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Outback Bowl: Breaking Down the Iowa Offense

It is a power game for the Iowa Hawkeyes offense. The Florida Gators are going to have to buckle up their chin straps on Monday and prepare for a downhill running game and play action passing game. They aren’t prone to mistakes, so Florida is going to have to stay consistent on defense and make the best of any chances they get.

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE The Hawkeyes run the ball 62% of the time and average a nice 4.5 yards per rush using mainly a two-back rotation of Leshun Daniels (1013 yards, 20 TD’s, 5.1 avg.) and Akrum Wadley (966 yards, 10 TD’s, 6.6 avg.)

Given his average per rush, Wadley is the most explosive of the running backs. He’s also the guy that catches the most out of the backfield (32 catches for 294 yards, 3 TD’s), he was the target on 12 of the 17 screens thrown to the running back this season.

Florida defensive coordinator Randy Shannon knows what to expect of Wadley.

“Explosive,” he said of the guy about to be the second back to eclipse 1,000 yards for the Hawkeyes this season. “They want to get him the ball. Third-down situations, they want to give him the ball out of the backfield one-on-one. They want to get him on some wheel routes out of the backfield. They’re going to do everything they can to get the ball in his hands. When you see a guy like that come in, you’ve got to make sure everybody understands who that is and what his objectives are.”

Despite passing Wadley the ball, the Hawkeyes want to run it. When they do, they prefer to run over the right side and linemen Sean Welsh and Ike Boettger. They prefer a zone running scheme with a small mix of power runs (counter, etc.) mixed in.


In their eight wins the Hawkeyes average 6.02 yds. Per rush and a 60% Run / pass ratio.  In their four losses they averages 2.92 yds. per rush and a 57% pass to run ratio.

“Run the ball…. run the ball and big play action pass the deep ball,” Shannon said of what he expects Monday when the teams collide. “That’s their bread and butter. That’s what (head coach Kirk Ferentz) wants to do. (Offensive coordinator Greg Davis) wants to run the football to set up the passing game. They’ve done a nice job of doing that. The last three games they’ve played they’ve done a nice job of controlling the game with the run game. We have to do a tremendous job with our front guys, making sure they stop the run and get them into some third down and long situations.

Quarterback C.J. Beathard (163-278-7, 1874 yards, 17 TD’s) has a middle of the road passing efficiency rating of 130.2. He isn’t a guy that makes a lot of mistakes, but the scouting report on him is that he is very susceptible to make mistakes when pressured. Beathard has gained 200 yards on the ground this season, but netted -24 due to sacks.

“Well, he’s doing a good job,” Shannon said of Beathard. “He runs the ball and makes the right decisions. He’s not going to throw many picks, he’s not going to take chances. If nothing is there, he’s going to take it and run it and get as much as he can, three or four yards.”

With teams focused on the running game, the Hawkeyes rely a great deal on play action for their passing game. Florida’s secondary is going to have to be prepared for some deception.

“Eye control, eye control in the secondary,” Shannon said. “We have to do a tremendous job of making sure they rotate to the guys and keep their eyes on the luggage. That means you make sure you have your eyes on where they’re supposed to be and nothing else. The guys have to do that in the back end. Up front, we have to make sure we’re gap sound. We’ve got to control and makes sure we’re not jumping out of games, and make plays. Staying within your gaps and allowing guys to come and push it out or turn it back in. That’s the biggest thing we have to concentrate on. That’s what we’ve been doing all week.”

Top receivers include Riley McCarron (41 catches, 506 yards, 4 TD’s), Jerminic Smith (23 catches, 314 yards, 2 TD’s) and tight end George Kittle (21 catches, 296 yards, 4 TD’s)

McCarron has been the main recipient of receiver screens and a target on 18 of the 24 wide receiver screens on the season. Smith is the deep ball guy being targeted 24 of the 57 deep passes (42%) among the receivers that are still playing for the Hawkeyes this season. 

Personnel Stats…

The Hawkeyes run mixed personnel. They are pretty even in 11 personnel (1, back, 1 tight end), 12 personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends), and 21 personnel (2 backs, 1 tight end) in normal down and distance situations. But what they do from that personnel can be dissected a little easier.

In 11 personnel they pass 66% of the time. When adding a back or a tight end to the formation they go heavy in the run game. In 12 personnel the Hawkeyes run 61% of the time, while in 21 personnel they run 74% of the time.

In third down situations and in 11 personnel, they pass the ball 94% of the time.

In shotgun offset backs they pass 89% of the time. In one back and under center they run 53.3% of the time, when they go to two backs under center, that number jumps to 78.6% run.

While they run a lot and play tight ends in nearly every formation, when the tight ends are flexed out, they pass the ball 93% of the time.


Bottom line… The Gator defense has to stop the run first. Forcing Iowa into passing situations will make Beathard uncomfortable and force the Hawkeyes. They also need to keep away from the big play. Iowa has had five games with four or less explosive plays.  Their four losses came from those five games.

Florida’s injury issues at linebacker and safety should mean that corners Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson will be playing on islands for most of the day allowing the safeties to creep up into the box.

Get ready for a physical game, but the Gators also need to try and force their will.

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