FIVE SENTENCES ON IOWA STATE RESULT
1) One stat that flew under the radar last night, and especially rings out after 11 penalties the week before, was just three penalties for 20 yards. (I don’t see penalties being a long-term problem, but let’s wait and see on how the secondary coalesces.)
2) Here’s what the Iowa offense is going to be if opponents let it be this: Handoff to Weisman, handoff to Weisman, handoff to Weisman. Etc. (That’s two sentences.)
3) Try to objectively rank Iowa’s offensive position groups: If you come away with anything outside of 1. offensive line, 2. running back, 3. quarterback, 4. tight end and 5. wide receiver, we will disagree.
4) I liked that LB James Morris had options to pull Iowa out of blitz calls. I like that the players, especially a super-smart one, is given some control. (Again, two sentences.)
5) No votes in USA Today’s Dan Wolken’s Misery Index. (Quickly becoming one of my favorite weekly reads. You might recognize the lead team in this post. It’s Nebraska.)
1) Iowa RB Mark Weisman – Iowa won’t be able to make a living every week on simply handing the ball off, but when it can, you can bet it will. Weisman rushed 35 times for 145 yards against. The 35 carries are believed to be the sixth-most in a game for Iowa in school history. Weisman leads the nation with 85 carries through three games. He leads No. 2, BC’s Andre Williams, by 10. Yes, the math on how long Weisman can keep this up is going on in everyone’s head. Rightfully so. This is uncharted territory. In 2008, Shonn Greene rushed for 1,850 yards and 20 TDs, Iowa records. He carried 307 times and won the Doak Walker Award. Through four games in ’08, Greene logged 78 carries. I talked to Weisman last night. It wasn’t like he was collapsing across the tape to finish a marathon. He said he was a little sore, but he’s a little sore every week. This is why Iowa has LeShun Daniels. I think you’ll see his profile start to increase beginning this week.
2) WR Quenton Bundrage — Iowa State has been waiting for a performance like the one the 6-2, 189-pound sophomore put on Saturday night. Bundrage nearly equaled his career yardage total (253) with 146 yards on seven receptions. He went into the game with two career TD receptions and added three to that total. Even when he didn’t make a play he made a play. On pass to the end zone with about three minutes left, Bundrage found himself playing defender and kept Iowa corner B.J. Lowery from making his second interception.
3) QB Jake Rudock — The numbers aren’t mind-blowing, 14 of 23 for 160 yards and two TDs. He also fumbled twice and lost one. There were some uneasy moments in the sophomore’s first road start. His decision-making was above par. He threw a handful of passes away, including overthrowing on a third-down pass to WR Don Shumpert and launching another third-down attempt out of the end zone when ISU had everything covered. This set up Mike Meyer’s 38-yard FG and gave Iowa a 13-0 halftime lead. He’s making smart decisions and he’s showing patience with a receiving group that has now dropped 10 passes in three weeks.
1) Kick coverage — Last week, I wrote in this space, “This isn't a huge deal. Or, more accurately, it wasn't a huge deal last week.” Well, Iowa State averaged 23.5 on four returns. The Cyclones had solid field position off those and didn’t cash in. Someone will. Iowa is now 104th in the nation in kick return defense, allowing 25.0 yards a game. Iowa might be in a “starters can’t leave the field” mode here.
2) Drops — Last week, I wrote in this space, “I counted four.” I counted four again Saturday night. Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz had two. You could dispute that an ISU LB defended one, knocking it out of his hands, but I’m guessing CJF would be the first one to tell you he should’ve had it. WR Jacob Hillyer had a drop on a third-and-10 that would’ve kept Iowa’s first drive going. WR Tevaun Smith also had a drop. Hillyer and Smith earned some redemption. Smith caught a 25-yarder that set up Iowa’s first TD. Hillyer broke a tackle and won a race to the end zone to put up Iowa 20-7 in the third quarter. Ten drops in two weeks is too many. It’s a young group that is going to make a lot of people old fast.
3) Secondary — This is the obvious one. There’s the timing of blitzes that factor in here, too. But the fact of the matter is Iowa has allowed six TD passes of 20-plus yards. Last week, they said it was technique and something they knew they could fix. At some point, they won’t be able to say that. It’s an interesting cat-and-mouse dance with the blitzing and how much it helps and how much Iowa gives up in coverage. That dance will continue. I applaud the aggressive play.
1) 15-play drive in the fourth quarter — This was a masterpiece in execution. Iowa went 15 plays and 73 yards in 7:44. It was the longest scoring drive for the Hawkeyes since a 16-play, 71-yard drive that lasted 8:04 against Iowa State in 2010. This was running when ISU knew Iowa was going to run and completing passes on passing downs that everyone knew were passing downs. Junior RB Damon Bullock had back-to-back runs of 8 and 9 yards, maybe his best plays of the season. On a third-and-6, Rudock hit Fiedorowicz, his redeemer, for 6 yards and a first down at ISU’s 36. On third-and-5, from ISU’s 31, everyone thought Iowa would pass. The Hawkeyes stepped out of the two-TE, fullback heavy set and put three WRs on the field. And then OC Greg Davis called a run. Weisman went 12 yards. It all clicked.
