Countdown 2008: Jake Christensen

2007 was not a banner year for the Iowa Hawkeye offense, as they ranked near or at the bottom of Big Ten teams in nearly every offensive category. There were a lot of moving parts last year, due to injuries, youth and off the field incidents. There was not much consistency, and that includes the play of Jake Christensen. But 2008 is a new season, and Christensen still has the tools.

With less than 70 days left before the annual Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon, an event that many view as the unofficial ‘kickoff' to the Big Ten football season, HN.com is providing a player by player snapshot analysis of the 2008 Iowa football roster.

 

We will begin by taking a look at the players that were on Iowa's spring depth chart, then proceed through the rest of the roster's scholarship players and key walkons, and finish with a look at the new faces that made up Iowa's recruiting class of 2008.

 

Next Up:  Hawkeye Quarterback Jake Christensen

 

2007 By the Numbers:  started at quarterback and played every offensive play in opening win over Northern Illinois: completed 12-29 passes for 133 yards and one touchdown, a five-yard toss in the second quarter . . . started at quarterback in win over Syracuse as offense gained 408 yards total offense . . . completed 23-32 passes for 278 yards vs. Syracuse, with four touchdown passes and one interception . . . scoring strikes covered 52, 36, five and six yards . . . started at quarterback and played every offensive down in loss at Iowa State, completing 12-23 attempts for 118 yards, with no turnovers . . . started at quarterback and played every offensive down in loss at Wisconsin . . . completed 17-37 passes for 169 yards and one touchdown, with no interceptions . . . started at quarterback and played every offensive down in loss to Indiana . . . completed 24-42 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception . . . scoring passes covered 33, 10 and 18 yards . . . started at quarterback and played every offensive down in loss at Penn State . . . completed 16-29 passes for 146 yards, with an 11-yard touchdown strike and no interceptions . . . started at quarterback and played every offensive down in win over 18th-ranked Illinois . . . completed 17-25 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown, with no interceptions. . . started at quarterback in loss at Purdue . . . completed 17-40 passes for 177 yards at Purdue, with one interception, stopping a streak of 111 passes between interceptions . . . started at quarterback and played every offensive down in double OT win over Michigan State . . . completed 5-15 passes for 53 yards and one score vs. MSU, with the TD pass covering 23 yards in the first overtime period . . . started at quarterback and played every offensive down in win at Northwestern: completed 21-36 passes for 299 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions . . . started at quarterback and played every offensive down in win over Minnesota . . . completed 14-25 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown, with one interception . . . started at quarterback and played every offensive down in loss to Western Michigan:  completed 20-37 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns vs. Western Michigan.

 

Analysis: It was an up and down season for Jake Christensen, as it was for the entire Hawkeye offense in 2007.  Christensen threw for 17 touchdown passes to just six interceptions, which is a very good ratio, yet he completed just 53.5 percent of his passes on 370 attempts.  Christensen was also sacked more times than any other quarterback in the nation as the Hawkeyes were shorthanded from the beginning of the season at the receiver position.

 

This fact, along with youth and inexperience on the offensive line, plus Christensen's relative inexperience as a starting quarterback, was a recipe for opposing defensive coordinators to challenge the Hawkeye offense with numerous blitz packages during the course of the season.  Iowa made Syracuse pay for this strategy, and Christensen threw for nearly 300 yards, four touchdowns and an interception on a tipped pass.

 

Tony Moeaki and Andy Brodell were healthy and available for this game, and each of them turned in season highs in receptions against the Orange.  Two games later, an already less than full strength passing game took a major hit when Moeaki and Brodell went down with season ending injuries at Wisconsin.

 

Not all of Christensen's sacks can be placed on the offensive line and not all of Christensen's incompletions came as the result of dropped passes or incorrect route running; but some of them did.

 

If one was to go back and look at each game film and count the number of dropped passes and blown plays at the line of scrimmage, it would certainly put Christensen's statistics in a better light.

 

That being said, there were numerous instances when Christensen missed open receivers when he had the time to throw, or when Christensen chose to try to make something out of a play instead of throwing the ball away.

 

The best way I can think of to sum up last year's offensive performance is simply this; there's plenty of ‘blame' to go around, and each and every person that returns from last year has room to improve, including Christensen.

 

One of the primary reasons as to why I remain very optimistic about Jake's future at Iowa is because I firmly believe he has the tools to be a successful quarterback at the Big Ten level.  He can complete the down and out from the far hash, he has a strong arm, his feet can get him out of trouble when he has his pocket presence about him.

 

He certainly needs plenty of off season work on his ‘change up' or touch passes underneath and in the flats, as he struggle with those throws last year.

 

As we look ahead to next year, at least from this point in time, there are reasons for me to be optimistic about a vastly improved Iowa offense, and that starts with one word; healthy.  

 

Barring any injuries this summer or in the fall and barring any more off the field issues that might keep a key starter out of the lineup before the season even begins (see Dominique Douglas); Christensen should have a full and competent receiving corps to throw to this year, which includes tight ends Moeaki and Brandon Myers.   

 

Andy Brodell appeared healthy this spring, as did Trey Stross.  Derrell Johnson Koulianos missed much of the spring with a non-surgical injury, and he should be improved this year.

 

Nearly every member of last year's two deep on the offensive line is back for this year, with another year of experience and practice under their belts. 

 

Some folks reading this right now might be thinking ‘scapegoats'.  That's fair and you are entitled to your opinion.  But after having six months with which to analyze last season's offensive production and the play of the quarterback, I still remain convinced that one cannot fully evaluate Christensen's play based on all of the moving parts around him on a weekly basis.

 

That's not to excuse Jake from every mistake that was made, nor am I suggesting that he doesn't need to improve his play this year.  He does, as does every one of his teammates.

 

Iowa finished 109th in total offense last year, out of 119 teams.  It's scoring offense ranked 110th.  Both the passing offense and rushing offense categories ranked in the low 90's.  Iowa finished 114th in sacks allowed.

 

In fact, there was not one team offensive statistic where Iowa was even average in 2007. 

 

If you feel as though you can parse through all of that data and come out of that haze believing that the play of Jake Christensen was primarily responsible for all of the woes of the Iowa offense, we'll have to agree to disagree.

 

Jake has admitted himself that there are areas he needs to improve in, which he does.  Kirk Ferentz has said the same, but he has also said that it was very hard to evaluate Jake last season based on the fluidity of the personnel each week.

 

I am getting to the point where I am repeating myself in this item, as I have been doing for the better part of the last year on this topic.

 

Here's to hoping all of the key offensive pieces for this year stays healthy this offseason and into the 2008 campaign, so the soup can become a little more clear.

 

Christensen's Collegiate Stats

 

Passing

Com.

At.

Pct.

Yds.

TD

Int.

Lng

Freshman

23

35

.657

285

2

2

47

Sophomore

198

370

.535

2,269

17

6

53

Career

221

405

.545

2,554

19

8

53

Rushing

At.

Yds.

Avg.

TD

Lng.

 

 

Freshman

11

-3

---

0

7

 

 

Sophomore

99

0

---

1

21

 

 

Career

110

-3

---

1

21

 

 

 

Career Bests
Attempts:          42 vs. Indiana, 9/29/07
Completions:           24 vs. Indiana, 9/29/07
Yards:              308 vs. Indiana, 9/29/07
Touchdowns:          4 vs. Syracuse, 9/8/07
Long:                53 vs. Northwestern, 11/3/07
300-yard Games:    1 (308 yards) vs. Indiana, 9/29/07

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