Four Factor Friday: Iowa at Rutgers

By Eric Ponto on September 23, 2016 at 4:59 pm
Rutgers can run the ball
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
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Protect Beathard

For the love of God, please protect C.J. back there. While Rutgers isn’t a big blitzing team, it hasn’t taken a whole lot to get a hit on Beathard. He’s been sacked six times thus far and hit many more. He’s been lucky that pressure has only led to one turnover (though it was a costly pick six) as he has been blindsided a few times and fumbled.

I think it is safe to he isn’t fully healthy and took another big hit last Saturday (though that wasn’t necessarily the result of bad protection) that took him out of the game for a couple of plays.

The offensive line should be back intact this weekend…Daniels and Welsh are both supposedly ready. So hopefully that will help. While LeGrand and Render looked fine against Iowa State they really struggled against the Bison, especially recognizing stunts and blitzes. Play calling could also help here. Greg Davis did a tiny bit of moving the pocket and letting C.J. roll out (though not in crunch time) against NDSU.

Feel the beat

It’s only been one off game, but Iowa needs to get its rhythm back on offense. They had so many poorly executed plays against NDSU that there really wasn’t much of a chance to establish a rhythm. On Tuesday, Beathard mentioned that there were 17 mental mistakes by the offense… on 49 plays. That's shooting yourself in the foot one in every three downs. No wonder Iowa went 3-and-out 6 times.

It’s all about getting the first first down on a drive to get rolling. On the five drives that Iowa had a first down, they scored touchdowns on three of them, threw the interception on another, and had to punt on the final drive. That's not too bad (other than the pick). The other games were similar. Against Iowa State, Iowa got that first first down nine times, and scored six touchdowns (with the starters) on those drives. Against Miami, only 1 of 8 drives stalled after getting a first down. The other drives resulted in six touchdowns and one field goal.

So focus on getting that first first down. Keep the chains moving. And get into some sort of rhythm on offense.

Load up to stop the run

Is Phil Parker going to load the box to stop the run? Nope, probably not. But there needs to be some adjustments in the defense as they have been giving up big chunks of yards on the ground and Rutgers loves to run the ball. They have been averaging 230 yards on the ground per game this year.

While their rushing attack is more like Miami (OH) than NDSU, Miami still put up some decent yards running the ball. Their key has been to use motion and misdirection. Iowa is disciplined on defense, but without committing any extra guys to stop the run, even a small moment of indecision can be the different between a 2-yard gain and a 5-yard gain. There have been too many 5-yard gains.

Win the battle of the big plays

Rutgers games this season have featured some questionable defense and a lot of big plays on both sides of the ball. It was giving up big plays got them blown out by Washington. It was big plays in the first quarter that but them 21 points down to New Mexico, and it was bigger plays that ultimately won them the game. Look at the scoring plays from the first half of that game:

  • 19 yard run (UNM)
  • 36 yard pass (UNM)
  • 52 yard run (UNM)
  • 75 yard pass (Rutgers)
  • 21 yard pass (Rutgers)
  • 80 yard run (Rutgers)
  • 69 yard pass (Rutgers)

While Iowa needs to establish a rhythm on offense, explosive plays are really what makes it go. The line needs to protect Beathard long enough for him to throw it down the field. They need to create holes for the running backs.

The defense has done a very good job all year of not giving up big plays. It has been pretty much classic bend-but-don’t-break. While that unfortunately isn’t a great strategy when a field goal will beat you, it has otherwise been effective. Iowa’s opponents are only averaging 13 points per game against the defense. That is going to be a winning number if Iowa can maintain it.

Prediction

How does Iowa rebound? That’s the big question, really. In the past we’ve seen too many examples of an Iowa team with high expectations fall apart after it was clear their expectations weren’t going to be met. But we’ve also seen the pissed off Hawkeyes throttle teams following a loss.

I’m going to give the staff and the players the benefit of the doubt here and say that they are prepared for this game and will have a better attitude than, let’s say, me. I think we see a more aggressive game plan and Iowa does get those big plays that Rutgers has been giving up and they win by two scores.

Final Score: Iowa 34 - Rutgers 21

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