Game Rewind: A play-by-play look at the offense against Miami (OH)

By Eric Ponto on September 7, 2016 at 1:30 pm
gotta run fast gotta run fast gotta run fast
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
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While the defense was extremely bland on Saturday against Miami (OH), Greg Davis found a few ways to mix up Iowa's offensive playcalling without straying to far from the base. The offensive starters only took 45 snaps, so I actually had time to go back and review each play. I wouldn't expect this to become a regular thing around here... and we won't have any fancy scoring system like mgoblog. Instead this exercise was more about tracking the different looks Iowa used, particularly in the run game, as there were a whole lot of plays that were not the standard inside and outside zones.

So without further ado, here is a breakdown of every offensive snap before the starters were pulled and the hoards of true freshmen saw the field.

Drive 1

1-10    I20   11      base 3-wide         |    Run   6 yards

Inside zone. It is blocked sufficiently and Daniels makes his way for 6 yards

2-4     I26   12      ace, tight          |    Run   23 yards

Power toss sweep with Daniels and Boettger pulling. Smith gets a good block downfield and Wadley gets a big gain

1-10    I49   11      base 3-wide         |    Pass  33 yards

A slip screen to Vandeberg with Smith getting a great block that frees Vandeberg down the slideline.

1-10    M18   22      I-formation         |    Run   12 yards

Iowa blocks like an outside zone to the left, but runs the counter with the fullback and Wadley going to the right. The defense bit on the blocks and Wadley gets a good gain.

1-G     M6    11      trips bunched wide  |    Run   4 yards

Inside zone with a huge push up front, but no hole ever opens, so Wadley just runs into the pack and goes down.

2-G     M2    heavy   goalline            |    Run   2 yards

A power play with the FB leading the way through the hole. Daniels scores easily.

Drive 2

1-10    M12   11      base 3-wide         |    Pass  1 yards

Beathard throws short to Smith in the flat and it is blown up right away. The refs missed a facemask and maybe could have called a late hit. As it is, a short gain though.

2-9     M11   21      I-formation         |    Run   21 yards

Similar play to the earlier counter, but this time it is with a pitch. The line blocks to the right, Wadley gets the pitch to the left and Smith takes out two guys blocking downfield. Wadley easily scores.

Drive 3

1-10    I18   21      I-formation         |    Pass  38 yards

The good ol' early season flea flicker works. Beathard has a guy in his face but delivers a bomb to Smith who has to make a slight adjustment for an underthrow but still catches it for a big gain.

1-10    M43   12      twins               |    Run   43 yards

McCarron motions from the slot in tight and sets up to block. It's another power toss sweep with Daniels and Boettger pulling. The two make just a small hole, but Daniels finds it. Smith (and this is becoming a theme) destroys his guy down the field leaving a easy path to the end zone for Daniels.

Drive 4

1-10    I22   21      ace                 |    Pass  -10 yards

Boettger and Kittle are not on the same page as Kittle goes out for a pass releasing the DE and Boettger is busy blocking the tackle. The DE gets a free shot at Beathard and forces a fumble. Wadley alertly recovers.

2-10    I12   11      SG 3-wide           |    Pass  12 yards

Iowa sets up a screen pretty well and Wadley is able to get back the lost yardage.

3-8     I20   11      SG 3-wide           |    Pass  5 yards

Coverage is good down the field and Beathard has tons of time, but he just checks down to Wadley short of the sticks.

Drive 5

1-10    I32   21      I-formation, twins  |    Pass  14 yards

A slip screen to McCarron. Again Smith gets an excellent block and McCarron is able to get to the outside.

1-10    I46   11      base 3-wide         |    Run   2 yards

Beathard audibles and SURPRISE it is an inside zone. There isn't much there.

2-8     I48   11      base 3-wide         |    Pass  7 yards

Vandeberg runs a 5-yard out and is able to get a couple after the catch.

3-1     M45   22      I-formation         |    Run   4 yards

Inside zone with the fullback leading the way. Ross gets a good block in the hole and Wadley gets the first down.

