Game Rewind: A play by play look at the offense against Iowa State

By Eric Ponto on September 16, 2016 at 9:00 am
Hawkeye State
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

After the opener, I came away feeling like Iowa offense had shifted gears. They attacked the edge relentlessly with toss sweeps and slip screen. The days of "stretch play left, stretch play right, rinse, repeat" were over. Turns out I was wrong.

It is almost like Iowa decided it didn't need to prepare anything special for the Cyclone defense. The play calling was so much more bland week 2 than week 1. It was a classic Kirk Ferentz attack. Zone blocking and play action. You know what's coming, but you can't stop it. And it was beautiful.

Play by play

Drive 1

1-10    IOWA 25     11      base 3-wide         |    run   8 yards

Iowa stays true to its new base personnel with 3 wide receivers. Kittle motions from the side of the line to the left and it is outside zone to that side. Kittle gets to the second level and takes out the LB and Leshun has a lane for a good first play.

2-2     IOWA 33     21      i-form              |    pass  18 yards

Beathard audibles to a bubble screen and throws it to Vandeberg. Kittle, who lined up in the slot, again leads the way blocking and takes out the corner.

1-10    ISU 49      11      base 3-wide         |    pass  3 yards

Some good ol' Greg Davis horizontal offense here. A quick 3-yard out to McCarron with no real hope of it going any farther.

2-7     ISU 46      21      i-form              |    run   5 yards

Iowa gets a good push on the right side of the line, but the hole collapses pretty quickly. Wadley gets a few.

3-2     ISU 41      11      trips bunch wide    |    pass  0 yards

Vandeberg run to the sticks and settles down. The defender is all over him (probably clean, but close to interferance). Incomplete and time to punt.

Drive 2

1-10    ISU 42      11      SG 5-wide           |    pass  8 yards

Iowa spreads it out and goes 5 wide. McCarron runs a 7-yard out and the coverage is really soft. It's an easy pitch and catch.

2-2     ISU 34      22      i-form              |    run   3 yards

The lines gets a good initial push, but doesn't do great getting to the second level and a LB gets Leshun down quickly, but he falls forward for the first down.

1-10    ISU 31      11      base 3-wide         |    run   1 yards

Kittle motions to the H-back spot. LeGrand doesn't block the Demond Tucker (ISU's 1 good D-lineman) and the play is blown up at the line.

2-9     ISU 30      21      i-from              |    pass  25 yards

Iowa runs play-action for the first time and the LBs bite. There is a big space in the middle of the field between the LBs that were pulled up and the safeties. Vandeberg runs a post into that space and is wide open.

1-Goal  ISU 5       11      trips bunch wide    |    pass  0 yards

Beathard wanted to hit Vandeberg on a slip screen…a play they've used a few times in the redzone from this formation. I think it is a pass/run option and the WRs read it as a run and were looking to block downfield instead of blocking the screen. CJB read pass though and the screen wasn't open so he just threw it away.

2-Goal  ISU 10      11      SG 5-wide           |    run   1 yards

Iowa spreas out the field to run a QB draw. It's too predictable and ISU recognizes it right away. Beathard tries to get to the outside but doesn't get anywhere.

3-Goal  ISU 9       11      stacked twins       |    pass  9 yards

Beathard has all day, and Kittle runs a simple out route and gains a couple steps on the defender and is open for the easy TD catch.

Drive 3

1-10    IOWA 34     11      base 3-wide         |    run   13 yards

ISU over pursues to the play side and Leshun sees a big hole open up on the backside as Croston seals off the DE.

1-10    IOWA 47     11      base 3-wide         |    run   6 yards

Beathard audibles to a outside zone to the right. There is not a big hole, but Leshun shows a little wiggle and is about to cut back for a couple extra yards.

2-4     ISU 47      21      i-form              |    run   6 yards

Wadley gets a good lead block from the fullback and dances his way forward for the first down. A penalty moves the ball 15 more yards down the field.

