Instant Analysis: Iowa Offense in Opener

Instant analysis of the impressive Iowa Hawkeyes offensive performance in their 2015 season debut.

Iowa came out firing on the first Saturday of college football, racking up 431 yards of total offense. Not only did they run up the stat sheet and the scoreboard, the Hawkeyes style of play was a pleasurable sight for much of the fanbase. They played aggressive, and attacked, not only downhill but also through the air and going for it on fourth down on multiple occasions. The approach was so beloved by the Hawkeye faithful, that they received quite an ovation on a fake field goal attempt in the first half despite coming up a yard short. 

The first two drives of the day set the tone, reaching the end zone both times with one coming on a drive of 99 yards, the first since 2002 against Miami (Ohio). It was also a balanced attack by Greg Davis' offense, accumulating 210 yards on the ground and 221 through the air. 

When looking at the quarterback play, C.J. Beathard didn't have an amazing day, but he didn't make any crucial mistakes, got rid of the ball when he needed to, and showcased a laser arm at times.

He had protection for most of the day, but even when he didn't, Beathard was able to toss the ball away before the pressure got to him and without giving Illinois State an opportunity to make a play on it. That was the key. He took chances, but did it within the confines of the offense and wasn't careless with any of his throws. The only pass he'd like to have back would be his toss to Jacob Hillyer over the middle. It was a late throw and he really left his wideout in danger of being annihilated. 

His best plays of the day came when he needed to throw darts in small windows before the defense could close on the ball, his shovel pass to running back Jordan Canzeri that netted big yardage, or a few of the receiver screens, with VandeBerg taking one in for a score. Beathard also used his mobility to roll out of danger today, but not to gain yardage, rather to extend plays, evade the rush, keeping his eyes down field and giving his core of receivers more time to break free. 

The offensive line was the pleasant surprise of today. The interior of the line was expected to be the strength of the unit, and they were, carving out big gaps for LeShun Daniels to run through in the early going. Not only that, the new offensive tackles held well in pass protection for the most part. They weren't perfect or unbelievable by any stretch, but they gave Beathard enough time to scan the field on most of his dropbacks. Boone Myers has been the center of a lot of the concern, but an argument can be made that he fared better than Ike Boettger today. The standout was Austin Blythe, though. He and tight end George Kittle were instrumental in pulling to the opposite side to open up some of the big holes in the running game.

Running backs Jordan Canzeri and LeShun Daniels each had big days, Canzeri as a receiver out of the backfield and Daniels pounding the ball. They both showed great quickness in space, shooting through the holes that were opened up. Canzeri's numbers were not as strong, but he may have been a touch more impressive just because of the big plays and vision he showed as a receiver. It was a great game from Daniels, but he was a shoestring tackle away from breaking a few more, and he admitted afterwards that it's on him to gain that extra yardage and pick his legs up and get them going a little more.

The receivers still struggled at times to get open. It was a problem last year, and it returned again today but on a much smaller scale. They had a couple possessions where they didn't get the separation needed for C.J. Beathard to deliver a catchable ball. However, the bright spot was their performance in all facets of the game. The wide receiver screens were blocked extremely well, and instead of three to four yard passes, they were able to move the chains with them and find the end zone. Most of that was largely due to the play of Tevaun Smith, but also Jacob Hillyer a few times. The surprise of the day was the lack of involvment of the tight ends. It wasn't an exceptional today in terms of getting open, but this group blocked well, did damage after the catch, and did just enough in getting open. 


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