The Good: Execution
There are so many individual performances we could focus on. Like Josh Jackson for his bonkers interception(s), Nathan Stanley for his coolheaded play, and Fant and Hockenson for their individual contributions to keep Iowa’s offense alive. In the end, we’ll just credit Iowa’s performance against Ohio State to what’s most important to Kirk Ferentz: execution.
For all the grief we give the ol’ ball coach, he’s right. Iowa wins football games when they’re executing and disciplined. They lose when they’re sloppy. So let’s talk about a few things that Iowa did right on Saturday.
First off, they caught the ball. With the exception of a Brandon Smith drop, Iowa’s wide-receivers and tight ends kept the offense humming by picking up crucial first downs. Nate Stanley spread the ball around to seven different players, including to fullback Drake Kulick (Tyler Kluver had a reception but Rastetter threw it). Of those seven players, four averaged more than 10+ yards per reception.
That’s also credit to Nate Stanley, who played the game of his life. His final stat line of 20/31 for 226 yards and five touchdowns seems accurate, with the exception of the incompletions. Seriously, do you even remember 11 incompletions? I don’t. Stanley did it all on Saturday. He showed touch on that beautiful long touchdown to Fant, poise when Sam Hubbard was hanging onto his leg and good judgment with a few of his audibles. He also made what I believe to be one of the most important plays of the game.
Up 24-17, Iowa has a 2nd and 12 at the Ohio State 24 yard line fresh off of a Joshua Jackson interception. This feels like the breaking point. If Iowa is held to a field goal, the Buckeyes could still be in the game. If Iowa scores a touchdown, it may start to get out of hand. Facing a second and long, Stanley drops back and before he can go through his progressions, he has two Buckeye defenders in his face. He makes the quick decision to dump it off to Akrum Wadley and:
I really believe this play changed the game. If Nate Stanley is sacked, Iowa is facing a 3rd and 20ish on the edge of field goal range. Instead, Stanley made a great pass, Wadley used his excellent vision and it set up a 1st and goal. Iowa would score on the very next play and take a 31-17 lead into the half.
The Iowa offensive line gave up one sack. And it was a coverage sack. Other than that, they were amazing. No one missed a blocking assignment all game and Wadley, Butler and Toren Young were given such big running lanes that they all averaged more than 5 YPC. Toren Young averaged 7.9 YPC!
On defense, everyone did their job (with the exception of the safeties on a few plays). Parker decided to pull the defensive tackles off the ball to spy J.T. Barrett on potential running (and sometimes passing) plays. This forced Barrett to frequently run into traffic or to throw the ball from the pocket. Iowa’s tackles did an excellent job of getting their hands up and batting the ball down at the line.
Finally, Brian Ferentz called the game of his young career. Early on, Steve Levy mentioned that Ferentz had gone back and looked at old game tape of Greg Schiano’s defenses when he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fair to say that he also went back and looked at the game tape of the 2013 Ohio State v. Iowa game. Ferentz identified the soft spots in Schiano’s defense and exploited them. As with most 4-3 defenses, the soft spots usually come over the top of the linebackers and beyond the cornerbacks. So what did he do? He used Fant and Hockenson on post and seam routes to beat the linebackers over the top. He also got wild and used a wheel route on that deep touchdown to Fant. Hats off to Brian Ferentz.
Also hats off to Nate Stanley’s hard count, which should win Big Ten Player of the Week.
The Bad: Iowa on the Edge
You might not remember it now but Iowa was having a very difficult time early on in the game with containing J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber on the edge. Did you know they finished the game averaging over 5 PYC? Once those zone read pitches got to the edge of the field, Iowa was in trouble. Here’s the thing, though…Ohio State stopped getting the ball to the edge. Yeah, I don’t know why either. Instead, they put the game solely on the shoulders of J.T. Barrett. They wanted him run, pass, punt and whatever else he could do. He did not pass the Kinnick Stadium test. I’m not saying the result would’ve been different if they hadn’t abandoned the run but I do think that the game would’ve at least been more interesting.
(For Buckeye fans. It was very interesting for us Hawkeye fans, regardless)
The Ugly: The Iowa Safeties on Like Two Plays
C’mon, we just beat Ohio State 55-24. I’m not going to complain that much.