When Iowa has the ball
Iowa State lists nine “story lines” in its game notes this week. The only mention of the defense is coordinator Wally Burnham, so we’ll start there.
Burnham, who played linebacker at Alabama in 1960-61 under Paul “Bear” Bryant, employs a 4-3 “triangle read” notion. Just before the ball is snapped, Burnham’s linebackers are taught to keep an eye on the two guards and primary running back. Burnham believe the guards are a give away.
The here and now at Iowa State is a slightly undersized line, ranging from 254 pounds to 291, three returning starters at linebacker and a pair of corners who’ll give up as much as six inches in height advantage against a few Iowa receivers today. But ISU’s defense overrides a lot of shortcomings with emotion, especially in this game, especially at Jack Trice.
Iowa’s offensive line took the brunt for the 2.8 yards a carry and four sacks last week against Northern Iowa, but that unit wasn’t alone. Iowa’s running backs didn’t help themselves.
Paki O’Meara and Adam Robinson were impatient or a step slow in seeing holes. Help arrives for the Hawkeyes this week with the return of veteran offensive tackle Kyle Calloway (suspension). Guard Julian Vandervelde (arm surgery) could also play some this week, but conditioning will be a factor after missing fall camp.
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi acknowledged last week that he might’ve taken a few chances trying to squeeze passes to tight end Tony Moeaki. He seemed OK with it and said he’s not going to shy away from trying to make a play.
Iowa’s receivers were excellent last week, an “A” unit on a “C+” day.
Health and cohesiveness is key for Iowa’s OL today. Keep an eye on it.
When Iowa State has the ball
Offensive coordinator Tom Herman brings his nationally renowned offense from Rice to Ames. It’s a frenetic spread, no-huddle drag strip that will use four or five wide receivers and will look for matchup advantages, specifically wide receiver vs. linebacker. Herman uses the no-huddle to dictate pace and stunt defensive substitutions. Three players signal plays from the sidelines to QB Austen Arnaud (two signals are fakes). Every offensive player knows the signals. And the ball is snapped, usually with 15 or so seconds left.
Arnaud has seemingly grasped Herman’s offense. In ISU’s 34-17 victory over North Dakota State last week, he was 16 of 28 for 227 yards and two TDs. He also rushed for 78 yards and a TD.
Arnaud has a favorite target in WR Marquis Hamilton, who caught four passes for 97 yards and two TDs last week. WR Houston Jones didn’t play last week and WRs Darius Darks and Sedrick Johnson were limited.
Iowa’s defense had a few scary stats hung on it by UNI and quarterback Pat Grace last Saturday. Grace connected on 23 of 38 for 270 yards and a TD, but the scary number is 7 of 17 on third down.
On the flip side, the defense stiffened in the second half, holding UNI to four straight three-and-outs.
The pass rush came up with two sacks (Christian Ballard and Karl Klug) but wasn’t consistent.
Arnaud moved into his third offense in August and hasn’t flinched. He is a difference-maker.
Advantage: Iowa State
ISU punter Mike Brandtner can be a weapon. Last week, he averaged 49.2 yards a kick and has a three-year career average of 40.8. ISU kicker Grant Mahoney, a Linn-Mar graduate, is 19 of 28 in his career, including a 50-yarder last week.
Iowa punter Ryan Donahue isn’t trying to send every ball out of the stadium and this approach paid dividends against UNI, when he averaged 42.8 yards a kick and put four of those inside the 20. Junior Daniel Murray was 1 of 2, but showed plenty of leg on a 48-yarder that drifted right.
Iowa WR Paul Chaney Jr. might find himself in punt return this week. He had a TD catch called back last week, but Iowa’s staff is looking to use his all-Big Ten sprint speed. ISU corner Leonard Johnson was a freshman All-American kick returner last season.
If it comes down to kicker, Murray has Penn State; Mahoney has a little longer resume.
It’s time to give some serious thought to just how inexperienced the Hawkeyes are on offense. A lot of starters have game experience, but there also could be as many as nine players making only their second consecutive start this week. This is Jack Trice. It’s not an easy place to learn on the job.
Iowa 17, Iowa State 14