Iowa Week 3 Report Card

The Week 3 report card on Iowa's setback against North Dakota State. Taking a look at each position and grading their performance.

QUARTERBACKS

STANDOUT: N/A
GRADE: B-
SUMMARY: Beathard was far from sharp and we didn't get enough of a sample from Nate Stanley. A 'B-' isn't terrible but it is by Beathard's standards. His ball placement was much less impressive than it was against Miami and Iowa State. He missed Kittle for a long gain, he was off the mark to VandeBerg on a simple screen, the touchdown in the first half to VandeBerg was even thrown behind the veteran wideout, and he doesn't look as comfortable running the ball. With that being said, he did evade quite a bit of pressure still despite all the pass rushing and blitz packages North Dakota State sent at him. But he still tends to not feel the pressure on his blind side. Iowa better hope this is his worst performance of the year because they need a healthy, sharp C.J. Beathard to be as victorious as they hope.

RUNNING BACKS

STANDOUT: N/A
GRADE: C
SUMMARY: The backs and the offensive line collectively take the blame. The blocking wasn't nearly as dominant as it usually is and the offensive line actually lost the battle at the line of scrimmage, even in the running game. Akrum Wadley barely played because of injury. LeShun Daniels had trouble shouldering the load. He couldn't find extra yardage inside. The plays weren't blocked as well as they usually are but he failed to get the extra yardage needed to make up for it. He isn't as effective on the stretch plays. He can be against weaker teams like Miami and Iowa State but Wadley is imperative for the perimeter game against greater opponents. And in the final drive that went three-and-out before giving NDSU the ball back where they won the game with a field goal, Daniels stumbled over his own feet and fell to the ground on first down. He didn't trip over anyone and he wasn't stopped by the Bison. He just fell to the ground and that hurt and dictated the rest of the drive. Daniels also had to be the third down back and he showed some flaws in that area of the game. He didn't show to have the vision or the eyes to see the rush and was beat at the point of attack a couple times as well. Iowa may have taken Derrick Mitchell for granted in this department. He was not able to play in the game and is usually the third down back.

WIDE RECEIVERS

STANDOUT: Riley McCarron
GRADE: C+
SUMMARY: They didn't get open as much as they needed to but they also had little time to do so with Beathard running for his life as much as he was. A 'C+' may be unfair to this group in that regard but they certainly didn't lift the offense at all when other parts were struggling. VandeBerg was less of a factor, Scheel was not a factor despite an increased amount of playing time, and Jerminic Smith dropped an easy catch that could have spurred a long scoring drive at the end of the first half. Riley McCarron was the best. He caught a touchdown on a brilliantly run route and hung in tough on a few blocks. His playing time took a hit but he was the most consistent player in all aspects among the receivers group. He was even open a few times he didn't get the ball. Perhaps he'll get that playing time back for Week 4. 

TIGHT ENDS

STANDOUT: George Kittle
GRADE: B
SUMMARY: This was the best and most consistent position group on the offense during the loss to North Dakota State. Kittle was great, especially as a receiving weapon. He was still a good blocker on the day as usual but his holding penalty that called back the long run from LeShun Daniels at the beginning of the third quarter was a big strike. It was a good call despite what you may think. It was close but he reached around with that right arm and hooked the guy and that's what he got called for. If he doesn't do that, it's not a penalty. The grade probably approaches the 'A' range if not for that play but that was a huge setback for the Hawkeyes. Pekar was good for most of the day but when asked to get out and run and deliver a block downhill, he whiffed one time against a much more athletic linebacker for the Bison. But this group wasn't bad. Kittle does need to secure the ball better when he's running, though. He has exposed it a few times this year and it almost came to roost against NDSU. 

OFFENSIVE LINE

STANDOUT: N/A
GRADE: D
SUMMARY: I don't like being the mean guy but by Iowa's standards, this could have very easily been an 'F'. This group was bad as a collective whole. From missed assignments, miscommunication, blown reads, not sustaining blocks, missing blocks, false starts, pushed back in pass protection on 3-step drops, snaps when Beathard wasn't ready for it, to not getting to the second level at all, it was just an overall bad, bad game from this group and there isn't any way to sugarcoat it. Boettger and Croston weren't nearly as bad as the interior guys but they were off their game as well. Whenever LeGrand or Render had to get around on a pulling play, they were late getting there and the linebacker blew the play up. That happened quite a bit. NDSU sent the linebackers quite a bit up the middle and Render and LeGrand looked lost, executing a combination block and forgetting totally about the linebacker who shot the gap and attacked Beathard on a pass or the ball-carrier on the run. The Bison saw this deficiency as well and even had their linemen get push on Render but angling it inside so they could occupy both and sending a linebacker around behind it. So LeGrand would help Render with the block and a linebacker shot through Render's gap or the inside linebacker would knife through the middle with LeGrand occupied. It was a mess. The third quarter was the worst I've seen since covering the team. 

