FIVE SENTENCES ON PURDUE RESULT
1) No matter what happens the next two weeks — and it doesn’t set up well, coming out of two losses against teams with an 8-12 combined record and going into teams 15-5 — Saturday was the low.
2) The whole “dog crap team” notion came from Kirk Ferentz in response to a question about fundamentals and execution in week 10.
3) Purdue leads the league in disarray, with the wolves circling head coach Danny Hope and playing yesterday’s game without OC Gary Nord, who was hospitalized with a back injury.
4) When the really difficult evaluations are done during the human resources season of football, one number that might stand out is points per play, which is .310 for the Hawkeyes, lowest since .272 in 2007.
5) When I get the Greg Davis question, I point to the value Ferentz puts into continuity and what he said last week about “no one having to audition.” (And then again, I think in the back of my mind, hey, there’s no past relationship here, so . . . I don’t know.)
THREE PLAYERS WHO PLAYED
1) Cornerback Micah Hyde – In his first game since being re-installed as captain, Hyde recovered a fumble and returned it for a 9-yard TD, led the Hawkeyes with 11 tackles and had a pass breakup (his 12th this season, tied for fifth in the Big Ten). It was his third career TD and Iowa’s first fumble return for a TD since Bob Sanders went 3 yards against Illinois in 2003. Hyde is the Hawkeyes’ best player.
2) Punter Connor Kornbrath — For the first time in four games, the true freshman eclipsed the 40-yard average with 40.67 on six punts. He matched his career best with a 52-yard punt in the third quarter. He also had a 52-yarder last week against Indiana.
3) TE/FB Zach Derby — The senior is in the twilight of his career and showed he hasn’t shut the playbook. Derby played basically H-back/fullback yesterday, lining up in the backfield and in the offset I most of the day. He said it’s an easy transition from TE to FB, and he didn’t appear to miss a beat. Yes, the fourth-and-3 and 1-yard catch, but he was doing exactly what he was told to do (I asked if he was supposed to run a 1-yard out and he said yes). Derby had a career-high four receptions for a career-high 38 yards, including a career-best 26-yard reception.
1) Tackling — To me, it’s football’s greatest riddle. You have to be good at tackling. It is the lifeblood of defensive football, and for the way Iowa leans on the defense, it’s the lifeblood and the heart and the soul. It’s who the Hawkeyes are and have been under Ferentz. The Hawkeyes failed at tackling yesterday and it hasn’t been a strong point all season. The trick with tackling is that it’s something you only do during games. Teams don’t practice live tackling to the ground. They can’t. In college, you would need 160 scholarships. “You’ve got to get as close as you can,” Morris said on tackling in practice. “Whether it’s ‘thudding up,’ where you run into the guy, hit him chest to chest but don’t wrap him or whatever. There are people who don’t like that and who believe it creates bad habits of not wrapping up.
“To me, it’s on an individual basis. So each individual says to himself, ‘This play I’m going to make sure I’m in position to make a tackle,’ and then you’ve got to go into the game and go, ‘Now, we’re tackling.’ It’s 100 percent mental, but you have to focus on it. When you start to lose focus, that’s when you start to see the missed tackles. It’s totally on the individual.”
2) Pass rush — It was a huge question coming into the season. There appears to be an answer and that answer is that it’s not there. With 11 sacks, Iowa is 111th in the nation. This is why a QB like Robert Marve, working without one ACL, can sit in a pocket and find a receiver open in a hole of zone coverage. He did exactly that to set up Purdue’s game-winner. Your secondary can be Spider Man, Deion Sanders, Silver Surfer and The Flash. If a QB has all day, someone will break open.
3) Running game — Would Mark Weisman have made a difference yesterday? No, not with the interior of Iowa’s O-line losing that many one-on-one matchups. Freshman Austin Blythe struggled against senior DT Kawann Short, who seemed recovered from the ankle injury that slowed him against Penn State. He had a sack and four tackles for loss. On the sack, he gave center James Ferentz a quick power moved and burst past him. In the last two games, the Hawkeyes have rushed for 170 yards on 61 carries for 2.79 yards per carry. At 85 yards a game, Iowa is No. 108 in the country during the month of November, a month for finishers in college football. Weisman would help, but if you want to reanimate Iowa’s rush offense, start with tackle Brandon Scherff (broken leg, dislocated ankle) and guard Andrew Donnal (ACL).
