Four Factors in Review: Iowa vs North Dakota State

By Eric Ponto on September 20, 2016 at 10:01 am
What the hell? - King
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
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In which the factors don't matter and everything is awful.

Expand the base

Three games into the season and Iowa’s offense has progressively shrunken its playbook each week. While the bland offensive play calling was more than enough to beat up on a very poor Iowa State team, it was not effective at all against NDSU. To make matters worse, it was clear early in the game that the game plan was not working. The offensive line was getting pushed around. Running up the middle was not an option. Sending Beathard on a 7-step drops looking to go deep was resulting in pressure and sacks.

So when it was do-or-die time in the fourth quarter, what did Iowa do? On Iowa’s final drive, the 2015 Hawkeyes would have put together a drive and scored to extend the lead to a 2-possession game. It happened time and time again last year. A team would score and get within 7 or 8 points, then Iowa would respond with a long drive to put the game away. Instead they ran twice up the middle, lost a couple of yards, then Beathard took a sack on third down as the line failed to pick up a blitz. Punt, game over.

The final drive was Iowa’s standard 4-minute offense. They’ve run it for years now. They throw out the 22 personnel and then run a power lead play. It is kind of interesting that it’s not an inside zone, which you’d expect out of a KF team, but it’s always been that same power play. If a team has done any scouting at all, they’d know it’s coming. Usually, when Iowa is busting out its 4-minute offense it's because they have spent the whole game pounding away and have built a decent enough lead that they are in run-the-clock-out mode. So going heavy and running power up the middle against a worn down defense does the trick. That was not the case this game.

Iowa was not dominating the line. The NDSU defense was not worn out. The offensive line, especially the middle, looked terrible the whole game. Now you are going to bet the game that you can run right up the middle three times and get a first down…

Predictably, it went poorly. Daniels was stuffed two plays in a row as NDSU knew exactly what was coming. Then with Iowa having to pass, NDSU sent the house, the line didn’t pick it up, and that was it.

It would have been better if NDSU would have scored on that 2-point conversion and forced Iowa to try to do something on offense. They maybe could have least gotten in field goal range.

And, yes, the defense mostly stayed in base and went to the horrid deep cloud coverage on NDSU’s game winning drive which allowed them to run right up the gut for a billion yards. But this loss was not on the defense. They only gave up 16 points and came up with multiple big stops in the first half. The offense only scored 21 points.

Exploit the mismatches

It’s almost like Iowa went the opposite way with this. They did use Kittle well and were able to get him open. But other than that the plan seemed to be to attack up the middle with the run game and look deep in the pass game. Both plans relied heavily on the two backup linemen playing well. And they did not. The interior line was probably the biggest mismatch in the Bison’s favor. So, good game plan there, Iowa…

Keep a foot on the gas

It was less so Iowa taking its foot off the gas, and more so that they just played generally terrible after scoring their second TD with virtually no running game and an inconsistent air attack. I’m not sure there is much more than that to mention here.

Protect the ball

I thought the only way Iowa would give NDSU a path to victory would be through too many turnovers. While the two teams traded interceptions, Iowa’s turned out to be far more costly as Beathard’s pick six gave the Bison an early lead and was their only points in the first half.

Anyway, this was short, but that’s all to say for now. I’m dreading rewatching this game to break down the offense play-by-play, but someone’s gotta do it, right?

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