Iowa Hawkeyes: Improved offense a must

Hawkeyes fall to in-state rivals Iowa State, 20-17.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Iowa

Iowa Hawkeyes running back Mark Weisman (45) is mobbed by teammates after leaping over the goal line to score the first touchdown against the Iowa State Cyclones at Kinnick Stadium. (Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)

(C+P) — After last weekend’s loss to Iowa State, the Iowa football team needs to revamp its offense if it hopes to have any shot of competing in the Big Ten.

In a game that Iowa lost 20-17 thanks to a last-second field goal by Iowa State, Iowa looked awful on offense. Against one of the worst defenses in the nation, this Iowa offense only mustered 17 points.

Iowa State allowed an average of 267 rush yards per game in the two games before Iowa. Iowa only mustered 129 rush yards on 44 carries. That is either Iowa State improving tremendously in one week or Iowa being completely inept at rushing the football. I choose the latter as Iowa now averages 131 yards rushing per game.

For a team that is supposed to have a monster offensive line and rely heavily on the rush game, 131 yards is awful. What is even scarier about that statistic is that those three games Iowa has played have come against a FCC team, a MAC team, and Iowa State. These three games were supposed to be some of the easiest games on Iowa’s schedule and yet Iowa has looked awful.

At least the passing game isn’t as bad as the running game right? Wrong. Well, sort of. Despite having a decent game against Northern Iowa, Iowa’s passing offense has been awful.

Jake Rudock has been terrible. While his stats don’t look terrible, 80-117, 68.3 percent, 718 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception, they actually place him at 68th in the nation in passing efficiency. The most telling stat of his season though is his yards per attempt. It comes in at a whopping 6.1 ypa. Do you know what James’ Vandenberg’s yards per attempt was his senior year when Iowa won only four games?? It was 5.8.

But let’s forget about the stats for a second and concentrate on what he does on the field. He does a nice job checking down and that’s about it. Actually, that actually might not be a positive after what we have seen the past three games.

Out of Ruddock’s’ 117 attempts, only 14 have been thrown in the air 15-plus yards down the field. That’s an astonishing 12 percent. Basically, Rudock throws the ball 15-plus yards down field a little over five times per game. I shouldn’t need to say this but that is awful.

Based on what I have seen in Rudock’s past three games, I think he is scared. There are wide open receivers downfield. There have been pictures of them posted online like this one:

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Screen capture courtesy of ESPN

This happens in every game. Rudock is afraid to throw the ball in the middle or deep so he continuously checks down or throws the ball in the flat. Sure if he throws it deep or in the middle there is a higher chance of him being intercepted, but there is also a greater chance for a big gain.

Rudock also looked very scared last game in the pocket. On three straight plays Rudock had time in the pocket but decided to tuck it in his arm and try and run. He got nowhere on any of them. He had plenty of time yet he still panicked, not wanting to be sacked, and got the offense nowhere.

There is a potentially simple solution to this offensive problem and that is back-up quarterback C.J. Beathard. Beathard has only led one drive yet it may have been the best looking drive for Iowa. Their zone read actually looked threatening as Beathard was a threat to run, something Rudock hasn’t threatened to do at all.

Also, Beathard is probably the complete opposite in Rudock’s progression for finding receiving options. Instead of checking down too much, Beathard loves the deep ball. He might love it too much as sometimes he ignores the easy passes so he can make the big play, but this might be exactly what this Iowa offense needs.

This might be like the 2008 season when there was a slight quarterback controversy that grew as more games were being played. The controversy exploded against Pittsburgh in the fourth game of the season where back-up Ricky Stanzi outplayed Jake Christensen. The next week Stanzi was named the starter for the rest of the season.

I’m not saying that this will happen next week but it is a very distinct possibility. Hopefully it will as the Iowa offense needs something to change if they want to win another game in the season.

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