FIVE SENTENCES ON WESTERN MICHIGAN RESULT
1) Been a long time since I’ve seen a team deflate like that. (Shrug, moving on.)
2) WR Damond Powell has something Iowa needs, namely lightning for legs.
3) That was Iowa’s best special teams performance since the Capital One Bowl in ’05 (I know, I know, a deflated football and LSU, world of difference, but it’s something).
4) You guys should’ve seen Mark Weisman complaining about just 10 carries (kidding, kidding, he’s the consummate teammate).
5) Dan Wolken’s Misery Index makes a stop in Morgantown, W.V., where “Holgo” has lost eight of his last 11 after winning 15 of his first 18. (B1G heavily repped this week, with Michigan State “Football is supposed to be entertainment, and watching Michigan State is pure agony,” Nebraska “227 rush allowed vs. South Dakota State” and Michigan and Purdue receiving votes.)
1) Punt return – I can’t tell who this unit’s captain is. I don’t know if it has a captain. When was the last time we saw Iowa not in “punt” safe”? Fantastic execution. Kevonte Martin-Manley showed wheels that, frankly, I was surprised to see. He said when he gets into the open field and can stride out, he can move. No one is arguing today. Lots of white Western Michigan helmets looking down as KMM started his break up field. That is disaster. You won’t find much less catch a decent punt returner with your head down.
2) CB B.J. Lowery — The bigger picture here is Iowa’s knack for interceptions seems to have returned. Iowa has six this year compared to 10 all last season and just 10 in ’11. Before ’11, it was 19, 21, 23 and 14 in ’07. Yes, personnel and pass rush. You can’t count on interceptions, but you have to be able to count on coverage. No passes of 20-plus against WMU. Yes, there were 19- and 18-yard completions, but let’s take it a day at a time.
3) LB Christian Kirksey — Kirksey had three QB hurries. If you listen to the On Iowa podcast (I know not everyone listens to podcasts), you know that I went off on the QB hurry stat. It seems as though it’s the hanging chad (no one remembers that, do they?) of college football statistics. Iowa sports info has done a good job with it, so credit where credit it due. Last week, off blitzes, Kirksey logged three QB hurries. He leads the Hawkeyes with four. DE Dominic Alvis has three. It’s a stat, you guys, it’s time to give it some weight. In my opinion, it’s equal to a pass breakup.
1) Penalties — Kirk Ferentz is a tooth grinder, I think. He’s talked about it in the past. He seemed fairly calm and in light spirits in the postgame Saturday. I’m guessing one of the first stats that put him back into “angry coach” mode (they all have to hit that note, right?) was the six penalties for 60 yards. Iowa is now No. 91 in the nation with 26 penalties. Last year, 4-8 Iowa finished 13th in the nation with just 55 penalties. This falls squarely in the “don’t beat yourself” category. It’s easy to shrug off after 59-3, but the pattern is a tooth grinder for any coach.
2) Fumbles — Oh, the Twitter reaction when true freshman running back LeShun Daniels fumbled on his first carry in the second quarter. And then RB Jordan Canzeri got whacked from behind and left one on the rubber grass. Iowa has lost four of its six fumbles. Again, this is a coach tooth grinder. It’s also kind of a major deal that will cost the Hawkeyes down the line if it continues to fester. How do you stop it? Give it to Weisman? He has one, too. It happens, but it has to happen less. The game this week has “important turnover deciding it” written all over it.
3) Tackles for loss — Throwing an offense off schedule, Iowa is going to need to do that. The Hawkeyes begin the Big Ten with two grunt fests, Minnesota and Michigan State. These two teams are Nos. 5 and 27 in the nation in rushing attempts. (Iowa, BTW, is No. 3 and only three out of first place.) In the next two games, the team with the offense that falls behind schedule the most will probably win. Iowa needs to be more forceful here. The Hawkeyes are No. 98 in the nation in TFLs with 16. Minnesota is No. 14 with 30 (!!!!), led by Ra’Shede Hageman’s 5.5. MSU is 40th with 24. This is probably the biggest difference between the three teams. It’s only September, but Iowa is going through a round of bowl elimination.
1) Two punt returns — First, credit KMM. He showed wheels and vision on both returns. He waiting for things to open on the second. On the first, he took a lane that wasn’t the biggest in the world and made a couple of cuts based on the blocking. There was some technique to what he did. Congrats to the Big Ten special teams player of the week. Let’s pass out some helmet stickers (the special teams helmet sticker during my days at Wahlert in the ’80s was a star) for the blockers. No. 1: Maurice Fleming and Nico Law combo blocked a gunner. Fleming rode him down and Law finished him off. That was one wall of the lane. Riley McCarron (speaking of Wahlert) blocked a chubby guy, No. 66, and built the other wall for the lane that sprung KMM. McCarron was flat footed, and so he easily got enough of chubby No. 66 to open the lane. Starting this week, flat footed won’t work. Linebacker Quinton Alston got just enough of a defender on the second level to give KMM a chance to make the cut up the sidelines. No. 2: CB Gavin Smith did a great job on a gunner. At first, it looked like a block in the back, but he established a hand on his chest and shoved him to the ground as KMM was clearing him. Helmet sticker. LB Travis Perry got a piece of chubby 66 this time. He wasn’t going to touch KMM, anyway. Law, again, TE George Kittle and WR Jacob Hillyer (becoming a football player) kind of form a wall on the right. Hillyer’s block is huge, it was on a No. 3, the last player who would have a real shot at catching KMM.
