OFFENSIVE LINE: They faced a LOT of eight man fronts and many nine man fronts. As expected, Syracuse HC Greg Robinson threw a lot of different looks at Iowa and Jason Manson, perhaps more than he would have were Drew Tate in the game. Iowa's wide receivers did not have a good day, and Manson was not super.
But the play of the line was encouraging, in my opinion. Iowa's offensive line takes a while to hit its stride, and they just saw some serious looks on Saturday and did well. Manson had time to throw the ball, for the most part. Iowa averaged 4.0 yards per run on 37 rushing attempts against eight and sometimes nine man fronts. Eubanks was getting beat early, but he made the right adjustments.
That game was good preparation for the upcoming game against ISU, because the Cyclones are going to stack the box and bring the heat against Iowa, per usual, no matter who is under center for Iowa.
DEFENSIVE LINE & OVERALL DEFENSE: They held Syracuse to just 1.6 yards per run on 44 attempts, that is fantastic. They held the Orange to 280 yards on 82 plays, which is also very impressive. It was a classic ‘bend don't break' game plan from Norm Parker. Iowa did not get beat deep down the middle at any time. Syracuse did exploit the weak underbelly of this defense; the bracket space between corner and safety on the outside 20 to 30 yards downfield. They connected on their first drive and later got a pass interference on another drive. But on the whole, it was a solid game.
And I don't care that it was just Syracuse; Drake might have been able to get one yard rushing on six attempts from the one yard line and score a touchdown. If Iowa makes it back to a fifth January bowl game this year, that goal line stand will be a big reason why.
Anyone else think that Kirk Ferentz was a little emotional after the game when asked about that stand?
SPECIAL TEAMS: Austin Signor did another great job kicking off for Iowa. His three kickoffs on the day averaged 64.0 yards. The end zone is 65 yards away from the kicking tee. He had one touchback. So on his 11 kickoffs this year, he has 5 touchbacks off of a one-inch tee. He is averaging 64.0 yards per kickoff.
Iowa is averaging 10.6 yards per punt return and allowing just 2.2 yards, both solid numbers. Things still need to be shorn up on the kickoff coverage team when Signor isn't booming touchbacks, and though Iowa's kickoff return team is averaging more yards per return than last year, they need to get more out of that.
I look for more out of Andy Fenstermaker. His last punt of 32 yards set Syracuse up for their game tying field goal at the end of regulation. Andy Brodell made a fair catch at the 8-yard line prior to that, pinning Iowa deep. If it's inside the 10, let it go. That's two of those in two weeks.
SIMS & YOUNG: If these two guys split carries all season long, that would not be a bad thing. It's clear that Damien Sims is a change of pace back from Albert Young. Sims seems to get to the second level of the defense more regularly than does Young. Both are quality players and both of them need their touches.
IOWA STATE WEEK: This week has a different feel to it than I expected it would in the summer. With the uncertain status of Drew Tate and both teams being less than impressive in their first two outings, it's hard to get your mind around how Saturday's contest might go.
Expect Iowa State to bring the blitz and stack the box no matter who is under center for Iowa. If it's Tate, they might be like sharks to blood in the water, hoping to force Tate to move and throw on the run with that injured oblique. If it's Manson or Jake Christensen, they will bring the heat as well.
With the box stacked, running yards will be hard to come by, even against a young ISU defense. But Iowa needs to run the ball effectively in order to keep ISU's offense off the field. When they are on the field, Iowa will need to do something extra to get some pressure on QB Bret Meyer; if he is allowed to sit back in the pocket, he and the dangerous Cyclone receiving corps could have a big day.