Final Look: Iowa-Maine Thoughts & Notes

The Iowa Hawkeyes got off to a great start on Saturday, posting more points than they have since the 2006 season and scoring on their first possession of a game since 2006 as well. We provide you with a detailed analysis of the game, in addition to a look ahead to Florida International...

Each Tuesday, HN.com Publisher Jon Miller will take one final look at what he saw from the most recent game before the HN Staff turns its attention to the next opponent at the Tuesday press conferences.

 

Iowa 46, Maine 3

 

This game met my expectations.  I expected Iowa to dominate the game, and they did.  In our 2008 Iowa Football Preview issue of Hawkeye Nation, I called for a 48-3 score in this contest.  Maine was not a great football team; they are an FCS level opponent that won just four games one year ago and had one of the worst offenses at that level.  I will get back to that aspect here in little bit…

 

Here is what I came away with after watching the game live and twice on tape….

 

The Quarterbacks

 

Rick Stanzi:  It was our first real look at Stanzi outside of an Iowa practice session, and as far as first impressions go, Rick was solid.  The throws that he made were mostly on target, and I am of the opinion the coaching staff put a lot of meat on the plate for him, which is a good idea.  The throws he completed were comeback routes and near side hash outs, plus a waggle in there.  Basically, Iowa's bread and butter, and he executed.  He also did so very comfortably and with command, which is what you hope to see.  He showed an ability to tuck and run and he made a nice play with his feet that bought him some time to make a throw. 

 

Jake Christensen:  I felt that Jake looked better than he did a year ago.  He didn't make every single throw, but few quarterbacks do.  It was a good starting off point, and when Iowa let loose the reigns a bit and went to some 3 x 1 formations, Jake was at his best.  I agree with what Jared Clauss said yesterday, is that the timing looked pretty solid for a first game, which is always a good thing.  Jake also pulled the Hawks out of a few holes on third down…let's go to that topic right now.

 

Third Down Plays

 

Iowa did a very poor job on third down last year, and its something they have to correct this year if they are going to become a better football team.  The Hawks were just 4 of 13 in this department.  Here's how the plays went down:

 

First drive, JC in the game, no gain on a first down run, then a three yard draw play to bring up 3rd and 7:  JC found Brandon Myers over the middle +13. 

 

First drive, after a first and goal at the Maine 4, and just two yards to bring up third and goal, Iowa went to Green for one yard, to bring up 4th and 1.  Greene got the yard and Iowa scored.  So there is one of the non-converted third down plays, but Iowa scored one play later.

 

Second drive, JC in the game.  INC to DJK on first, Greene +9 run on second, JC QB sneak on 3rd and 1.

 

Second drive, first and goal, Greene +6 on first, INC to Brodell on 2nd, JC found Myers on a scramble to his left, touchdown.

 

Third drive, JC in the game, Iowa called for false start, so it's 1st and 15.  Paki runs for no gain.  Paki gains 6 on a second down run, so its 3rd and nine.  JC intercepted.   Iowa was not a third and long team last year, and they won't be this year.  Drops and penalties really lessens Iowa's margin for error. 

 

5th drive, RS in the game.  Stanzi completion +7 on 1st and 10.  Paki no gain on 2nd and 3.  On 3rd and three, Iowa chooses to run the ball and Greene got one yard.  Iowa punt.  That was a pretty conservative call.

 

5th drive, RS in the game.  DJK dropped pass on a first down.  Stanzi complete to Myers for +9 on 2nd and 10.  On third and 1, Iowa chooses to run a play action play to the TE Allen Reisner, and it was just underthrown.  Iowa kicks a field goal.  An aggressive call on 3rd and 1, and if Greene was totally in shape, you probably bring him in to get one yard there.

 

6th drive, RS in the game, INC to Brodell on 1st and 10.  2nd and 10, completed pass to Greene on a screen for minus three.  3rd and 13, Stanzi elects to run and gains 9.  Rick later said that the coaches tell the quarterbacks not to force the action with their throws, rather with their legs.  He didn't see anything, and tried to get the first with his legs.  Murray kicked a 44 yard field goal.  

 

Halftime

 

1st drive of 2nd half, JC in the game.  1st and 10, JC complete to DJK for 4 yards.  2nd and 6, Green +4 run.  3rd and 2, JC to Sandeman +25 yards on a square in and run. 

 

Same drive, after a +17 gainer to Myers on first, DJK drops pass on 1st and 10.  2nd and 10, Greene runs for no gain.  3rd and 10, Maine blitzes LB and safety on left side, JC sacked, Mossbrucker field goal. 

 

2nd drive of 2nd half, JC in the game, Greene runs on 3rd and 1 for no gain, Iowa goes for it on 4th and 1 and Greene gains 7.

 

1st Stanzi drive of 2nd half;  Iowa ran 11 plays, Stanzi was 3 of 4 on the drive, 3rd and Goal, Hampton +1.  Iowa went for it on 4th and 1, gain of one, turnover on downs. 

 

2nd Stanzi drive of 2nd half, 1st and 10, complete to Ben Evans +8, 2nd and 2 Hampton thrown for 4 yard loss, 3rd and 6, INC on screen to Evans, 4th and 6, Hampton +22 run for score.

 

So in the final analysis, or at least mine, there were a pair of instances where Iowa kept drives going on 4th downs, and a pair of instances where Iowa didn't want to run up the score and was very conservative on third down.  Iowa was 3 of 4 on third down on this day.

 

Running Backs

 

Shonn Greene:  He is not yet in total game shape, but he was certainly effective.  It's nice to have him back on the field, and there is no doubt about it, he was Iowa's most important ‘recruit' from this past year.  He has a blend of power and speed that we have not seen at Iowa in quite some time, and he hits the hole hard. 

