FIVE SENTENCES ON NORTHERN ILLINOIS RESULT
1) The perspectives seem to be divergent here: Some saw real improvement, others see the end of the world.
2) Jake Rudock is a smart quarterback with great mechanics, but the timing on the out needs work.
3) Too many big, uncontested plays allowed by the defense, which minimized most of the fires (turnovers, quick three-and-outs) it was asked to deal with.
4) The circle of trust among pass catchers is small, with Kevonte Martin-Manley catching nine and everyone else getting two receptions.
5) Iowa sports info put out a release after the game saying 3,000 student season tickets remain available for purchase for the six remaining home games (going to be tough to record a sellout with that number hanging out there).
1) NIU QB Jordan Lynch – Iowa forced the senior and reigning MAC MVP to beat it with his arm, and so he did, completing 25 of 41 for 275 yards and three TDs. Iowa’s defense still working on that not giving up big, uncontested play thing. Yes, there is a Lynch Heisman candidacy that Northern has officially thrown its weight behind. And, no, Lynch won’t win the Heisman. Then again, what if he has 7,000 yards total offense and accounts for 60 TDs? OK, OK, we’ll talk then.
2) NIU kicker Mathew Sims — He made field goals of 47, 25 and the game-winning 36-yarder. No, someone give him the missing “t” from his first name and the “m” from his last name.
3) LB Christian Kirksey — It was the St. Louis native’s 21st birthday yesterday. He led Iowa with 14 tackles and had the play of the game, at least from Iowa’s perspective, with his scoop and score forced fumble and recovery for the 52-yard TD. No, he wasn’t particularly thrilled that his birthday came up in the postgame.
1) Overthinking third-and-1 — Iowa rushed for 202 yards, its most in nine games. Iowa averaged 4.7 yards on 43 carries, most since that crazy 7.28 against Minnesota last year. Iowa had zero negative yardage plays (no sacks, no TFLs). And it spit back a pair of third-and-1s. The first came in the second half when Iowa tried to execute a quick snap QB sneak. WR Jordan Cotton — he made at least three special teams tackles, but showed a little rambunctiousness in kick return — wasn’t set and Iowa was called for a false start. Punt. Iowa put itself on the clock for the next one, snapping the ball as the third quarter ran out. There was a 7 mph wind out of the north, so maybe that played into the decision on this third-and-1. QB Jake Rudock threw a bomb to WR Damond Powell, who slowed at the end of the route and had the ball land out of his reach. He had a step. It wasn’t far off connecting. If it hits, we’re having a very different conversation. The false start happened at NIU’s 39. The second at Iowa’s 40. Iowa probably could’ve handed to Mark Weisman or made a sneak work at regular speed.
2) Targets — Wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley seemed to be the only one in the game plan. Of course, that’s not true. The targets really do skew the junior’s way, however. He had 13 (9 catches). The next highest was sophomore WR Jacob Hillyer with four. Tight ends were targeted five times, with C.J. Fiedorowicz catching two including an 11-yard TD. Remember, defense dictates this. Iowa doesn’t game plan to get the ball to any one receiver. Ferentz has been asked this and has answered. Also, the way this offense is designed (stop routes, WR screens), YAC is going to be awfully hard to come by. You already knew that.
3) Punt safe — Iowa knew it was coming. Not only was that “punt safe” out on the field, that was the first-team defense. Sophomore DE Drew Ott read the play well and buried the pitch man (#37). MLB James Morris immediately ID’d the play, but took an inside step to avoid a block and ran himself out of the play. The last line of defense was Kirksey. If he didn’t have outside contain, it sure looked as though that was his assignment. NIU’s Dominique Ware got into him and shoved him to the sideline, opening up a lane for punter Tyler Wedel, who gained 42 yards to Iowa’s 9. The Hawkeyes held and kept it to a field goal, but the damage was done. Wedel ended up being NIU’s second-leading rusher. Between the fake punt, Cotton’s decisions to bring the ball out of the end zone on kick return and punter Connor Kornbrath’s unfortunate 16-yard shank (he got victimized by a false start on a punt that was at least 50 yards), special teams were a minus.
1) Defensive tackle hold — It seemed as though every mistake Iowa made bloomed into massive head trauma. On third-and-17, defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat was called for a hold when NIU tried to set up a screen pass. The replay clearly showed LTP had his arm around the RB’s back. It was the right call, even though it’s one you don’t see very often. It was behind the line of scrimmage. Anyway, that made it third-and-7. Iowa pressured Lynch, but he still found WR Da’Ron Brown right at the sticks for a first down. The next play, Lynch faced no pressure, WR Tommylee Lewis had time to turn CB Jordan Lomax’s hips three times and it was an easy 40-yard TD pass.