DEFENSIVE LINE

STANDOUT: Nathan Bazata
GRADE: B
SUMMARY: On second glance, this group wasn't nearly as bad as I anticipated to see. I thought they were totally dominated in the second half and they weren't. They held their own. Sure, they would have liked to turn in a better performance, but this isn't where the game was lost. Nathan Bazata played a pretty spectacular game I thought. There were a few minor errors but he was very good. Jaleel Johnson got nice penetration throughout the game but he also lost his share of battles. I will say that the NDSU offensive line was very reminiscent of the Wisconsin one. Even when this group was losing battles, it was hard not to be more impressed by the Bison line than disappointed with the Iowa front. Iowa didn't play that bad here. Faith Ekakitie also played a heck of a game, I thought. Matt Nelson was up and down but he seems to improve with each week. Anthony Nelson caused one sack that will be credited to Nathan Bazata, and he had one for himself that he let get away. Parker Hesse is the one guy I feel needs to pick his game up based on this group's performance against NDSU but I think there's a strong chance he isn't at full strength. I think the time of possession battle and the way Iowa was losing it had more of an effect on this group than snap counts, personally. 

LINEBACKERS

STANDOUT: Josey Jewell
GRADE: B
SUMMARY: They had their share of errors and they actually may have been a little less consistent than the defensive line, but the linebackers were decent. Jewell had a sensational first half, especially second quarter. They game planned against him in the second half, sending multiple bodies at him. He still got his share but they over-committed to limiting his impact. Ben Niemann had a really good first half and then a few slip-ups in the second half but he was decent. He's been asked to play more in space this year and isn't in the box all that much. This group was better playing sideline to sideline and in pursuit this game than they were playing in a phonebooth. NDSU offensive line was so physical and powerful that they were charging downhill at the smaller linebackers, they were winning. However, Jewell and Niemann were still getting off blocks at times. Bower had a steady first half and then fell off a little in the second half but nothing fatal. He missed one open field tackle that would have forced a fourth down, and wasn't as successful as Jewell in getting off blocks as Jewell, but very few are. Niemann wasn't bad at it in this game and Bower needs to be better. 

DEFENSIVE BACKS

STANDOUT: Greg Mabin
GRADE: C+
SUMMARY: I saw somewhere that NDSU schemed Iowa out here and turned King more into a run defender than lockdown corner. It's not like any of the defensive backs were targeted or challenged in coverage. That could have been said for any of them. They play like Iowa. If you want to beat them, you have to stop the run, and it will take all 11 guys to do it. Sure, NDSU got over 200 yards rushing but they came in large chunks. Iowa didn't stop the big play. There's about four runs that likely account for over 50 percent of their rushing yardage; long one in first half, long one along left side in 2nd half where King stripped the ball, long run down right sideline in second half, and the Easton Stick quarterback draw. Desmond King wasn't the best in run support, Mabin was. King lost leverage on more than one occasion. Mabin was stout against the run with zero mistakes that I saw on tape. Brandon Snyder missed multiple tackles, was called for pass interference in the end zone, and blew the coverage on the touchdown that allowed NDSU to pull within 21-20. He also flies in with reckless abandon which makes you love the aggression, but sometimes he doesn't wrap making it a missed tackle. He also flies in sometimes without breaking down and that makes it a bit easier for him to be blocked. Taylor missed a couple tackles including one that sprung a long run from King Frazier. The corners played decent but the safeties really affect the grade on this one.

SPECIAL TEAMS

STANDOUT: Ron Coluzzi
GRADE: B+
SUMMARY: Another game and another strong performance from Ron Coluzzi, both on kickoffs and punts. He was tremendous. Duncan didn't get any action other than extra points. Desmond King gives the grade a dent because of a muffed punt that could have been catastrophic for Iowa. Luckily, the Hawkeyes recovered.

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