It's hard to write anything productive. All I really feel like doing is complaining about the offense and how crappy it is. After 28 games into the Greg Davis/Kirk Ferentz blended philosophy experiment the offense still has no identity and can't put up more than 17 lousy points on one of the worst defenses in major college football. There was no question Saturday about which unit was the worst to see the field. And that is just sad.
But at least I have some structure with this post to review this game. It gives me something to write other than "Fire Greg Davis" 100 times. But let's make this quick.
A Game Changing Play
There wasn't anything even close the a big play for the Iowa offense. Jake Rudock connected with Ray Hamiliton down the seam early for a 20 yard gain that led to Iowa's first score. But other than that, absolutely nothing. Rudock took just one shot down field and it was intercepted. The longest run of the day was Rudock scrambling up the middle for 13 yards while Iowa State was sitting back in deep zones as time was running out in the final seconds of the first half. No run by a running back went more than 9 yards.
The only game changing play in this game was the targeting penalty called on Jordan Lomax. I haven't watched a replay of it, but live from the stands it didn't look anything even close to a penalty. The replay, surrounded by ads, on the big screen in the South Endzone looked a little closer, but not worth the ejection. So I don't know. But it was a big call. Instead of 3rd-and-8 from the 27, ISU moved close to mid-field and was able to cap off a 92-yard TD drive to take the lead.
That Running Game Thing
At times Iowa was able to run the ball. Mark Weisman on third/fourth and short worked really well (Weisman averaged over 5 yards per carry on third downs). But Iowa really, really struggled to run the ball on first down, especially with Damon Bullock. The three times Bullock tried to go left on first down, he netted -5 yards. The one time he went up the middle, he at least got 5 yards. He also went nowhere the couple of times that Iowa tried to run it on third and long. I guess they were trying to catch ISU off guard with zone reads on passing downs, but both times Rudock handed off to Bullock for no gain.
Last year Iowa overpowered ISU's defense with its rushing attack, and this year it was just not effective. Jordan Canzeri was the only one having any sort of success, but apparently wasn't 100% healthy and was limited to just three carries. Iowa did nothing to try and keep the Cyclone safeties from walking down into the box. There was one terribly blocked end around to Tevaun Smith, but nothing else to keep the defense honest.
Keep it Going on 3rd Down
Iowa was just 7 of 16 on third downs. Six of those conversions were on the ground. The other was a check down the Bullock and he was able to ramble forward for 14 yards. Rudock was an awful 1 of 4 for 14 yards and an INT on third downs and was sacked once. But the play calling was also really questionable on third downs. Of Iowa's ten third downs where they had five or more yards to go, Iowa ended up running the ball on half of those. A few of those runs were QB scrambles, but those aforementioned poor zone reads were the other runs. It made sense when the coaches had already decided they would go for it on fourth down, but to run on third and six for 0 yards and then punt from the 36...that is just terrible.
Use the Crowd
Iowa's best drive of the day was the second of the game, a 16-play drive that took nearly 8 minutes off of the clock. Rudock completed a few passes and Iowa converted two fourth downs with Weisman. The crowd was into it in the first half. But in the second half, there was nothing to cheer about. Rudock threw a quick interception and then the offense was just awful the rest of the game. You got the feeling Iowa was going to lose somewhere in the third quarter. Even when Marshall Koehn made that 4r-yard FG to tie the game (which was a happy surprise), I don't think many people had much confidence that Iowa's offense could actually score in OT.
I have been and still am a Jake Rudock fan. He was able to do some good things last year and was performed well under pressure (he did drive Iowa down the field to tie the game on Iowa's final possession). But the "package" that Iowa used with C.J. Beathard last week actually looked like a competent offensive scheme. There was the zone read with an actual read, not an automatic hand-off. Then there was play action off of that with a quick hit to the TE as the linebacker that would have been covering him bit on the run fake. It was just a brief glimpse, but that package was better than the random assortment of plays, which have seemingly no connection and no synergy, that Greg Davis calls with Rudock in there. So if Greg Davis knows how to base an offense around the zone read -- and he clearly doesn't know how to base one around the inside zone and stretch -- and C.J. Beathard is the QB that can run it, then let's do it.