LET'S GET RIGHT TO IT. For the second week in a row the temperatures in Kinnick Stadium eclipsed 90 degrees. Iowa hosted FCS Missouri State and decided to use the run game to wear down and like 1,000 small cuts, slowly kill the Bears.
Having watched the game a handful of times now, I feel much better than I did after walking out of Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. Iowa's miscues in the red zone and 11 penalties for 100 yards ultimately kept this game from becoming the bench-clearing blowout we all expected. The Hawks manhandled MSU up front and did what they had to do to get the win. Iowa has two non-conference games against Iowa State (allowed 228 rushing yards to UNI) and Western Michigan (403 yards allowed in two games) left. This was a good chance to work out the kinks in the run game as it will be the identity of this offense for at least the rest of September.
RUN, RUN, RUN. As a team, Iowa ran the ball 58 times. So, here's some of Iowa's rush plays. I'll start with my favorite. It's Iowa's bread and butter zone rush off of left tackle. I picked this Mark Weisman rush because of the hilarity that ensued along the lines. This was one example of what took place several times over in this game.
It looks like somebody threw a grenade into the MSU defensive line. There's bodies everywhere. Iowa's two tight ends get out in space and take their assigned defenders out of the play (what's MSU #44 doing? Lol). Brandon Scherff took what looks like a hand to the facemask but still spun his guy around and took him out of the play. The MSU safety comes to the the line like his hair is on fire and forgets to break down and takes himself out of position. Here, Weisman shows good vision finding a crease and is an arm tackle away from really breaking this wide open.
Next, we see Jordan Canzeri show his scoot. He doesn't possess a great ability to get yards after contact but he can get lost behind the Oline and flashes his quickness here.
If Jacob Hillyer makes a block, Canzeri has one-on-one with a corner for a touchdown. Canzeri's quick feet in the backfield completely freezes the MSU middle linebacker and removes him from the play. The Oline again gets a push and Iowa gains almost 10 yards on the carry. I'd like to see more of Canzeri and think we will in the future.
Here we see Iowa in a short yardage situation and using tempo to gain an advantage. Missouri State was still unorganized when Iowa was ready for the snap but still managed to get eight men in the box.
LeShun Daniels doesn't look like a true freshman. He started his run too far to the outside but quickly cut on a dime and got up field gaining positive yards. He gets a good block at the second level from Brett Van Sloten. If BVS holds that block Daniels has one man to beat. The push from Austin Blythe here is excellent too. With Weisman at 50 carries already on the season, it's important Iowa has a plan in case he goes down to injury. Daniels appears to be that insurance policy and in this early glimpse he shows he's a good one.
WE TALKED ABOUT THIS OVER THE SUMMER. Here we see Iowa utilize Weisman and Damon Bullock in the backfield like they mentioned over and over in the off season. Iowa has first and goal from the 13 and Weisman is at fullback and Bullock at tailback.
Iowa motions Bullock to the outside taking a linebacker from MSU's 3-4 defense with him. Along with the outside backer, the middle backer loosens up from the line. The play goes straight ahead to Weisman and Iowa has five linemen to block four defenders. Austin Blythe gets an immediate release and is in the second level. The play doesn't go for a touchdown but a positive gain on first down gets Iowa into a manageable second down inside the 10 yard line.
Okay, so I'm starting to like Greg Davis and his offense. The Iowa game plan is still the power run game. Davis has scripted plays to give Iowa leverage with that power run game along the trenches. Whether it's motion from the backfield, like the play above, jet sweeps to Powell or the read option, he's focused on loosening up the middle. It makes sense. There's a 240 pound running back that's hungry to maul defenders and gain positive yards. The passing game though, that still needs work.
THE PLAY OF THE DAY. Davis got in the heads of the MSU defensive coordinator to come up with this play. I felt Iowa had the roll-out play action available all day, particularly in the second half. Maybe he didn't want to get his QB killed (probably the same reason they used less read option this week versus running it 12 times against NIU)? Here, Iowa used Damond Powell as a decoy and the play action to get big yards on the pass play.
Powell lined up wide, just like the week before, and he took off deep. This time he took his defender across the middle of the field and he had MSU's attention. Using Powell as a decoy took MSU defenders away from the flat and Iowa's George Kittle ran a wheel route from the backfield into wide open turf. The play action was a great call as MSU had eight in the box (as they did most of the second half). Kittle fakes the block and the linebacker was immediately in chase mode. The throw from Rudock was fantastic too. All around great play. It's too bad the BTN was just coming out of commercial because this Vine doesn't do it justice.
THE WORST PLAY OF THE DAY. Ugh, it wasn't all unicorns and rainbows. I'm not in Jake Rudock's head but I'm guessing this was a complete failure with the pre-snap read. The linebackers were up and perhaps Rudock read blitz. With the quick drop he zoned in on Fiedorowicz, who ran a three yard stop route, and let it fly right into the hands of the linebacker. In Jake's defense, the LB did slip but the decision was made so quickly it appeared he didn't expect the defense to be there in the first place. Bad pre-snap read, bad play all around.