The Iowa Hawkeyes started out the 2015 season with a bang, defeating Illinois State in impressive fashion 31-14. Areas that stuck out was their domination at the line of scrimmage from both the offensive and defensive line, as well as the full effort by the defense, particularly the first unit who pitched a shutout.
After re-watching the game, Hawkeye Insider adds more in-depth analysis.
- Offensively, it was a great game plan that included terrific in-game adjustments. They were able to set the tone with their offensive line, and they stuck with what works. That group created big holes all day allowing LeShun Daniels to find running room throughout the game.
- In terms of blocking, the two that stood out the most were Sean Welsh and Macon Plewa. Welsh dominated and manhandled his guy inside for the majority of the game. He was best at sealing his guy to the inside. The defensive end would then charge up field, taking himself out of the play. Blythe and the tight end would get to the second level, springing a few of Daniels' bigger runs. Welsh also had the block that sprung Canzeri on the screen pass at the end of the second quarter. Plewa was just better than Adam Cox on the day. He popped a few Redbirds that shot through the gap enabling the play to take off. Both Welsh and Plewa had the fewest mistakes that I saw.
- It was a good day from Austin Blythe. He was late getting to a few of his blocks in the open field, but for the most part, he did his job well, and deserves credit for there being great communication all day. The only lapse in protection was when quarterback C.J. Beathard was hit one time as he was throwing. The rusher off the right side dropped into coverage and they brought an extra blitzer up the middle. It left Boettger with nobody to block because they didn't read it pre-snap, and the defender shot through the middle untouched.
- What was really impressive was how well Austin Blythe and Boone Myers move in space and can get out and deliver blocks down field. That's the recipe for explosive plays. Myers may have struggled in camp in pass protection, but he was one of the better run blockers for the Hawkeyes on Saturday. His athletic ability is an asset in the run game. When Myers was beat in pass protection, it came off a spin move by the Illinois State defender.
- Freshman James Daniels got in during the second half and really played well. He got moved around on a couple of plays but was exceptional on every other one, recording the first pancacke of his career. The offense's two touchdowns in the second half came with Daniels and Cole Croston in the game. Daniels fared far better, though.]
- An interesting observation was that while Daniels was at left guard and Croston at right tackle, Jordan Walsh had to leave the game momentarily after getting dinged up. Instead of Eric Simmons being inserted in, they went back to Sean Welsh. It looked like an indication that Daniels was the go-to backup on the interior of the offensive line.
- C.J. Beathard had a very steady game. I wouldn't call it spectacular, but he did what he needed to and made no mistakes. The only throw in question was his pass over the middle to Jacob Hillyer. He left Hillyer subjected to a big hit and the throw was late. Beathard also stared him down some. Other than that, it was a solid day. He managed the offense well, showed great leadership, and zipped the ball in there when it was critical. He'll have more opportunities to take shots down field as the season goes on.
- Daniels and Jordan Canzeri were very good in the backfield. Canzeri especially looks to be a very valuable asset as a receiver out of the backfield. He also shoots through the hole a bit quicker than LeShun, but Daniels is the better all-around back when it comes to what Iowa prefers in terms of running between the tackles and taking punishment. He had two drops on the day but those were tough passes to ask a running back to haul in. Daniels has the best vision and patience of the two and it really showed on a couple of his long runs. The next step is to get those legs moving because if not for a shoestring tackle or two, he would have ripped off a few others.
- The best thing we saw from the receivers was their blocking ability, especially Tevaun Smith. It wasn't good, it was great. It's the kind of thing that separates the average teams from the good teams. If that becomes a regular occurence, this offense will have more than their share of opportunities to be explosive. They struggled to get open at times, but it wasn't a dramatic problem the whole game. There was also a few instances where Beathard could have tossed a more catchable ball to give Tevaun Smith a chance in man coverage. VandeBerg was the best on Saturday creating separation, and was the most reliable wideout for Beathard.
- The tight ends didn't see a ton of action in the passing game but both George Kittle and Henry Krieger-Coble were instrumental in the running game. Krieger-Coble had a couple good seals at the line of scrimmage while Kittle can get 10-15 yards down field to extend plays further.
- A couple more observations: The QB draw by Beathard for a TD was a beauty of a play call. Illinois State had caught Daniels from behind on a play earlier in the drive with the backside edge rusher. On the draw play, they used Canzeri as a blocker and he took the back side pursuer out of the play with a great block. Jordan Walsh and Ike Boettger then opened a hole for Beathard to run through.
- The quarterback sneak looks to be effective this year. It was 5 for 5 on the day. It recorded a touchdown, three first downs, and gained two more yard when they were backed up near their own end zone.
- The shovel pass almost came too late. It worked though, and it was sprung by a great block by Austin Blythe.
- Illinois State brought a blitz off the right side once, and it was more than Iowa could block. Beathard read it and handled it well. He just didn't deliver a strike under duress, out of the grasp for Canzeri.
- I like the quick passes to Matt VandeBerg on the outside if the play design has blockers in front of him. When it didn't, he was asked to beat the corner in a one-on-one situation after he caught the ball and I don't necessarily think that's the best use of him.
- Lastly, Dillon Kidd has to be more effective at punting. Touchbacks don't help field position at all. He needs to get more hangtime on those kicks to allow Iowa a chance to pin the offense deep.