1-10    ISU 26      21      i-form              |    pass  26 yards

Play-action to Wadley, he kind of jogs his first couple of steps but then hits the jets and tourches two ISU defenders and is wide open in the end zone. Beathard, who had tons of time find him for the TD.

Drive 4

1-10    IOWA 34     11      base 3-wide         |    run   25 yards

Iowa doesn't set it up exactly the same since there are no pulling linemen, but the play starts off looking like all the toss sweeps they ran week one, but this time Vandeberg comes back around to take the reverse. Smith stuck around on the backside and gets a good block. Boetgger gets the big block though that allow Vandeberg to turn the corner for a big gain.

1-10    ISU 41      12      twins               |    pass  -3 yards

Beathard is looking for Kittle, but Kittle gets tangled up when he is jammed off the line and stumblers. So CJB scrambles wide and doesn't get a chance to turn it up field.

2-13    ISU 44      12      twins               |    pass  10 yards

A classic waggle play. Kittle comes all the way across the field and catches it just beyond the line of scrimmage. He makes the first guy miss and gets good YAC.

3-3     ISU 34      12      twins               |    run   1 yards

Beathard audibles to an inside zone to the left. There is nothing there at all.

4-2     ISU 33      11      SG trips bunch      |    pass  7 yards

Iowa runs a very similar play to the dropped pass McCarron had week one that should have been a TD and was more likely a fumble. The 2 inside receivers run the defense to the outside while McCarron runs a slant to the inside. He doesn't drop it this time and Iowa converts on 4th down.

1-10    ISU 26      12      ace                 |    run   4 yards

Beathard once again audibles (really probably just calling which side to run the zone). It is well blocked, but the corner back (who by design is unblocked) makes a good play and meets Wadley in the hole.

2-6     ISU 22      12      ace                 |    run   3 yards

Beathard again audibles. The line gets a good initial push but can't stay on their blocks. Leshun doesn't have anywhere to go.

3-3     ISU 19      11      base 3-wide         |    run   7 yards

For the third play in a row Beathard switches it up at the line. ISU only has 6 guys in the box…they block 5 and Leshun breaks the attempted arm tackle of the 6th. He plows forward for an easy first down.

1-10    ISU 12      12      ace                 |    pass  0 yards

A waggle play and nobody is open. Beathard was looking for either Kittle or Smith in the endzone but ISU has 3 guys around them, so CJB just throws it out the back on the endzone.

2-10    ISU 12      11      base 3-wide         |    pass  12 yards

Beathard is taking complete control of the offense. He audibles again after ISU shows blitz. The Clones send the house and it well protected. CJB rolls out to avoid the little pressure there was a find Vandeberg in the back of the endzone. Absolutely beautiful pass and catch.

Drive 5

1-10    IOWA 14     21      i-form              |    pass  31 yards

A fade route by Vandeberg and Beathard places it perfectly right into his basket.

1-10    IOWA 45     11      base 3-wide         |    pass  4 yards

Iowa motions McCarron and fakes the end-around to him. He then goes out on a wheel route, but defender sticks with him. He gets tripped up just enough and steps out of bounds.

2-6     IOWA 49     12      twins               |    run   14 yards

Beathard changes at the line and Iowa runs another outside zone this time to the right. Boettger gets to the second level which allows Leshun to get about 6 yards, then it is all Leshun from there as he drags forwards a pile of ISU defenders another 8 yards.

1-10    ISU 37      11      base 3-wide         |    run   5 yards

Kittle motions to the H-back spot. The play is not blocked well at all but Wadley is so shiftly and makes 3 guys miss and gets a few yards out of it.

2-5     ISU 32      11      SG 3-wide           |    run   6 yards

A zone read and again there are unblocked defenders but Wadley jukes them out of their shoes and gets a first down.

1-10    ISU 13      22      i-form              |    run   0 yards

The play gets strung out really wide and the fullback doesn't really land a good block. Daniels is tackled at the line.

