The Dissection: Iowa-Arizona

Hawkeye Insider publisher Rob Howe analyzes Iowa loss at Arizona after film review. He breaks down Stanzi, the lines, special teams and more.

Here's hoping Iowa's next trip to Arizona will be for a Fiesta Bowl or the National Championship game. I don't want to hear anymore about winning games West of the Rockies. I don't want to see a cactus right now.

Kirk Ferentz's contract runs through 2020. Let's hope he puts the kibosh on any further trips to the desert. I'm not real sure why the hell we were back there Saturday night after the 2004 debacle in Tempe.

I'm not into excuses. Ferentz isn't, either. I am superstitious. I don't like the vibe in a part of our country not naturally designed for habitation.

But I digress.

We still need to break down this one, this 34-27 setback at Arizona on Saturday night. After thinking about compiling a report card, I going to forego that idea following bad recollections of having to bring those things home to my parents years ago.

Instead, I'll just analyze without being confined by grades:

Ricky Stanzi: The numbers look pretty good - 18 of 33 passing for 278 yards, three scores and one interception. But after watching this game once live and analyzing a replay play by play, he needed to do more for his team, especially considering he circumstances.

As a fifth-year senior in the ultimate leadership position, Stanzi was furnished with opportunities early in the first half that could have changed the complexion of the game had he come through. Late in the game, he struggled with blitz pickup, although the play calling didn't help him a lot.

Arizona decided early that it would take its chances allowing Stanzi to beat it. Most of the first half saw eight and nine guys in the box dedicated to stopping the Hawkeyes rushing attack.

I'm not putting the Pick-6 on the senior signal caller. Marvin McNutt has to make that catch. But he overthrew Derrell Johnson-Koulianos twice (one could have been caught, but it would have been a heck of an achievement), Keenan Davis and McNutt.

Stanzi needed to make Arizona pay for its aggressiveness at the line. Opportunities were there. He didn't get it done in the end.

Again, Iowa's play calling, especially early, didn't do Stanzi any favors. On the 17 second-down plays in the game, the average distance to go for the first down was 9.3 yards. On 15, third downs, average distance for first was 9.9 yards. The Hawkeye offense wasn't built to succeed with that set-up.

Defensive Line: First, Arizona did a really nice job of neutralizing the front with a strong game plan. The Wildcats received solid play from its behemoth offensive line and took advantage of the Hawkeye aggressiveness.

Arizona's offense is predicated on getting the ball out of quarterback Nick Foles' hands in two seconds or less. While that was the case at times, Foles hit some long passes while sitting in the pocket for five and six seconds.

The Wildcats kept Iowa's front four honest by running draws and screen passes with success. The D-Line looked better in the second half when there were stunts and some blitzes from linebacker Jeff Tarpinian. Unfortunately, for the visitors, most of the damage was done and Foles was already too comfortable.

Much like with Stanzi, I think you have to expect more from your experienced players and units. This is supposed to be one of the top defensive lines in the country. It didn't play like it enough of the night.

Linebackers, Secondary: As with every aspect of the Hawkeyes team, it the pieces go hand in hand. If the line isn't getting enough pressure, the linebackers are left in coverage on wide receivers for too long. That happened on Saturday.

Arizona also had time to find plenty of soft spots in the Hawkeye zone. Wildcat wide receiver David Douglas, Foles' roommate, had a field day roaming through it for openings.

The home team picked on cornerback Micah Hyde (he can expect that to continue). Iowa's safeties didn't do him any favors by biting several times on play action and leaving him without any help.

It was not a good game for all-American Tyler Sash. He got beat on the first touchdown. He was wait out of position on a 46-yard pass to Juron Criner. He had other miscues. Again, that's a veteran that needs to be better in a game where others are making their first road start.

Offensive Line: Not good. But after watching the tape, it wasn't as bad as I first thought.

The Hawkeyes averaged 1.1 yards per rush. Falling behind early contributed to the tough night on the ground.

But as I said during my Stanzi analysis, Arizona stacked the box. While the Wildcats took advantage of Iowa's defensive aggressiveness, Iowa didn't help its line with play calling. You can't block eight or nine with five or six. Maybe a some more drag routes or passes to the tight ends would have opened things up for the running game.

But the line doesn't get a pass. The veteran left side of Riley Reiff and Julian Vandervelde broke down. At the end of the game, Arizona just blasted through the front without much resistance.

The Iowa offensive front looked slow on their feet at times. I hope it was the heat.

Special Teams: I'm not going to do into this area too much. Blocked punt. Giving up a kick return for a TD. Blocked extra point. Failing to down punts inside the 10. It was a nightmare.

Paki O'Meara, William Lowe, Bruce Davis and Nick Nielsen screwed up on the kickoff return. I'm sure there were more, but they stuck out to me.

Andrew Schulze looked like one of the culprits on the punt block. Various guys were standing around on punt coverage, although Lowe did all he could to bat one of them back onto the field from the end zone.

Who knows what happens if Arizona embarks on its game-winning drive after Trent Mossbrucker's point after attempt goes through the uprights instead of being blocked? I know it's only one point, but maybe the Wildcats view it a little differently if they're down one.

I could tell at last Tuesday's press conference that Kirk Ferentz was very annoyed by his kickoff coverage against Iowa State. He surely emphasized that point in practice last week. Then, his team goes out and allows a touchdown on that unit. That's a bad sign.

Closing Thoughts:

-I thought Tyler Nielsen looked pretty good again. He got caught out of position on passing plays at time, but overall he had a nice night.

-Mossbrucker still has not attempted a field goal this season. I'm still concerned.

-DJK showed again why he's a big game player. He was ready to go from the opening kick and performed very well against some pretty good corners.

-I'm surprised Iowa didn't utilize tight ends Allen Reisner and Brad Herman more in the game. They showed the ability to get open the first two weeks. And with eight and nine in the box to stop the run, you'd have thought they would be available.

-If Hampton is out for an extended amount of time, Iowa needs to get Marcus Coker ready to go right away. I'd give O'Meara a chance to work against Ball State, but if he isn't ultra sharp, get the true freshman in there. Iowa needs more than just Robinson in Big Ten play and as we saw with James Vandenberg, you need to get a young guy some reps before the conference starts.

-Iowa needs to find ways to free up Adrian Clayborn. He's getting doubled. Opposing RBs are chipping him. He's the heart of the defense. Other guys feed off of him. Move him around more. He also has to help find ways to get off.


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