As reported by Rick Brown of the Des Moines Register, Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis told a Marshall County I-Club crowd Wednesday that Iowa's newfound reliance on the no-huddle offense was not a spring fling. "One of the things we felt, after evaluating all kinds of things in the off-season, was we needed more snaps," the second-year Iowa offensive coordinator said. Iowa's 64 offensive snaps a game last season was near the bottom of the conference, after an early experiment with an up-tempo no-huddle offense ended in failure.
Since Vince Young graduated from Texas at the end of the 2005 season, Greg Davis has coordinated 77 games. In his last five years at Texas Davis' teams averaged 72.5 plays per game, lower than Franklin's 80-play target but significantly higher than the 64 plays Iowa averaged per game in 2011 or 62 per game it averaged in 2010. Iowa ran 82 plays from scrimmage in its opener against Northern Illinois, in retrospect the shining moment of the 2012 season. The Hawkeyes ran 70 plays against Iowa State, 71 against UNI, and the up-tempo was quite literally punted. Iowa broke the 70-play mark just once more in 2012, against Northwestern (and that's just a sign that Iowa was playing into Northwestern's hand again). Of the 17 games Greg Davis has coordinated since 2006 where his team failed to reach 64 plays, six occurred after Week 3.
This may seem trivial. It is anything but that. Davis teams are marginally better for each play run up to play 70 (at which point production plateaus), averaging a touchdown per game more in contests where they meet that benchmark than in games where they take 60 or fewer snaps. More damning: In games where his teams took more than 70 snaps, Davis teams were 34-7. With less than 70 snaps, they were 20-16. With less than 65 snaps, they were 10-11.
Iowa averaged 63.75 snaps in 2012. The Hawkeyes managed just 62 a game during the six-game losing streak that ended the season. And, as Kirk Ferentz tried to spin yesterday, they were five points per game from finishing 10-2.
Yeah, I believe I had that.
More interesting from Davis' remarks is the mention of formation variety. When Ferentz last danced with the no-huddle offense, in late September-early October 2011, Iowa initially showed formation variety, especially in a blowout of Louisiana-Monroe to close the non-conference season. But once conference play started in a road game at Penn State, Iowa reverted to a 3-wide, single-back formation for every no-huddle play. That simplicity allowed Penn State to remain in a nickle formation without repercussion, and the Nittany Lions ate up the Iowa offense. Formational variety is more important to the success of a modern collegiate no-huddle offense than the tempo itself; even if the defense can stay with the tempo, it is trying to defend your zone left out of a two tight end formation with the same personnel it used to defend your four-wide shotgun one play earlier. This pushes defensive coordinators into base packages and coverages, and if you know what a defense is going to do, you can attack its weaknesses repeatedly and effectively with inferior personnel. So what we're saying is, this is a pleasing development.
There have been so many pronouncements at this point about Iowa's up-tempo offense, and so many public displays of its existence this spring, that we have to assume it is not an elaborate ruse. If it's truly here and it's run properly, all evidence suggests the offense could be more productive almost immediately. If it's just another concept discarded by Ferentz the first time it doesn't work, well, there's always the zone read left.