Drew Tate is one tough cookie. The play where his helmet was ripped off, yet he still was directing his receivers and stood in the pocket might wind up being the signature play of his career. The play that defines what Tate is all about.
Last fall and then again this off season, I said that there were elements of Tate's game that reminded me of Doug Flutie. Tate does not have Flutie's arm strength, but the way in which Drew can escape from the run and his ability to scramble are probably the areas I am thinking of.
As he matures, Drew will learn that once he escapes from harm's way, that is a good time to probably throw the football into the 10th row. Right now, Drew is a bit of a victim of his competitive, never say die spirit.
I think Kirk Ferentz loves that, and it's hard to get down on a kid for not wanting to give up on a play. But there is a time and a place for heroics; escaping a sack and throwing the ball away can be just as important to a drive than a big play.
The defense came back and played well. After getting shredded last week, Iowa's defense played well enough for Iowa to win the football game. When 27 of your opponent's 30 points come off of turnovers, you played well enough to win the game.
Excluding the interception returned for a touchdown my Michigan, the other four turnovers gave Michigan an average starting field position on the Iowa 33-yard line. For the entire game, Michigan's average starting field position was their 42. Iowa's was their own 23.
Michigan's three other points came after Iowa was called for too few men on the LOS on a punt. That ended up giving Michigan an extra 15 yards of field position on that drive.
Ed Hinkel and Clinton Solomon have emerged as Iowa's best two receivers. Solomon keeps getting better, and he looks so natural out there; graceful. He has a shot, if he keeps getting better, to be one of the best receivers Iowa has had. I know that might sound like hyperbole, but he looks the part. As for Hinkel, it seems like every time he touches the football, it's either for a first down or a touchdown. His first TD catch against Michigan is one of the prettiest I can recall. He has three such amazing TD catches in his career: the back of the endzone grab against Penn State in 2002, the over the shoulder dive against Iowa State this year, and the catch on Saturday.
Welcome back to the offense, Iowa tight ends. Tony Jackson caught four passes on Saturday, and nearly all of them were fantastic plays for good yards. Scott Chandler is a tight end, I guess you would say, but he lines up out of the ‘H' position and winds up in the flats a lot on routes. Iowa's ‘traditional' tight end sets had not seen passes come their way since the Kent State game. This was important against Michigan, because their defense takes away certain routes. They are vulnerable in the medium middle; just behind the linebackers and in front of the safety. Iowa did a great job of attacking that zone.
Iowa blitzed out of its nickel packages. This was something I called for prior to the Arizona State game last week. I expected Iowa to blitz out of their nickel package in Tempe, but it didn't happen, but they did it against Michigan, and they had success. Props to the Iowa coaches for putting pressure on Henne. I suspect you will see more of this look as the season progresses, especially against teams with good passers.
Iowa had three long scoring drives against Michigan. In fact, they were Iowa's three longest scoring drives of the year; 75, 79 and 80 yards. They need to do that in order to give the defense a blow, otherwise you will see more of these guys getting hurt.
THE NOT SO GOOD
Iowa can't run the ball. You knew that, of course. But do you know how bad that it really is right now?
Through four games, the Hawkeyes are averaging just 85 yards per game on the ground. Kirk Ferentz said a few weeks ago that the play of his line is analogous to that of the 2000 squad. In 2000, Iowa averaged 90.8 yards rushing per game. In 1999, Iowa averaged 93.5 rushing yards per game.
The difference between those two seasons is that people don't push Iowa's defense around like they used to. In 2000, Iowa allowed 194.3 rushing yards per game and 245 in 1999. This year, teams are managing just 55.5 yards per game on the ground against Iowa, and none of their four opponents has gained over 100 yards rushing in 2004.
Kirk said after the game that if they can just hang in there, the offense will be OK. It's exactly what he said last year at this time of the season, and in the end, he was right. But, they also had excellent special teams in 2003, and you cannot say that about this year to date. However, Iowa's coverage teams looked solid yesterday, as they were populated with several defensive starters, such as Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge.
Unlike last year, where Iowa could pick up three yards when they needed it by running up the back of Robert Gallery, the Hawkeyes just don't have any automatics at this time. Iowa will have a bye week coming up after Michigan State, and hopefully Brian Ferentz and Todd Plagman will be ready to go come October 16th when the Buckeyes come to town.
Another injury. This is just getting ridiculous. Sean Considine's x-ray's on his foot were negative, but it's some kind of sprain and who knows how long he might be out. As I said earlier, the Hawkeye defenders are on the field far too much this year and that takes a toll.
Iowa's linebackers were once again mismatched on wide receivers. Chuck Hartlieb talked about this last Monday. Iowa's linebackers cannot cover Braylon Edwards, and he made them pay on that slant pattern out of the bunch formation, from right to left, in the 2nd quarter. Abdul Hodge and George Lewis got torched, and Edwards took the ball to the Iowa one and Henne later scored. The good thing is that Henne missed several of his receivers on pick plays underneath, or it could have been worse. At least Iowa went to the nickel a bit more in this game.
Until teams show they can run on Iowa's front four plus Hodge and Greenway, I wouldn't mind seeing a lot of nickel this year.
Turnovers killed Iowa, obviously. Iowa was very much in the football game even with so many turnovers. But the fact they had –15 yards rushing tells me the better team probably won the football game, regardless of the turnover situation.
The blitz got to Tate a bit, and it didn't help that Iowa missed a few blocking assignments. On the ‘Pick 6' in the third quarter, Jermelle Lewis didn't even turn his head to the blitzing player off the slot, who was cheating up before the snap. However, if he would have picked him up, Michigan shot a player inside as well that Lewis did pick up.
Actually, Michigan blitzed less than I felt they would, especially in the first quarter and on the first drive.
Calvin Davis is still struggling. One thing that I commented on last year was that on a few WR screen's where Robert Gallery got out and destroyed a few DB's and gave Davis a green lane, Davis' strides were very, very long, and it takes him a lot of time to get up to speed.
On a play Saturday, Davis was running a deep post, and had to dive to attempt to catch it. He didn't make the grab, but at the end of the route as the ball was coming down, Davis' form totally broke down and he just looked very unorthodox out there. When you break down like that as a receiver, it can cause your head to bob and that affects your vision.
Perhaps this is something Iowa can work on in the off season. I still think Davis can be productive for Iowa, but I just don't know if he will develope into a game breaker, where I DO see that for Clinton Solomon...one thing to add here is that Davis might be playing through an injury. He has been bothered by leg problems since last winter. That could explain some of his break downs, but he looks like the same receiver we saw last year with regards to his striding.
-Chad Greenway was visibly upset on Saturday after Iowa's second straight fumble on consecutive possessions in the third quarter. You could see him verbally tearing into the offensive players as they were coming off of the field. Can you blame him?
-With Sean Considine going down in the second quarter, Marcus Paschal moved to free safety and Miguel Merrick came in at strong safety. Considering that neither player had played those positions during the heat of the battle, much less at Ann Arbor against THOSE receivers, they fared well.
Michigan gained just 31 yards through the air in the second half. They gained a TOTAL of 91 second half yards. But three second half Hawkeye turnovers led to 14 Michigan points. Prior to those turnovers, it was a six-point ball game.
With 1:47 to go in the third quarter, the score was Michigan 16, Iowa 10. 5:03 minutes and three turnovers later, it was 30-10. For the fourth straight meeting against Michigan, the Hawks were more than game. They just shot themselves in the foot too many times in this contest.