Iowa Hawkeyes: This time offense paves way

Hawkeyes win uncharacteristic shootout, 31-23, over Northern Iowa. 

NCAA Football: Northern Iowa at Iowa

Iowa Hawkeyes offense huddles up during a timeout against the Northern Iowa Panthers at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa beat Northern Iowa 31-23. (Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)

(C+P) — Iowa is typically known for its middling offense and its suffocating defense, but after the game against Northern Iowa, the roles may be reversed.

Iowa won that game, 31-23, but the way the game was played surprised many people. Many people thought it would be a slugfest with both offenses struggling for the majority of the game.

Instead, the fans witnessed two defenses that struggled to keep the opposing offenses from the end zone. Iowa, led by junior quarterback Jake Rudock, had some great drives, including a 17-play drive. Iowa didn’t have a drive that long all of last season.

Rudock picked apart the defensive secondary with short passes and dump offs. He was very precise, going 31-for-41, 250 yards, and two touchdowns. He had a couple of errant throws but for the most part he was very accurate and made some great decisions.

The Iowa running game didn’t carry the offense like everyone expected it to. Behind that monstrous offensive line, the Iowa running backs only mustered 99 yards on 31 carries. That’s only 3.2 yards per carry which won’t cut it if Iowa wants to seriously contend for the Big Ten title.

Iowa’s leading rusher was in fact wide receiver Tevaun Smith who had just one rush for 35 yards. The big reason for Iowa’s lack of a successful running game was predictability. Rudock would audible at the line and almost every time it was to a run. By the end of the game, when Rudock changed the play at the line everyone in the stands knew a run was coming.

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Jake Rudock (15) looks to pass against the Northern Iowa Panthers at Kinnick Stadium. (Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Jake Rudock (15) looks to pass against the Northern Iowa Panthers at Kinnick Stadium. (Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)

That’s all fixable though so hopefully in the next couple of weeks Iowa can improve on those little nuances. Its defense needs a little more help than the offense based on the UNI game.

The linebackers were horrendous, allowing Northern Iowa running back David Johnson to go for 203 yards on only five pass receptions. That’s an absurd 40.6 yards per reception. The linebackers are mostly to blame for those receptions.

On one of them, linebacker Reggie Spearman wasn’t in the proper position and lost track of Johnson. Then after the catch the UNI running back broke Spearman’s attempted tackle and went for a big gain. Spearman was out of position which is what caused the whole problem.

Then for two of the receptions, Johnson ran a streak route up the middle. Iowa middle linebacker Quinton Alston should have chipped him or slowed him down a little. Instead, he let Johnson run past him twice for big yardage, including a 70-yard touchdown.

While Alston and company did have some great plays against the run game, it seemed like the only competent linebacker in coverage was redshirt freshman (and former walk on) Bo Bower. He had a great play when he snagged an interception in the third quarter.

Defensive coordinator Phil Parker has a lot of work to do with the back seven if Iowa hopes to win in the Big Ten. The safeties need to have better positioning so they can help the linebackers not give up big plays. The linebackers need to mark their guys, make clean tackles, and prevent the big play. If they can clean those issues up then Iowa’s defense will be solid because they have a great defensive line.

Defensive tackles Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat looked unblockable against Northern Iowa. Davis was bursting through every time they tried to have one person block him. Then when they started to double-team him, Trinca-Pasat was freed up. Trinca-Pasat ended up with 10 tackles, four for loss, and two sacks.

Drew Ott looked like he took a big step forward as he put on continuous pressure and came away with a sack. Nate Meier played a lot of snaps and had great run support, especially for his size at 244 pounds; which is small for an Iowa defensive end.

So unless something changes in the next couple of games, Iowa will look like a different team than those that have graced Kinnick Stadium in the years before. Hopefully its offensive success will carry over and its defense will improve.

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