2-10    ISU 13      22      i-form              |    run   4 yards

Beathard calls other stretch to the right. This time the blocking is a little bit better as there is a hole between the Tes (Kittle and Pekar). Daniels gets a couple.

1-Goal  ISU 4       11      trips bunch wide    |    run   3 yards

Again this is the run/pass option play where Vandeberg is running the screen. This time though, Beathard hands off to Daniels and he falls forward but it stopped just short of the goalline.

2-Goal  ISU 1       heavy   goalline            |    run   1 yards

A simple QB sneak for the TD.

Drive 6

1-10    IOWA 20     11      SG 5-wide           |    pass  7 yards

For some unknown reason, Greg Davis decided this was a good time to try out the no-huddle, 5-wide offense. It was really strange, but I guess you gotta practice it sometime. Anyway, Kittle run a little sitdown route and finds a hole in the zone for 7.

2-3     IOWA 27     11      SG 5-wide           |    pass  4 yards

My stream cuts out this play and the next 3. I sort of remember them though… This was a short pass to Smith.

1-10    IOWA 31     11      SG 5-wide           |    pass  0 yards

If I remember correctly, Vandeberg runs a drag across the field and is open and probably would have had a first down but he drops it. I think the pass was slightly behind but catchable.

2-10    IOWA 31     11      SG 5-wide           |    pass  0 yards

This one I don't really rememer. I think it was to Smith into traffic and fell incomplete.

3-10    IOWA 31     11      SG4-wide            |    pass  -8 yards

Iowa State runs a little stunt and there is a mix up between Myers and Croston. Neither really gets a good block on the DT and he gets to Beathard for the sack.

Drive 7

1-10    IOWA 13     21      i-form              |    run   2 yards

Beatard audibles. It's an outside zone to the left. There isn't a hole and Leshun does well to get 2.

2-8     IOWA 15     11      base 3-wide         |    run   -1 yards

Another check by Beathard. Croston whiffs on his block, but really the rest of the line doesn't do much better and the play is blown up in the backfield.

3-9     IOWA 14     11      SG 3-wide           |    pass  11 yards

Beathard looks right and Iowa has the running back screen set up to the left. Iowa doesn't even really need to block the play. Mitchell is fast enough to beat the D and get the first down.

1-10    IOWA 25     11      SG 4-wide           |    pass  0 yards

Kittle is lined up in the slot and runs a quick out but Beathard's ball comes out hot and is a little off the mark.

2-10    IOWA 25     11      base 3-wide         |    pass  0 yards

Vandeberg runs a slant and Beathard bullets it in there. The pass is right on the money and Vandeberg does a good job using his body to shield the defender. Everything looks great until the ball bounces off of his chest…a straight drop.

3-10    IOWA 25     11      SG 3-wide           |    pass  0 yards

Iowa State is blitzing and Beathrad rushes his throw. He probably had more time, but as it was overthrows Smith just slightly. This was the second drive that was probably killed by a second down drop by Vandeberg.

Drive 8

1-10    IOWA 32     22      i-form              |    run   4 yards

Beathard calls the stretch to the left. Good blocking on the first left and Leshun isn't hit until he's a couple yards down the field.

2-6     IOWA 36     22      i-form              |    run   3 yards

Render pull and leads the way through the hole with Kulick. The left side of the line doesn't do a great job though and Daniels is hit on the line of scrimmage. He does well to get 3.

3-3     IOWA 39     11      SG 3-wide           |    pass  25 yards

Beathard reads the coverae pre-snap and signals his call to the receivers. Vandeberg runs and out and up and Beathard drops the ball in on the money for a big gain on 3rd-and-short.

1-10    ISU 36      11      SG trips bunch      |    pass  15 yards

Beathard goes back to Vandeberg, this time on a slant. ISU's middle linebacker is blitzing which leaves a big hole in the defense. Iowa takes advantage.

