THE GOOD, BAD & UGLY 2017: ILLINOIS

By Mike Jones on October 9, 2017 at 12:29 pm
Hesse coming for your children.

© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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The Good: Second Half-Adjustments

Something we don’t spend a lot of time talking about is Iowa’s improvements in the second halves of games. On Saturday, the Hawkeyes entered the half barely holding on to a 17-13 lead. They’d then go on to outscore the Illini 28-3, ignited by a brilliant interception return for a touchdown by the meta-human Brandon Snyder. The final score made it seem like it was a blowout. In reality, it was a lot closer than Iowa would’ve preferred for most of the afternoon.

This is sort of a strange trend for the Hawkeyes against “lesser” competition. Against Wyoming, they entered halftime up 14-3. They’d outscore the Cowboys 10-0 in the second half. Against North Texas, they went into the half down 14-10. They’d outscore the Mean Green 21-0 and win 31-14. Against Iowa State (maybe not lesser competition) they’d actually tie for the number of points scored in the second half/overtime at 31. 

The key, of course, was the ability to finish drives. Of Iowa’s six second-half possessions (we don’t count the final possession as it was just running the clock out), they scored touchdowns on three of them. Iowa’s slow starts haven’t cost them a game this season, as the defenses of Penn State and Michigan State are nothing to scoff at (ask Michigan). Another way of saying that is: Penn State and Michigan State are better than Iowa so how fast the Hawkeyes came out of the gate is irrelevant.  But with the most difficult stretch of Big Ten games coming up, Iowa will probably need to figure out how to put together a complete offensive game if they want to have a shot against Ohio State or Wisconsin.

The Bad: Turnovers

This team continues to be turnover prone. And yes, I understand the conditions were less than optimal. It was windy, a little cool and it was raining. That being said: Iowa’s wide receivers certainly didn’t have trouble catching the ball. First, there was this Ivory Kelly-Martin fumble that was caused by him carrying the ball like a loaf of bread:

The second was an interception on a bad overthrow into TRIPLE COVERAGE by Nate Stanley:

Iowa is now tied for 100th in the nation (out of 129 teams) in turnovers lost, with 11. Yet, somehow, their turnover margin remains at 0, because they’ve actually gained 11 turnovers. If that number starts to fall below 0, they’re going to be losing more games.

The Ugly: Defensive Tackles

A few statistics for you from two different groups:

Group A: 2.0 total tackles for loss, 1 total sack, 1 pass breakup.

Group B: 12.5 total tackles for loss, 6 total sacks, 3 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles, 1 interception.

Group B is the combined statistics of starting defensive ends Anthony Nelson and Parker Hesse. Group A is the combined statistics of starting defensive tackles Nathan Bazata and Cedrick Lattimore. In fairness, defensive ends are usually going to have more impressive statistics than tackles due to the inherent disadvantage tackles have in the pass rush, but c’mon. That’s noticeably disproportionate. One sack through six games? Only one pass breakup? Parker Hesse has picked off a pass! He’s a defensive end!

We knew coming into the season that Iowa’s secondary was going to be suspect. We also knew that Iowa had to replace Jaleel Johnson, but were excited about the potential of Cedrick Lattimore. Hell, there are some people who were even excited about Brady Reiff. Then there’s this:

This run not only features Cedrick Lattimore falling over but also Brady Reiff turning his back to the ball carrier. We’ve noticed it all year: Iowa’s pass rush has been non-existent from the interior. Their ability to stop the run is usually based on stacking the box with the linebackers. It’s true that Lattimore and Reiff are sophomores, but what is Bazata’s excuse? To say that we’ve been disappointed with the performance of the defensive tackles so far would be an understatement. 

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