1-10    M41   11      base 3-wide         |    Pass  36 yards

Another slip screen to Vandeberg, but this time it is McCarron who gets the nice block on the outside and Vandeberg sprints down the sideline but is caught before scoring.

1-G     M5    11      trips bunched wide  |    Pass  0 yards

A nice play call as Smith and Vandeberg slant to the outside while McCarron runs a slant back to the middle. He looks open and, at the time that ball is thrown, it looks like a sure TD.  But the defense makes a good play and pops the ball lose. I still think it was a fumble, but review says incomplete.

2-G     M5    12      tips bunched tight  |    Run   5 yards

Two TEs in the bunched receivers are in there to block. It is another power toss sweep. Boettger gets a big block this time to spring Wadley for the TD.

Drive 6

1-10    I26   11      3-wide with H-back  |    Run   0 yards

The 21st play of the day is the first outside zone, and Boettger fails to get to the second level, though really the whole things wasn't blocked that well. Daniels gets tackled at the line.

2-10    I26   11      SG 3-wide           |    Pass  1 yards

Iowa tries a little shuffle pass to Daniels, but the linebacker read it the whole way and blows it up.

3-9     I27   11      SG 3-wide           |    Pass  4 yards

Beathard has time, but coverage is good so he just elects to checkdown to Wadley for a short gain.

Drive 7

1-10    I48   21      I-formation         |    Run   10 yards

They fake the handoff to the RB and have Smith run an end-around. McCarron and Kulick get good blocks, and the play goes for a first down.

1-10    M42   11      base 3-wide         |    Run   3 yards

It's the same motion as a previous toss play, where McCarron is in the slot and then motions in tight. Miami picked up on it and were ready for the play with the backside pursuit getting there quickly.

2-7     M39   21      I-formation, twins  |    Pass  0 yards

Play action and a quick slant to Smith. The throw is on target, not perfect, but catchable. Smith drops it.

3-7     M39   11      base 3-wide         |    Pass  23 yards

Vandeberg does a little stutter step then runs a fade route and CJB places the back shoulder throw beautifully.

1-10    M16   11      base 3-wide         |    Pass  0 yards

Beathard gets a little pressure and rushes his throw slightly, which sails a little bit too high to McCarron in the endzone.

2-10    M16   12      bunch tight         |    Run   3 yards

This was a redzone formation and play they used a little bit last year. McCarron fakes an end-around out of the bunch formation, but the play is just an inside zone. It is not blocked very well, and Wadley just falls forward for a few.

3-7     M13   11      base 3-wide         |    Run   1 yards

Iowa, probably already planning on going on fourth down, tried to surprise Miami with a run. It's another inside zone and no hole opens up. Wadley just runs into the pile for minimal gain.

4-6     M12   11      SG 3-wide           |    Pass  6 yards

New Kirk strikes again and Iowa goes for it. Smith is the lone receiver on the right and runs a slant. He is well covered the whole way, but has good positioning, and Beathard makes a great throw for the TD.

Drive 8

1-10    I26   11      base 3-wide         |    Run   9 yards

After a near disaster on a fumbled kickoff, Iowa goes to the pin-and-pull outside zone. Miami actually shifted their front away from the playside, and Daniels had a lot of space to run. Welsh comes through free as the pulling guard and is the lead blocker on a good first down run.

2-1     I35   11      base 3-wide         |    Pass  0 yards

Another quick WR screen to Vandeberg, but the throw is low and into the ground. This was Beathard's only truly bad pass on Saturday.

3-1     I35   22      I-formation         |    Run   4 yards

Iowa goes big and runs a lead play. There is enough push upfront that the pile is a couple yards down the field. Daniels just runs into the thick of things and gets the first.

1-10    I39   11      base 3-wide         |    Pass  0 yards

The first and only play-action deep shot of the day. Vandeberg has just a tiny bit of separation and the throw is there but the defensive back makes a great play to break it up.

2-10    I30   11      SG 3-wide           |    Pass  6 yards

They bring in Nash to try the slip screen. McCarron doesn't quite get his guy sealed off, but Nash is still able to get 6 yards.