1-10    ISU 21      22      i-form              |    run   18 yards

Iowa runs a count with Myer and Ross blocking on the backside of the play. Really though, this play is all Wadley again. He cuts back, then jump cuts, then throws in a snip move making at least 3 guys miss on his was for 18 yards.

1-Goal  ISU 3       heavy   goalline            |    run   3 yards

Wadley initially is following Ross to the outside, but then a giant hole opens up in the middle. Wadley cuts back and ISU has no change. He walks in untouched.

Drive 9

1-10    ISU 43      11      3-wide              |    pass  0 yards

Kittle motions from the left side of the line to the right, which earlier signaled run, ut this time it is play action. Smith is running a deep post and is covered well. But Iowa goes for the kill shot and the ball from Beathard is a touch high and Smith is unable to pull it down.

2-10    ISU 43      11      trips               |    run   43 yards

It is an inside zone to the right and the whole defense reacts. The cornerback on the backside of the field was caught in a blitz and got too far upfield, so there is no backside contain. Daniels sees the cutback wide open and hits it then turns on the jets and outruns everyone to the endzone.

The Hawkeyes basically just ran their base offense the entire first half. Then mixed in a weird series of 5-wide stuff, and came back around to finish out the game. The first team offense ran 54 play in the first 3 quarters before the backups came in. (There was one weird series in the 4th quarter that still had Beathard in there, but he had second and third stringers around him.)

Iowa's new base personnel is the 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end, and 3 receivers) and they ran 32 of their 54 plays out of it (59%). The main thing they did differently personnel wise in this game from week 1, is used two tight end in non-short down situations. They used the 12 personnel 7 times. It wasn't very successful though as they averaged just 4 yards per play on those plays, compared to the 7.2 yards per play they averaged overall.

Formationally, they had a couple different looks. Out of the 12, they often put the two receivers on the same side of the field. And then they had that 5-wide look with their standard passing down personnel (which is VandeBerg, McCarron, Smith, Mitchell and Kittle as the receivers).

The running game went back to a heavy dosage of zone plays. Of the 27 runs plays (side note there were 27 pass balanced), 22 of them were either an inside or outside zone (1 of those was a zone read). Beathard ran twice, a sneak and a draw. Then there was the reverse to VandeBerg. So there were only 2 plays were an offense lineman pulled...compared to last week where it was more 50/50.

The passing game worked the middle of the field a little bit more with Kittle and a few slants. There was only 1 quick WR screen.

The other big thing that stuck out was how often Beathard made changes at the line. There has been quite a few stories floating around this week that the call in from the sideline is just a formation call, then Beathard has the ability to go up to the line, read the defense, and then call the play he wants. It looked like a lot of the time he just picks the side to run to, left or right. But he did signal different plays to the receivers a few times as well. Whatever they are doing here, it is working and everyone seems on the same page. 

Breaking down the bunch formation redzone look

Iowa started using a bunch formation in the redzone quite a bit last year. It has been a pretty effective formation as well. They run a variety of plays out of this look, but the primary one is a good ol' inside zone with a slip screen option. It is a pretty simple read for Beathard. If the defense keeps an extra guy in the box and doesn't send 3 defenders over to cover the bunched receivers, then he throws the quick pass. If they do cover the bunch, then he hands it off up the middle. The below play they stick with the run, though you can see VandeBerg runs out for the screen pass, Smith blocks his guys and McCarron was in position to block his guy as well. I actually think the screen would have gone for a TD here, but as it was, Leshun was able to plow ahead to inside the 1 yard line.

Bunch with a run read

Another example of this play was from the Purdue game last year. This time Iowa is in shotgun but the same concepts apply. Purdue doesn't respect the 3 WRs and keeps a guy in the box. As a result, Beathard throws to VandeBerg and he's able to get to the edge, turn the corner and score.

They run a few other combo routes out this formation as well mainly using 2 of the receivers as decoys or picks to free up the third. I expect we will continue to see this widely used in the red zone this year.

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