I didn’t really think about having to review nine factors when I wrote them all on Friday. And had the game turned out differently, that might have been a problem. But oh man, what a fun game. It was brutal at times. I tweeted some things in the first half that came back to bite me as redemption was the story of the second half. Those drops by Riley McCarron…he had the game winning TD catch. The slow start by C.J. Beathard…a slick 7 of 8 for 114 yards and a TD in the 4th quarter. Desmond King had a slew of mistakes…a 34-yard punt return to set up the game winning score and then an interception to seal it. And on and on.
Iowa’s motto this year has been "Build an Edge." That could mean a lot of things. Have better perimeter defense on the edge, where Iowa got burned last year. Have an edge in execution, which hasn’t quite been there lately. I think more than anything, though, it’s about the work ethic. The superior off-season workout program. The training. The conditioning. Building an edge so that in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, Iowa will be able to pound the ball, get to the quarterback, and win.
#1 Continue Success With The Running Back Rotation
I made a lot of comparisons to 2013 in the preview. Iowa ran the ball 60 times that year against the Cyclones, eventually wearing them down in the second half. The Hawks only ran it 45 times on Saturday, but similarly wore down the ISU D. Iowa averaged 5.8 yards per carry and Jordan Canzeri was Iowa's second 100-yard rusher in as many games. C.J. Beathard had a big part in that rushing total as well, with two big runs of his own.
LeShun Daniels was off to a great start, averaging 7.7 yards on 8 carries, but then left with a foot/ankle injury…and he’s still questionable for the Pitt game. With Derrick Mitchell suspended, you’d like to have Daniels back…but if Iowa can rest him and get him fully healthy for the B1G slate, that would be ideal. That might mean more Akrum Wadley or more Parker sweeps. (Which was back!! It was also terribly blocked and telegraphed the whole way. Hopefully they can get that better integrated into the offense.)
#2 Stretch The Field Some Vertically, Too
There was a flea-flicker again, Greg Davis’s favorite "trick" play. It wasn’t blocked all that well and Beathard rushed the throw and missed. I don’t think that play really stretched the defense all that much. Iowa was still able to run on pretty much any defense the Cyclones threw their way on Saturday.
Beathard did have a couple of beautiful throws down the field. That 48-yard strike to Matt VandeBerg on 3rd-and-21 was a huge play. While that drive ended in a Canzeri fumble, it helped change the field position which was tilting the wrong way for most of the second half.
And that TD to Tevaun Smith was incredible by all parties involved. Perfect pass. Perfect catch. Just a thing of beauty.
#3 Directional Punting
At one point I had ISU’s punter, Colin Downing, as the game’s MVP. He was pinning Iowa deep every freaking time. Out of seven punts, five left the Hawks starting inside their own 20. But he wasn’t perfect…his last punt of the day he booted one up there that was returnable, and Desmond King (who had been having a poor day as a returner) made him pay.
And hey, Dillon Kidd…great job! He’s still averaging 47 yards a kick with five more punts this weekend. He didn’t boot any into the end zone and two were inside the 20. More importantly, he did a great job of placing his punts where Allen Lazard didn’t have any chance to return them. The one time Lazard tried, he was tackled immediately for no gain.
#4 The Ott Monster
So the comments on the Friday post devolved into a bunch of possible nicknames for Ott. Sadly, Jacobi was the winner coining "Drew Out" as Ott injured his elbow in the first half and wore a sling around his arm standing on the sideline for the rest of the game.
His absence was immediately felt, as the Hawkeye defense couldn’t get any push up front and Sam Richardson had plenty of time to get comfortable in the pocket. Richardson with time was really good. But Phil Parker dialed up some adjustments in the second half, the Ott-less line was able to get some pressure, and Richardson fell apart.
#5 Clean Up The Penalties
Both teams were hit with some very costly penalties; Iowa State had a 3rd-and-42 at one point! Iowa had six penalties for 50 yards. They were mostly defensive penalties on drives that ended in points for the Cyclones, so they were definitely costly… The pass interference that took away an interception (kind of a dumb call) was probably the most costly. That’s three pass interference calls in two weeks, but I’m not too worried about it... yet.
#6 Make The Right Reads
Run blocking was not a problem for the offensive line. 3-4,4-3, whatever -- Iowa was able to block it. So far I’d say the run-game coordinator move has worked out.
#7 The Red Zone
Iowa has been great at finishing off drives thus far this season. With a few years of Weisman pounding in TDs, there were some questions around where the final push would come from, but Iowa for the most part has done it without powering it in. Against Iowa State it was the dart thrown to Smith and then an 8-yard Canzeri run against a broken ISU defense that provided Iowa’s two red zone touchdowns. The only non-scoring red zone trip was Canzeri's fumble in the fourth quarter. (The fake field goal technically took place just outside the red zone -- Iowa was on the ISU 22-yard line.)
#8 Safety Play
The safeties were solid on Saturday. They played quite a bit back in 2-deep as the man coverage underneath smothered ISU’s talented receiver corps. Lomax almost had a pick when ISU was in desperation mode. They both were solid in run support and combined for 9 tackles and 1 pass break up.
Iowa vs. Pitt. This series has featured some pretty significant QB controversy for Iowa in the past, but for this go edition it's the Panthers that have question marks at QB. It’s the black and gold stripe game, under the lights, with a shot at starting 3-0 onto a perfect non-conference. Woooo.