3-4     I43   11      SG 3-wide           |    Pass  -10 yards

Miami bring 2 blitzers right up the middle. Wadley barely slows down his man and Daniels doesn't do much better. Beathard has no time and is sacked.

Drive 9

1-10    I28   22      I-formation         |    Run   8 yards

Iowa goes into its 4-minute offense with 2 TEs and a RB. They run power with Daniels and he finds a hole for 8.

2-2     I36   22      I-formation         |    Run   3 yards

Iowa stays with what works and runs the same play. It isn't blocked as well, but Daniels still gets the first down.

1-10    I39   22      I-formation         |    Run   7 yards

An outside zone this time and Kittle gets a good block on the edge.

2-3     I46   22      I-formation         |    Run   12 yards

Another power play, but this time with Wadley . Kulick gets just enough of the DE and Wadley gets the first down.

1-10    M42   22      I-formation         |    Run   40 yards

Power yet again, and Wadley gets hit in the backfield and loses a shoe, but then makes a beautiful cut and almost outruns the defense stepping out of bounds at the 2.

1-G     M2    heavy   goalline            |    Penalty

False start

1-G     M7    12      bunch tight         |    Pass  0 yards

The first waggle play of the day and nobody is open. Beathard rolls out and throws it away.

2-G     M7    11      SG 3-wide           |    Run   4 yards

An inside zone (no read going on) that isn't blocked very well. Wadley is able to plow ahead for a couple.

3-G     M3    11      SG 3-wide           |    Pass  0 yards

Kittle runs a shallow cross and has a step on his defender. Beathard puts the ball where only Kittle can get it, but he drops it in the endzone.

Some numbers on play calling

Run/Pass Split
  • Run: 23
  • Pass: 22

Run: 23, Pass: 22 (Good balance)

Personnel Groups
  • 11: 25
  • 12: 5
  • 21: 6
  • 22: 8
  • heavy: 1
Run Plays
  • inside zone: 8
  • outside zone: 2
  • power toss sweep: 4
  • power: 5
  • others: 4

Some thoughts

Watching the game live, it felt like they rarely used zone blocking. It turns out the inside zone was still the most popular run play, but zone plays were on 10 out of 25 called runs. And they were far less effective. The toss sweep averaged 18.5 yards per carry, while the zone plays only averaged 3.5 yards per carry. The five power plays Iowa ran during the 4-minute offense in the fourth quarter averaged 9 yards (which is putting a game away).

The other thing that stood out with the play calling is all of the quick screens that were called. Iowa really attacked the outside of the RedHawk defense and it was very successful. Even with an incomplete pass in there, Iowa still averaged nearly 18 yards per attempt on those screens.

The real standout in both cases, the long runs and successful screen game, was Jerminic Smith. The dude can block. It seemed like every time there was a long gain, you'd see Smith blocking downfield. Even though it looks like he got the start because Jay Scheel is nursing a quad injury, if he continues to block like that, he will get plenty of playing time.

Iowa didn't run much from two tight end formations. If you take out the final drive, where Iowa went to the 22 personnel and just ran the ball down Miami's throat, then there were only seven plays that included multiple TEs (and then there were seven more on the final drive). Iowa mainly played with three receivers.

The formations didn't have a lot of variation on Saturday. For the most part, Iowa used a standard 3-wide set with Beathard either under center or in the gun. They did have two different bunch formations though (one with 2 TEs and a WR lined up just wide of the OT and one with 3 WRs out wide) and probably ran the most interesting plays out of those sets. We've seen both of these formations from Davis over the years.

The tight bunch in the past was almost a sure sign on the toss sweep, and they again ran that play out of it. They also faked an end around to McCarron out of that set. They ran the same thing last year a couple of times with Vandeberg. They also used this formation to run the only waggle play of the game. The old standby wasn't used until the 4th quarter.

The wider bunch formation is something Davis likes to pull out in the redzone. In the past they've used it to run a slip screen to the slot receiver, with the other two out there to block. They ran this to perfection last year against Purdue. If the defense walks enough out of the box to cover the screen, then they just run it inside. They added a play that Brian Ferentz said they stole from the Arizona Cardinals, and almost scored, but McCarron got popped and dropped the ball.

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