 

Paki O'Meara:  I have to tip my cap to him; I felt that all of the ‘Paki Talkie' coming from Kirk was just being respectful to a guy that had put in his time and has been a good teammate.  He actually showed some solid ball skills out there in the passing game and the running game.  With all due respect to my man Sam Brownlee, who will never be forgotten, Paki is more than just a cut above.

 

Jewel Hampton:  Iowa stole Hampton from Ball State.  How about them apples?  He didn't have any offers from Big Ten schools, and the longer the recruiting process went, and still no other suitors entered the picture, Kirk Ferentz asked himself and his staff if they were just too high on this kid from his tape?  They saw something in him that apparently no other Big Ten team did.  That's Iowa's gain, because Hampton made a nice splash and showed some exciting skills.  There will be some ‘Jewel of the Nile' lines in the future.

 

The Offensive Line

 

They put together a good push at times, and it looked like a first game.  They looked more on the same page in this game than at any time last year, even if the opponent was just Maine.  Getting that left guard position decided will be a help, and  this week, Rafael Eubanks is listed as the starter on the depth chart.  They also kept Christensen and Stanzi on their feet for the most part, and there wasn't a ton of pressure on the QB's.  There was a mix up on a left side blitz that led to a sack, but that was the lone sack of the day.  Iowa allowed just one sack against NIU in last year's season opener, so let's not break out the Louis XIII just yet.

 

The Defense

 

Iowa allowed a 100-yard rusher in this game, which some people are talking about as a cause for concern.  Perhaps it may be, I don't know.  I still tend to be on the side that this defense will be very good against the run.

 

But I am coming to the conclusion that the level of domination, and the historically dominant statistical markers on defense are going to be changing, and that's due to the proliferation of spread offenses, or spread formation football.

 

In 1999, there were 27 teams that held opponents to fewer than 20 points per game.  Last year, there were 17 and just one of those teams had a points per game allowed average under 16.  There were 10 such teams in 1999.

 

In 1999, there were 21 teams that held their opponents to under 110 rushing yards per game.  Last year there were 16.  In 1999, there were six teams that held teams beneath 80- rushing yards per game, while last year there were just two.

 

This might sound like excuse making for an Iowa team that gave up 137 rushing yards to Maine on Saturday, but Maine runs a spread offense.  In my opinion, spread formations allow teams with inferior talent to play better than they might otherwise, or to hang with better teams longer.  This game was over by halftime, make no mistake about that, but there were several instances where Iowa had its front four plus one linebacker to go against five offensive linemen and the running back, and that is due to spread formations.  There were also some instances where there was just four defensive linemen in the tackle box, and no one else in there. 

 

So the numbers that Maine put up didn't blow me away, and I don't expect this year's Iowa defense to go out and match the 2002, 2003 or 2004 Iowa defenses with regards to allowing fewer than 100 rushing yards per game.  Iowa allowed 122 last year and that was good for 24th in the nation.  That would have been good for 26th in 1999.  I think there is a correlation between the types of offenses that are being run today, and what the new statistical norms will be for defenses.

 

Iowa allowed just 83 yards through the air, and only nine completions, which is a very good day at the bank.  Iowa recorded just one sack, but many of Maine's passes were quick throws.  There were also several QB pressures.  Iowa's passing efficiency rating was the 7th best in the nation this weekend.

 

The Hawks allowed 220 total yards in this game, and back to the point earlier about the rushing yards; Iowa was substituting liberally in this game on defense beginning with the second quarter.

 

The Kickers

 

Daniel Murray made a 44 yarder and Trent Mossbrucker was 2 of 2 on the day.  Murray also had four touchbacks in nine kickoffs, a great number with the ball teed up at the 30.  Perhaps Murray is Iowa's 40+ yard field goal kicker, and Mossbrucker will handle the attempts closer in?  Or perhaps it was just a rotation.  No matter, it was great to see a perfect day in that area.

 

Special Teams

 

Iowa averaged 15.2 yards per punt return and held Maine to an average of just 14.8 yards on kickoff returns; both of those marks are excellent.  The KOR coverage was 12th best in the nation.

 

Looking Ahead

 

Florida International gained just 139 yards of total offense against Kansas.  They were one of the weakest teams in FBS last year in this category.  They did hold Kansas to ‘just' 384 yards of total offense.  FIU was 2-14 on third downs while KU was 11 of 18. 

 

Just in case you are wondering, FIU runs a variation of a spread offense, as will eight of Iowa's remaining 11 opponents in 2008.

 

NOTES

 

-Iowa's offense gained 457 yards, which is more than they gained in any game last season.  That was the 35th best total in the nation from the opening weekend, with two teams left to go as I wrote this.  It was the 6th best total in the Big Ten.

-Andy Brodell averaged 15.5 yards on five punt returns, which is very good

-Iowa's 46 points was the 20th best total put up in college football this past weekend, and they haven't scored that many points since the 47 they scored against Purdue in 2006.

-Iowa recorded 27 first downs, the 15th best mark in the nation from the weekend.

-Seven true freshmen played in this game after 11 from 2007.

-Iowa scored on its first possession of the game, something it failed to do in 2007.

-Iowa played without two likely passing game starters on offense; TE Tony Moeaki and WR Trey Stross.

-Ed Podolak noted during the radio broadcast that Iowa ran 60 percent of its plays or more with two tight ends in the game, something that will continue when Moeaki returns to the lineup.

-All facemask penalties are 15 yards this year, something that could play a factor in 2008.

-Iowa had to burn a timeout as it decided whether to go for it or kick a field goal; that happened more than a few times during this opening weekend of football as teams get used to the 40 second clock.

-The game lasted exactly three hours.  Iowa's opener against NIU in 2007 lasted 3:08 


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