Iowa first possession started with a fullback…unsuccessful run. Then they went 5-wide…a short pass. Then, in an obvious passing situation, C.J. Beathard was sacked. The rest of the first quarter was more of the same. Fullback in meant run, fullback out was shotgun and a pass. Predictable play calling and predictable results (4 three-and-outs and a pick six).
A pass interference call and successful QB draw sparked the offense a little and Iowa was able to tie it at 10 before halftime. Then, much like last week, Greg Davis scrapped what he was doing and went full KOK. The fullback was again a part of it, but that didn’t mean run every time as a few play action passes were also mixed in. The fake jet sweep to Jonathon Parker was very effective, pulling at least one of Purdue’s linebackers out of the box each time (KOK used to do the same thing a lot, but with the fake end around).
There was also a really interesting play where Beathard was in shotgun with Weisman to his left. Before the snap Parker motioned and joined them in the backfield. The play was a zone read look with Beathard handing off to Parker and Weisman acting as the fullback leading the way. It was just a 4 yard gain, but it wasn't something that we’ve seen before (at least that I can remember). Parker ended up being a big spark. He had a 47-yard kick return that set up Iowa’s first score. He followed that up with a 34-yard reception (mostly YAC) on a tipped pass that set up Iowa’s second score.
The defense was fantastic. It did give up some early rushing yards to Akeem Hunt. He got to the edge a few times and showed some speed. But the defense tightened up quickly and was in full lock down mode. After getting a field goal at the beginning of the second quarter, Purdue was never remotely close to scoring again. From there on, Purdue had seven straight punts and then two interceptions.
Part of the success was due to putting pressure on the QBs. On Purdue’s first drive, they had gotten down in field goal range, but on second down, Phil Parker brought Josey Jewell off the edge. He got home fast and sacked Danny Etling. Drew Ott had a sack on the next play as well and forced a punt. Iowa didn’t really have to do much to bring pressure later in the game. They used a little of the Raider package and the secondary was good in coverage…and Etling was just bad.
Continue Red Zone Success
All good things come to an end. And if that 4th down red zone success was going to have a hiccup, this was the week where it was okay. But it was disappointing to see two drives fizzle out inside of Purdue’s 10-yard line. On the first, Iowa had 3rd-and-3 from the 8-yard line. I think Beathard has the option to throw a quick pass to the WR whenever he thinks there is a big enough cushion. But Derrick Willies was totally unprepared for that to happen. And it was probably a bad decision anyway. The run game was starting to get going and Iowa had generated 59 yards on the ground already on that drive. Weisman had just gone for seven yards on the previous play. If the coaches wanted to go for it on fourth, then I think they would have been able to get three yards with two Weisman runs up the middle.
On the other red zone failure, Iowa was just running out the clock and not really trying all that hard to score. Up 14 with a little over 2 minutes left and the way the defense was dominating, there was zero chance of Purdue putting together a 90+ yard drive, getting an onside kick, and then putting together another drive.
Something About the Quarterback
If there was any possibility that Beathard could win the starting spot while Jake Rudock was out injured (and I don't think there was), then I don’t think he did it. It's kind of hard to just look at the stats, given the case of dropsies that the receivers had, but Beathard was just okay overall. He looked very shaky early and struggled to put any sort of touch on the ball. Every pass was rocketed towards the receiver and he struggled with accuracy.
But he looked much more comfortable in the second half. The promising thing Beathard showed was connecting on a lot of mid-range passes. Though his yards per attempt were just 6.6, his yards per completion were over 14. He hit a lot of passes in the 15-20 yard range. He slung a few impressive passes over the middle that picked up first downs. He also connected on a deep ball (after throwing a terrible deep pass earlier that should have been picked) to Damond Powell at the end of the game and had the pretty 23-yarder to Kevonte Martin-Manley for the TD.
Have you looked at the schedule for next weekend? It is fantastic. There are 4 match ups between unbeaten teams (Arizona-Oregon on Thursday, Alabama-Ole Miss, Oklahoma-TCU and Texas A&M-Mississippi State on Saturday), plus LSU-Auburn, Stanford-Notre Dame and Nebraska-Michigan State. It’s a good week for a bye where we can just sit back and enjoy college football.
For Iowa, the coaches need to figure out what to do with Beathard. I don’t think he earned the starting spot, but deserves to see more playing time than that one weird series against Ball State. Maybe a set rotation for the first few series, then stick with the hot hand? Or maybe continue with the Beathard "package" and let him run more of the zone read stuff (like that one Weisman-Parker backfield play).
The coaches should also take the week to figure out how to get the ball into the hands of play-makers more consistently. Parker is starting to emerge as one. Powell has caught deep passes a couple weeks in a row now. It’s a little hard when Weisman runs best with a fullback and multiple TEs to get these guys on the field a lot, but it’s something they need to figure out.
And the defense can just keep on keeping on.