The Good, the Bad & the Ugly 2021: Iowa State

By Mike Jones on September 13, 2021 at 10:00 am
© Bryon Houlgrave/The Register via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Good: Second Quarter Offense, Special Teams, Phil Parker

Most of the game, it was the same old story for Iowa’s offense. The second quarter though, it was different. Following the Matt Hankins interception, the Hawkeyes were sitting pretty at the Iowa State 49-yard line. Good field position was nothing new, though, as Iowa played the field position game to perfection all day. Regardless, instead of coming out running, the Hawks came out with Petras firing and three plays later, Iowa had gone from the 49-yard line to the Iowa State 20. Five straight running plays later, the Hawkeyes were in the end zone.

Their next possession, they did the same. Petras came out and was sacked for a loss of seven yards but Brian & Co. kept at it, calling three straight passing plays, moving the Hawkeyes from their 29-yard line to midfield. Some balanced play calling set up this pass to Charlie Jones:

So, this was a Big Ten quarterback pass. Petras not only had to throw the ball ahead of the corner, who had Jones blanketed, but he also had to throw it just above the safety’s head. That was probably his best pass of the year and if he can make that throw a couple more times a game, Iowa’s offense will look totally different.

We can’t say much more about Tory Taylor. With Iowa’s offense in shambles for most of the game, they had to rely on Taylor to play the field position game. And buddy boy, Tory Taylor loves nothing more than to play the field position game. His stat line:

8 punts, 409 yards, 51.1 AVG, long of 69 (nice), 5 downed inside the 20, 4 50+ punts, 1 touchback.

[fans self]

On the punt return team, man, Charlie Jones. Four punt returns for 53 yards and a long of 24. Jones brings almost a reckless level of enthusiasm to returning punts and it changes the game for Iowa’s offense. If only they could do something about it.

And hey, Caleb Shudak. His sole miss of the day was due to a bad snap, which messed up his whole timing. He hit a crucial 51-yard kick to give the Hawkeyes a 14- point lead and followed up with another to make it a three possession game. Iowa’s kicking game looks just fine in his hands.

What do you want me to write about Phil Parker? Heading into the season there were a lot of question marks, especially on the front seven. Well, it’s been two weeks and Iowa has played two ranked teams, both with high-powered offenses. The results:

  • Indiana held to six points, no touchdowns.
  • Three interceptions against Indiana, Michael Penix Jr. benched.
  • Indiana held to 233 total yards.
  • 17 points off of Indiana turnovers.
  • Iowa State held to 17 points, 7 of which came when Iowa was in prevent defense.
  • Three interceptions against Iowa State, Brock Purdy benched.
  • Breece Hall held to 69 yards, forced fumble returned for a touchdown.
  • 20 points off of Iowa State turnovers.

Give the man the Broyles Award. His defense is opportunistic and downright nuts.

The Bad: The Offense Outside of the Second Quarter

Outside of that second quarter…Iowa’s offense was atrocious. And yes, you should admit that Iowa State does have a very good defense. Hell, Indiana had a good defense. But 173 total yards of offense? Petras only completed 11/21 passes and five of those completions were on Iowa’s two scoring drives. Consider that disastrous few minutes for the Cyclones near the end of the third quarter. Following the strip of Breece Hall and a scoop and score, the Hawkeyes came up with another interception, setting them up at Iowa State’s 25-yard line. This followed:

  • 1st and 10: Ivory Kelly-Martin run for 1 yard.
  • 2nd and 9: Incomplete pass.
  • 3rd and 9: Spencer Petras sacked.
  • 4th and 18: Caleb Shudak 51 yard field goal GOOD.

That’s a three-and-out with the Cyclones fully on tilt. But wait! On the very next possession, Brock Purdy threw yet another interception, giving the Hawkeyes the ball at the Iowa State 22-yard line. Following a Tyler Goodson first down run, driving to the Iowa State 5, the Hawkeyes promptly went three-and-out, kicking another field goal. Off of those two turnovers, giving Iowa the ball deep in their opponent’s territory, they came up with six points.

There is blame to go around. Iowa State knew what Iowa was doing most of the time. The Hawkeye offensive line didn’t get push for most of the game. Petras was sacked four times, with a number of them looking like coverage sacks. LaPorta dropped a pass he shouldn’t have. 

But…it’s always something. Iowa continues to live on the thinnest margins on offense and if everything doesn’t go to plan, the drive stalls, and Iowa punts. There are two weeks to figure this thing out. If they don’t, Iowa will lose a football game because they couldn’t muster more than 200 yards of offense.

The Ugly: Calling This Team Lucky

Don’t call this team lucky. This team is disciplined, opportunistic and makes you beat yourself. Sure, one of those pick sixes against Indiana was because the wide receiver couldn’t haul it in. The other one was simply Riley Moss making a play. Sure, that Seth Benson interception was because the Cyclone wide receiver tipped it. But Matt Hankins flat out outplayed the wide receiver on his first interception and his second interception was caused by Joe Evans tipping it.

Oh, and the Breece Hall fumble that resulted in a scoop and score? He didn’t just mishandle the carry. Jestin Jacobs grabbed his hand and jarred the ball loose. This is a classic Phil Parker squad that will force opposing players to take chances or get sloppy. When you get sloppy, Iowa takes advantage. 

So no, don’t discount this team as lucky. They’re damn good and anyone saying otherwise is a damn fool.

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