The dudes behind me at the game on Saturday talked a lot about Jake Rudock. I don’t know why. After every throw, it was like, "Rudock would have thrown a pick there." I’m pretty sure, no, Rudock, who only threw 5 picks last year, would not have had 10 interceptions against this North Texas pass defense. But let’s stop talking about Rudock and start embracing this year’s team. 4-and-0 and headed into the B1G with a very good-looking quarterback, a potentially classic Iowa defense, and some decent skill players all around. Let’s go!
It’s a Trap!
North Texas turned out to be just as poor as all those statistics said they would be. Sometimes "on paper" is the same as "on the field" and Saturday that was the case, as Iowa had this game securely under wraps from the opening kick.
This wasn’t last year’s Ball State game. Or the previous year’s Missouri State. Or a million other examples from the Kirk Ferentz era where the Hawkeyes looked flat against an over-matched opponent. Iowa looked sharp. They did pretty much exactly what they wanted in all three phases on the game and cruised to an easy, easy win.
Own the Ball
North Texas was dead last in time of possession prior to this week. They actually moved up three spots after this game. I thought Iowa would try to grind it out a little bit more, but thanks to some big plays (long passes, pick sixes, etc…) and a fairly steady tempo by Iowa, the TOP turned out pretty even for this game (Iowa 31:45 - NT 28:45).
The real problem here was the two turnovers. Jordan Canzeri had another fumble (and it feels totally wrong that my first mention of Canzeri is a negative one, because he played awesome), and Iowa tried a reverse on Derrick Mitchell’s first ever touch and it ended badly. Those two turnovers led to 10 of North Texas’ 16 points.
Iowa has only five turnovers through four games, which is a pretty good number thus far. But they have given up 24 points off those turnovers, which is 1/3 of the total points the defense has allowed this season. This Iowa defense looks like it has a chance to be pretty good, but some of the great Hawk defenses of the past had a way of stepping up after a turnover and bailing out the offense. That hasn’t been the case so far this year. Opponents have scored on the next play following a turnover twice this year, including North Texas’s only touchdown.
Work Out the Kinks
If C.J. Beathard had any kinks in there, I think it's safe to say they are worked out. Beathard started the game with 15 straight completions. He finished 18/21 and looked completely comfortable and in control the entire game. He threw deep, worked a lot on the horizontal game, and only had to run once.
The defense was able to st in its base all day and work on the basics. The run game was solid, with Canzeri looking like a very complete back. Only three players have more rushing touchdowns than Canzeri’s 8 so far this year. He has been a major reason for Iowa’s red zone success this year. Iowa has touchdowns on 14 or 16 red zone trips…the only failed trip was the fake field goal to end the half versus Iowa State. Iowa also settled for a field goal on another red zone trip. But on Saturday they had five touchdowns on five trips into the red zone. The Hawkeyes are averaging 6.04 points per trip inside the 40… good for 12th in the country. That is finishing drives well. There is no way Iowa keeps that figure up at such a high success rate, but if they can keep it relatively high, it could pay big dividends later in the year.
A Few More Looks
Hey, Jonathan Parker actually ran some plays as a receiver! Even though it was with the second team, hopefully that will help his future appearances to not be telegraphed jet sweeps.
The other new thing was the pitch play. Iowa ran it twice with Mitchell. The first time they tried the reverse off of it and…yeah…not so hot. The second time, though, Mitchell got a couple yards out of it. I like the pitch a lot with this year’s offense. The offensive line has enough quickness to get out there and make blocks and Canzer, Mitchell, and Akrum Wadley are all the type of backs that can get to the outside and make plays in space.
The defense didn’t show anything new. It was base defense basically the whole way through. They refused to put more than 5 men in the box besides the few times North Texas went under center in short yardage situations. There were a couple of blitzes from the linebackers, but really it was very bland defense. And, really, that’s all Iowa needed to do. Sure, the Mean Green ran for 183 yards, but Iowa was giving that to them all day as they were pretty much meaningless yards.
We also saw another rugby punt from Marshall Koehn. The fake out of that formation is coming. My guess is that Koehn has the go-ahead to run it if it is there. Saturday, North Texas had a guy right there who would have been in position to make the tackle if Koehn took off. So he punted and it rolled out of bounds inside the 10-yard line.
Bring on the Badgers! This is the game I’ve been waiting for. I’m headed to Madison for my first Hawkeye road game and am ready to see an Iowa victory on the road and the second rivalry trophy coming home.