2) First pick — NIU DT Ken Bishop is the type of DT Iowa’s young inside linemen will see in the Big Ten on a regular basis. Except that Bishop is shorter than most B1G DTs. He’s 6-1, 308 pounds. He’s a tough out. He showed just how tough in the third quarter when Iowa had first down at NIU’s 45. Bishop got leverage on sophomore guard Jordan Walsh and shoved the 6-4, 290-pounder into Rudock’s arm as he tried to launch a pass that would’ve been at least a 25-yarder toward Powell. Yes, Walsh got beat. Cleanly, no getting around that. But Rudock also has to have the pocket presence to feel that and adjust. He locked downfield and wanted to throw a bullet. He didn’t notice the 308-pound Bishop invade his personal space. The fact that it was first down at NIU’s really made that lesson sting.
NEXT — MISSOURI STATE (0-1)
– MSU is coming off a 23-17 loss to Northwestern State on opening night in Springfield, Mo. Yes, that Northwestern State (you know, you just know).
– The Bears’ top running back Ryan Heaston suffered a broken collarbone and could be lost for the year. That likely moves true freshman Phoenix Johnson (5-9, 180) into the rotation.
– Missouri State Terry Allen is a Northern Iowa and Iowa City West grad. He grew up in Iowa City and has coached at UNI and Iowa State. Was he a candidate to become Hayden Fry’s replacement at Iowa in ’98, when Bob Bowlsby, Allen’s former AD at UNI, was doing the hiring? There’s nothing real to that, at least that I know of.
– Missouri State is 1-27 against FBS teams. The one win came 23 years ago against UNLV. Iowa will snap its seven-game losing streak, but it won’t feel good doing it.
CLOSER LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
Closing the deal (Red zone TDs/possessions)
Iowa — 2-for-3
Northern Illinois — 0-for-2
This isn’t as confounding as Iowa rushing for 202 yards and losing (first time the Hawkeyes have lost while rushing for 200-plus yards since they went for 269 and lost 22-21 at Minnesota in ’11), but the defense was strong when the space became confined.
Setting the tone (defensive three-and-outs)
Iowa 6 — That migh’ve been the high last season.
Northern Illinois 3 — Iowa ran a no-huddle that went at varying speeds. In the third quarter, possessions that lasted 1:22 and 36 seconds taxed a defense that had both starting corners on the bench.
After adjustments (second-half yards and avg. yards per play)
Iowa — 156-4.7 (33 plays)
Northern Illinois — 234-4.77 (49)
Iowa got off to a fast start with 302 yards on 47 plays in the first half. Last season, the Hawkeyes averaged 310.4 yards a game. Mistakes doomed the offense in the second half, while Lynch played err0r-free football.
Game-changers (offensive plays of 20-plus yards)
Iowa 3 — There was the flea flicker to Cotton for 53 (see ya next season, flea flicker). Powell had the 49-yard reception and nearly had another more than 50 yards. (The answer is that Powell simply must not know enough of the offense to be invited into the circle of trust. That’s all I have on why Powell was limited to the bombs.) And there was the 37-yard lateral that ended the game. Technically, that shouldn’t count.
Northern Illinois 5 — Three were Lynch TD passes (40, 21 and 33). The fake punt went for 42. On the fourth-quarter drive that saw NIU tie the game at 27, Huskies coaches spotted that Iowa corner B.J. Lowery was out of gas, either cramping or fighting a muscle pull. He was on the turf at least once. Lynch found WR Angelo Sebastiano for 27 and ended the drive with a 33-yarder to Da’Ron Brown that Lowery couldn’t get to. That was Lowery’s last play of the game.
Two-minute magic (points, final two minutes of half)
Iowa 7 — The drive was aided by a facemask, but this was one of the drives that showed what might be possible with Rudock. Nine plays, 75 yards and he finished it with a 6-yard run to give Iowa a 24-17 halftime lead with 53 seconds left.
Northern Illinois 3 — And the interception that makes you wonder what Iowa has with Rudock. Safety Jimmie Ward’s pick set up Sims’ game-winner with 4 seconds left.
Iowa big plays (going by OC Greg Davis’ definition of 12-plus yard run and 16-plus pass)
5 — Remember, the goal here is nine. RB Mark Weisman had two 15-yard runs and then there were the three 20-plus plays, two of which were trick plays (counting the lateral and not the long ball to Powell). After the three 20-plus, Iowa’s longest pass completion was 15 yard to Martin-Manley. This is lack of YAC, but there also weren’t a lot of pass plays that showed a 16-plus option.