1) Fourth-and-3 — I think going for it was the right call. The wind was clocked at 18 mph before halftime. I did see Mike Meyer make a 48-yarder in the south end zone in pregame, but I think the wind was different than it was in the fourth quarter with 21 seconds left. Purdue put in the box and was in Cover 1, with press coverage on wide receivers Kevonte Martin-Manley and Keenan Davis and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. Ferentz and Vandenberg mentioned getting outside leverage on free safety Taylor Richards, who lined up in the box at linebacker depth. It did feel like Iowa schemed for this play. KMM motioned his defender back toward the box. KMM’s route is straight up field. If he gets depth, he changes Richards’ path to Zach Derby, who, if he wasn’t primary, looked to be the No. 1 option on this play. KMM didn’t get depth. Richards had a clear path to meet Derby, who lined up at fullback before breaking into the 1-yard out route. Feidorowicz was open. He had a wide-open outside shoulder and had his defender in trail position. Vandenberg didn’t look his way. Vandenberg wouldn’t needed to scramble to make the read. DE Ryan Isaac got under right tackle Brett Van Sloten’s pads and was coming. Vandenberg didn’t have the extra second it would’ve taken to find CJF. Iowa tried to isolate a big body (Derby) in the flat on a safety (Richards). Richards’ path through the play was uncluttered and he got to Derby just as the ball did. No outside leverage, no chance.
2) Marve’s 17-yard scramble — Purdue took possession with 16 seconds left and got right to work. Marve lined up in shotgun against a soft Cover 4. DE Steve Bigach, crash end, rushed upfield but allowed his head slide to the outside of the tackle. That was the first crack in the breakdown of rushing lanes. DT Louis Trinca-Pasat, the 3 technique, never saw Marve. He lost his inside shoulder almost immediately on the play. This left a gaping hole between Bigach and LTP. Marve didn’t wait long to go. He gave it a couple of counts and took off. The last line of defense might’ve been middle linebacker Quinton Alston, who dropped into zone and then came up to where he thought the running back would release. The RB lost his balance blocking end Dominic Alvis and never got into pattern. Alston ran to that spot and the middle of the field opened. Marve dove. Completed a 20-yard pass and then Paul Griggs made a 46-yarder to win it on the game’s final play.
NEXT — AT MICHIGAN (7-3, 5-1)
– Quarterback Devin Gardner made enough plays to maybe give UM coach Brady Hoke pause when Denard Robinson returns to health. Robinson has missed most of the last three games with a nerve injury in his throwing arm that affects his grip on the ball. In the Wolverines’ 38-31 overtime victory over Northwestern last week, Gardner put together a last-second FG drive to tie the game, along with touchdown drives of 78 and 91 yards. When does Gardner, who would make just his third appearance at QB this season if he plays this week, become too proficient to keep out of the game?
– Hoke is undefeated at Michigan Stadium, winning his 13th consecutive last week.
– There was no Vegas line on this game Sunday evening, likely because of the doubt at Michigan QB.
– WR Roy Roundtree had a big day against Northwestern. His 53-yard reception off a tipped pass in the final seconds was cool. He also had five catches for 139 yards.
IOWA SEASON STATS
IOWA POSTGAME NOTES
CLOSER LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
Closing the deal (Red zone TDs/possessions)
Iowa’s 15 red zone TDs are tied for No. 105 in the nation. That’s tied with Illinois for last in the Big Ten. Defensively, Iowa has allowed 20 RZ TDs, which puts it at No. 49 in the country.
Setting the tone (defensive three-and-outs)
Iowa 4 — This number is somewhat skewed by two fumbles that cut Purdue drives short, but fumbles count, too. Three-and-outs are awarded for taking the ball away. Iowa also forced three punts in the fourth quarter, so the defense had something, which was a much different feeling than the previous week against Indiana.
Purdue 5 — Three of these five came in the first half, which Ferentz clearly was steamed about, venting on halftime radio and then again in the postgame. Bigach said that’s as angry as he’s seen his coach.
After adjustments (second-half yards and avg. yards per play)
Iowa’s defense has run out of gas the last four weeks, allowing an average of almost 230 yards in the second half of games. Yards are points, but they sure give teams chances to score points. Every inch mattered in the Purdue game. This speaks to Iowa’s offensive inefficiencies, but not louder than the plus-11 turnover margin (18th in the nation) Iowa carries. That gives the offense chances, but Iowa’s has, more often than not, spit back those chances. It did drive 22 yards for a TD after one fumble against the Boilers.
Game-changers (offensive plays of 20-plus yards)
Iowa 4 — Two of these were rushes by QB James Vandenberg. Another was a 26-yard completion to TE/FB Zach Derby, the longest play of his career.
Purdue 6 — In the last two weeks, Iowa has allowed 13 plays of 20-plus. In November games, that ranks 110th in the country. Purdue hit five of these in the passing game. The lone 20-plus rush was Ralph Bolden’s 56-yarder in the third quarter, setting up a TD and a 24-14 lead.
Two-minute magic (points, final two minutes of half)
Iowa 0 —This team hasn’t come through in the clutch much this season. Michigan State was the last time. Of course, this number isn’t so bad if . . .
Purdue 3 — . . . the Boilermakers don’t score any, either. The power of the clutch play is a beautiful thing. When you play in the margins as Iowa does, it’s the difference between winning and a postgame news conference that includes the reference “dog crap team.”
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