2) Two onside kicks — TE Ray Hamilton is a junior. He’s been in the fire of competition and has earned letters. He simply took his eye of the ball on Iowa State’s first onside kick. He took a couple of steps forward and allowed the ball to win an angle on him. He reached back, but no, too late. Lowery’s interception pulled this one out of the flames. Hands team players come and go. At a lot of places, you get one chance and you’re gone. Iowa tends to stick with players and Hamilton made the most of his second chance. With 2:26 left, Hamilton lined up and kicker Edwin Arceo again came through with a juicy bouncer that popped sky high. Iowa’s front line of blockers did a much better job of keeping the receiving area clean for Hamilton. On the first onside, TE George Kittle did Hamilton no favors when he stopped his feet and whiffed on TE Ben Boesen, who had a free run to the ball. It wasn’t all Hamilton’s fault.
NEXT — WESTERN MICHIGAN (0-3)
– The Broncos fell to 0-3 when Northwestern cruised past it, 38-17, on Saturday night.
– In week 2, Western Michigan lost, 27-23, at home to Nicholls State. Third-string QB Tuscani Figaro led the Colonels to the victory. Last week, Louisiana-Lafayette beat Nicholls 70-7 and no magic from Figaro. He completed 5 of 11 passes.
– Saturday’s game starts 11 a.m. and it’s on BTN.
Closing the deal (Red zone TDs/possessions)
Iowa — 2 of 5 (NIU: 2-for-3; MSU: 4 of 6)
Iowa State — 1-for-1 (NIU: 0-for-2; MSU: 0-for-1)
Iowa went 4 of 5, with two Mike Meyer FGs. These are the kind of lost points that show up. It almost showed up Saturday night when the Cyclones mounted a furious comeback.
Setting the tone (defensive three-and-outs)
Iowa 5 — Counting the stop on fourth down Iowa had in the second quarter. Not counting the lateral situation at the end of the game. (NIU: 6, MSU: 6)
Iowa State 4 — ISU had to use all of its time outs, but the two three-and-outs in the fourth quarter hurt, including 27-second drive with 3:46 left. This might’ve been the only time in three weeks where Weisman might’ve shown some fatigue. Or maybe the OL and everyone involved. (NIU: 3, MSU: 3)
After adjustments (second-half yards and avg. yards per play)
Iowa — 192-4.92 (39 plays) (NIU: 156-47, 33 plays; MSU: 285-6.47, 44 plays)
Iowa State — 258-7.58 (34 plays) (NIU: 234-4.77, 49 plays; MSU: 130-5.2, 25 plays)
These numbers that should worry. Iowa never found a balance between blitz and coverage. That wasn’t a prevent defense. Not sure that would’ve helped, and I’ve already applauded the aggression. Still, these are numbers that say a desperate team was doing everything it could through the air to win and was having some success.
Game-changers (offensive plays of 20-plus yards)
Iowa 3 — Again, the big plays came out of concepts and not trickery this week. Rudock threaded the needle to Tevaun Smith for 25 yards to set up Iowa’s first TD. TE Hamilton had a 21-yard reception. And Jacob Hillyer scored a 26-yard TD that put Iowa up 20-7. (vs NIU: 3, MSU: 4)
Iowa State 4 — Another four 20-plus passes against Iowa. You could argue that the pass game was where the ISU offense was going to blow, with Iowa eyeing the run, but that’s not going to keep anyone warm at night. That's 10 big pass plays against in three games, including six TD passes of 20-plus. (NIU: 5. MSU: 4)
Two-minute magic (points, final two minutes of half)
Iowa 6 — Iowa scored two FGs in the final two minutes of the first half. The Hawkeyes turned LB James Morris’ second quarter interception into Mike Meyer’s 38 FG with 10 seconds left before halftime. Rudock threw the ball away on third down. Well-managed drive. (vs NIU: 7, vs MSU: 0)
Iowa State 0 — Morris’ pick stopped ISU at the end of the first half. ISU did score with 2:26 left in the game. (NIU: 3, vs MSU: 0)
Iowa big plays (going by OC Greg Davis' definition of 12-plus yard run and 16-plus pass)
7 — Weisman accounted for three of these with runs of 13, 12 and 12. Another back will have to take the pressure off Weisman. Can he keep up this pace? He has so far and no one has a better feel for his workload than the Iowa coaches. It’s a hands-on kind of thing. Weisman had the ankle and groin injuries last year. There’s a wear-and-tear factor, but so far, there’s nothing. Still . . . I would expect LeShun Daniels to see increased work this week. Why not? There’s a ton less pressure this week. Kevonte Martin-Manley had an 18-yarder and remains Iowa’s most reliable receiver. In Iowa’s first three games, he has 9, 3 and 7 receptions. Let’s check Marvin McNutt’s first three from 2011 when he set all the records: 6, 4, 8. That’s a plus-1 for KMM. The other three big plays have to give Iowa receiving coaches (WR Bobby Kennedy and TE D.J. Hernandez) a reason for feeling pretty good. All newbies: Tevaun Smith (25), Ray Hamilton (21) and Jacob Hillyer (26). (vs NIU: 5; vs MSU: 6)