Though it wasn't the smoothest game, especially on defense, Iowa cruised to a 1-0 start.
Figure out who can catch the ball
Iowa really didn’t need much out of the pass game Saturday as Leshun Daniels and Akrum Wadley really carried the load for the offense on the ground. As such, Iowa really stuck to a limited rotation at receiver and tight end. Further limiting the pool for those who can catch the ball, Jay Scheel, who was slated as a starter, was held out due to a nagging quad injury.
To little surprise it was Matt Vandeberg that was the favorite target and he had 4 catches for 99 yards. He remains the go to guy for the slip screen. He broke one such screen for 36 yards in the second quarter that set up a Wadley TD run just a couple of plays later. True freshman Ronald Nash also got in on the screen action. It looked like they brought him in just to run a slip screen for one play and he did well to get 6 yards.
Jerminic Smith and Riley McCarron were the other two receivers used for most of the game. Smith had a very nice touchdown grab in traffic on a 4th-and-6 and made a big catch on Greg Davis’ go to early season flea flicker. Smith and McCarron were even bigger assets as blockers, though, both on those aforementioned screens and also in the run game, which was heavily focused on attacking the outside. On Iowa’s second TD, a pitch to Wadley, Smith took out two defenders leading the way for Wadley.
George Kittle was the only tight end targeted with a pass, but he dropped it in the end zone. He, like the receivers, was a force blocking, though.
Iowa also used Wadley as a receiver a few times. It was kind of surprising that Derrick Mitchell wasn’t used as the third down back; instead those snaps went to Wadley. He kind of played a Damon Bullock role as the safe check-down option, which Beathard used three times.
Form continuity on the offensive line
Daniels and Wadley combined for 204 yards on just 22 carries. Safe to say…the offensive line looked good run blocking. The Hawkeyes quickly identified an advantage on the edges and really exploited it with the toss sweep. Run-game Coordinator Brian Ferentz continued to expand the use of pulling linemen. The old standby inside and outside zone plays were used sparingly.
Pass protection was fairly solid. Ike Boettger got the completely wrong read on one play and allowed the DE to come in untouched, which led to Beathard getting blindsided. Luckily iowa was able to recover his fumble. The other sack came on a double A-gap blitz where James Daniels and Wadley both kind of whiffed and Beathard had two guys in his face before he could get off a throw.
Other than those two plays, Beathard wasn’t pressured very often. Additionally, he looked to be under orders not to take any risks running the ball. There were a few third downs where the coverage was good and he probably could have taken off, but instead elected to check down. On the one waggle play they ran, he just threw it out of bounds instead of turning upfield.
Find a pass rush
Overall the pass rush wasn’t great. For the majority of the time, Billy Bahl had plenty of time in the pocket. However, there were only maybe two or three plays that Iowa dialed up any sort blitz. Additionally, Parker Hesse went out early with injury, so the DE rotation was extra thin. They also didn’t use the raider package at all, or run too many stunts on the line. Iowa played things straight up.
Anthony Nelson, though… He had a couple of nice moves getting off the edge and to the QB. He finished the day with 2.5 sacks and forced two fumbles. For his efforts he earned B1G Freshman Player of the Week honors.
Fake a punt
There wasn’t a fake punt, but all and all it was a good day for Iowa’s kickers. Keith Duncan went 6-6 on PATs and got a chip shot FG attempt in the fourth quarter. His kicks were all short and not high pressure situations, but he made all seven of them.
Ron Coluzzi showed off his leg on kickoffs, sending 7 of 8 for touchbacks. He also punted three times averaging 42 yards a boot and didn’t allow a return on any of them. His last attempt was a rugby-style punt. And while it wasn’t a fake (if it had been, he would have been stopped well short), it’s good to see the rugby punt still going strong. I think Coluzzi will have the option to run if he sees a field of green in front of him and that we will see him pull it down this year.