The Obvious One - Big Plays
Let’s be lazy and start here. It was a factor on both sides of the ball. Iowa didn’t have enough big plays on offense and gave up too many -- like way, way too many -- on defense. It’s been discussed again and again over the past week and everyone is probably sick of it…but I’m going to talk about it one last time.
First and foremost, pass coverage has to be better. Ball State has two capable running backs that both ran for over 100 yards last week. While neither caught a pass, you can bet the Cardinals are going to look at that running back up the seam play. The real threat in Ball State’s passing attack, based on week 1, is KeVonn Mabon. He had 11 of the team’s 20 receptions, 110 of the 201 yards, one of the two touchdowns, and the long reception at 34 yards (which was just a screen pass that featured three missed Colgate tackles). I expect a lot of Mabin on Mabon action, so it should be a good test for the new corner.
On offense, Iowa needs to generate some big plays from its base offense. The longest running plays against UNI were the jet sweep and the Tevaun Smith crazy reverse. The Cardinals' defensive line is on the small side. Their NT is just 257, and the other tackle is the only one not in the 250 range (and he’s just 270). Iowa’s offensive line isn’t huge, but they should have an easier time getting push tomorrow than they did last week. Ball State only had 1 TFL against Colgate and negative plays was one of the problems with Iowa’s running game against UNI. If Ball State can’t generate pressure in the backfield, I expect a much better rushing output.
The bigger complaint has been in the passing game. It took nearly the whole game before Jake Rudock took a shot down field. It wouldn’t surprise me if Greg Davis dials up play-action on Iowa’s first play of the game and Rudock throws deep. I think we’ll see more than two passes over 20 yards as well. Ball State was barely challenged by Colgate, but their starting FS is expected to be out after an injury early in the game last Saturday. They also really stacked the box against Colgate to stop the run. They were beat by play-action a few times and look like they could be pretty susceptible to it if Iowa is able to pound the ball easily against just seven in the box.
Iowa didn’t have too many missed tackles against UNI that I can recall. But Colgate sure did against Ball State. The majority of the Cardinal highlights feature guys bouncing off of should-be tacklers and getting yards after contact. If Iowa is able to keep everything in front of them in the passing game and continues to dominate up front with Carl Davis and LTP, then sound tackling should be all the Hawkeyes need to slow down Ball State.
Clean up the Kicking
Kirk Ferentz football requires a strong kicking game…and against UNI it was very mediocre. Dillon Kidd averaged just 36 yards per punt and his long was a measly 42 yards. Net punting averaged 30.75 yards, which is the 11th worst number after week 1 in FBS. If punting is winning, then that was clearly not winning.
Marshall Koehn’s day was just okay, too. I thought he was good on kickoffs and went 4 for 6 on touchbacks. He even had a kickoff split the uprights. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to do so from 37 yards out, though he also made a 40-yard field goal. One miss isn’t anything to panic about yet, but Iowa can’t afford too many more of those in close games.
Put Them Away
I think the UNI game was good for Iowa…plenty of coaching moments. They had an opponent hang around the whole game and the Hawkeyes had to come up big in the 4th quarter to win the game. They had an important late touchdown drive that finally featured some shots down the field and a game sealing interception that really did preserved the win. But Iowa missed some opportunities earlier in the game to just put it away. It felt like Iowa had all the momentum after scoring on 3 straight drives, spanning the end of the first half and their first drive of the third quarter. They were up 24-13. Then all of a sudden, the defense gives up a 70-yard TD, the offense fumbles it away…and it's to being a game again.
When Iowa gets the opportunity to go for the kill shot against Ball State, I'd like to see them actually get it. While the ups and downs, the nervous and exciting moments, the classic Kirk Ferentz football is part of what Iowa football fun to watch, tomorrow I’d have no problem having a relaxing second half where we get to see C.J. Beathard and the second team get some snaps and just sit in Kinnick enjoying the mild weather. So let’s have that.
I don’t think we’ll see Rudock throw it 41 times in this game. I think Iowa will be able to get the running game going more than it did against UNI. That’ll set up some play-action and we will get to see a few of those deep throws everyone is clamoring for. The offensive performance will be better, but won’t put up many more points. However, on the defensive side of the ball, I think Iowa will have it figured out and I don’t see Ball State being able to duplicate UNI’s success through the air and won’t do much better rushing the ball. While I don’t think Iowa will be able to keep their shutout streak alive, they will keep the Cardinals from sustaining much of anything.
Final Score: Iowa 37 - Ball State 17