards on 23 carries. OSU, currently, has the #2 scoring defense in the country, is #2 in stop rate, and is 2nd only to Iowa in YPP allowed.
Dominant does not even begin to describe the performance the defense gave on Saturday. We are all left to imagine what could have been if Iowa’s offensive production had been even 75% of what it was against Rutgers (#20 scoring defense, #10 total defense, #23 in stop rate).
Saturday’s effort has Iowa’s defense ranked #1 in Total Defense (YPP), #2 in SP+, and #3 in both scoring and Stop Rate. In a word, elite. Oh, and while they only created 1 turnover, it was a big one:
Anybody else feel like Jermari Harris was just waiting for Quinn to pitch him the ball a la Tyler Sash?
Next week Bert brings his boys to Kinnick in a game that will, likely, decide the B1G West division championship. The Illini have been all over the place this season, lacking consistency on both sides of the ball, but seem to have found something with John Paddock at QB in the last couple of weeks. Who gets the start could be up for debate if Luke Altmyer is ready to go (Bert has stated that Altmyer will not lose his job due to injury), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a QB switch if he gets the nod then underperforms against an Iowa defense that is looking to seal the division championship at home, on Senior Day. Let’s hope that Iowa’s offense turned a corner Saturday and gives another solid performance in its last home game of the season.
As always, GO HAWKS!!!