2) Lowery’s first INT TD — Iowa was in cover 1, with linebacker James Morris and free safety Tanner Miller blitzing on a third-and-6 at WMU’s 32-yard line. Kirksey — there’s that name again — and Lowery were in what Lowery called an “in and out” coverage. Kirksey pressed on the slot receiver, which in this case was a TE. That left Lowery locked up with the outside WR. The idea was for the TE to engage Kirksey and create a clump for Lowery to run around and a hole in the middle of Iowa’s defense. WMU QB Tyler Van Tubbergen threw to that spot. The WR was late and ran maybe a step or two too deep. Lowery had his eyes on the QB the whole time and just read the play. Van Tubbergen read the blitz and knew he had to throw to the spot or eat it. He threw to the spot and Lowery just sat on the route. The blitzing has been effective this season. It will likely have to continue.
NEXT — AT MINNESOTA (4-0)
– Gophers coach Jerry Kill talks to the media on Sundays (it’s a pro market, you have to do that up there). He said Sunday night that QB Philip Nelson and RB Donnell Kirkwood are not expected to start the Iowa game this weekend. Here’s a link from the St. Paul Pioneer-Press.
– The Gophers found a way without them last week. QB Mitch Leidner and RB David Cobb are driving the bus. Cobb, without having started a game, leads the team with 332 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Leidner rushed for 155 of the team’s 353 yards and tied a 46-year-old school quarterback record with four rushing touchdowns Saturday in a 43-24 win over San Jose State.
– Kirkwood played special teams agianst SJ State. Nelson could’ve played, but only in a handoff role. We’ll see this weekend, but it sounds as though they could be ready if they had to be.
– Saturday’s game starts 2:30 p.m. and is on ABC (reverse mirror to ESPN2). Next week’s game with Michigan State (at Kinnick) is set for 11 a.m. Not sure what channel.
Closing the deal (Red zone TDs/possessions)
Iowa — 2 of 5 (NIU: 2-for-3; MSU: 4 of 6; ISU 2 of 5)
Western Michigan — 0-for-2 (NIU: 0-for-2; MSU: 0-for-1; ISU 1 of 1)
Just 3 of 5 for Iowa overall. Let’s pull out the knee formation at the end of the game, but Iowa did get stopped in the first quarter inside the 5. No one picked up the FS and he knifed in and took down Weisman to force a field goal. The FS showed he was coming, was up on the LOS, but sometimes you just don’t block the obvious guy for whatever reason.
Setting the tone (defensive three-and-outs)
Iowa 9 — WMU was 1 of 14 on third down. Syracuse in ’07 is the closest I can find at 2 of 15. Iowa also held Arizona to 2 of 12 in ’09. (NIU: 6, MSU: 6, ISU 5)
Western Michigan 3 — Fumbles stopped two drives. Overall, Iowa converted 9 of 15 on third down, coming a week after converting 11 of 20 on third down. Iowa is third in the Big Ten in third downs. (NIU: 3, MSU: 3, ISU 4)
After adjustments (second-half yards and avg. yards per play)
Iowa — 287-6.37 (45 plays) (NIU: 156-47, 33 plays; MSU: 285-6.47, 44 plays; ISU: 192-4.92, 39 plays)
Western Michigan — 89-4.68 (19 plays) (NIU: 234-4.77, 49 plays; MSU: 130-5.2, 25 plays; ISU: 258-7.58, 34 plays)
Iowa is fifth in the nation with 324 plays. Last season, Iowa was 113th with 793. I think you have to say that Iowa’s plays are the offensive storyline so far this season. Really, what else would be?
Game-changers (offensive plays of 20-plus yards)
Iowa 4 — Lots of different names in this dance party. C.J. Beathard to Damond Powell for 54 yards. Jake Rudock to Powell for 29 yards and a TD. Rudock had a 31-yard scramble. Beathard had a longer one that was called back. He said after the game he likes to run the zone read. Remember, DE Dominic Alvis said Beathard was one of the better zone read QBs he’s faced. And Rudock to Hillyer for a big-play TD (21 yards) for the second straight week. (vs NIU: 3, MSU: 4; ISU 3)
Western Michigan 1 — 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; ISU 4)
Two-minute magic (points, final two minutes of half)
Iowa 14 — Mark Weisman cashed in a seven-play, 65-yard drive with a 4-yard TD run with 1:23 left in the first half. Then, Lowery picked off his first INT TD return with 56 seconds left before halftime. That gave Iowa a 38-3 halftime lead and the No. 2 QB was going to play, really, for the first time since A.J. Derby saw some time vs. Louisiana-Monroe in 2011. I know, John Wienke in the Insight Bowl, but he went in because James Vandenberg was knocked out. It was mop-up time, but it wasn’t. You know what I mean? (vs NIU: 7, vs MSU: 0; vs ISU 6)
Western Michigan 0 — So, how long do you have for P.J. Fleck? Hope it works. Again, that team deflated yesterday. (NIU: 3, vs MSU: 0; ISU 0)
Iowa big plays (going by OC Greg Davis’ definition of 12-plus yard run and 16-plus pass)
10 — This is a season high. Lots of new names, including RBs Canzeri and Daniels, TE Ray Hamilton with a pair, Powell with a couple. Damon Bullock had a 16-yard rush. (vs NIU: 5; vs MSU: 6; vs ISU 7)