2008 Iowa Football Recap: Scoring & Turnovers

The 2008 Iowa football season is in the books, and the Hawkeyes finished strong, winning six of their last seven games to record a nine-win campaign. Jon Miller takes a general look at Iowa's offensive and defensive scoring statistics, both of which were Top Ten marks all time in Hawkeye football history, plus more...

So many things are going through my mind Iowa football related, that I wanted to get some of them down on virtual paper before I forget about them.  Since I am starting a Ferrell's Extreme Fitness program on 1/5, I am guessing my mind is going to be mush for a few days…




Iowa closed the season with a flurry and focus befitting of some of the best teams in the Kirk Ferentz era; six wins in their final seven games. Did you realize that Iowa averaged 39.8 points per game over its final seven contests?  The 30.3 points for the season was the 10th best season average in school history, and it's the fourth time a Ken O'Keefe offense has averaged at least 30 per game for a season (2001, 2002, 2005, 2008).  That means that four of the 11th highest scoring offensive seasons have come under the direction of the ‘much maligned' Ken O'Keefe and Iowa's ‘vanilla' offensive schemes.  That's more seasons of averaging 30 or more points per game than Bill Snyder had when he was Iowa's offensive coordinator for ten years under Hayden Fry, the same number of years O'Keefe has been in Iowa City. 


Back to the final seven games; nearly 40 points per game, a very impressive mark.  When you consider that Iowa will return five offensive linemen, two wide outs, a quarterback, fullback and tight end with Big Ten starting experience, that number becomes all the more exciting. 


Yes, Iowa is losing Shonn Greene, arguably the best running back to don the black and gold.  His production will be missed, but it's not as though the cupboard is bare. 


For the last several weeks, I have been saying that I believe freshman Jewell Hampton could have gained around 1,200 yards behind this year's line.  Hampton averaged 5.1 yards per carry.  250 carries at that average is 1,275.  Shonn Greene had 307 totes of the football this year, to Hampton's 91. 


Next year's line probably won't be hitting on all cylinders right out of the block, and it's probably unrealistic to think that it will be as dominant as this year's line was.  I think this year's group was the second best of the Ferentz era, with Rob Bruggeman being on par with Bruce Nelson at center, in my opinion.  Some may disagree, and Bruggeman won't be picked in the second round of this year's draft like Nelson was in 2003, but Bruggeman was consistently reaching the nose guard all season long, and I just haven't seen an Iowa center do that as much as Bruggeman did this year.  It truly was a thing of beauty, week in and week out.


That being said, next year's line will be solid, and I think Hampton is set up for a solid year, too.  In addition to Hampton, everyone I spoke with in Tampa who is associated with the football program had rave reviews about Jeff Brinson.  That is betting on the come, as he is unproven, but Iowa could have a pretty exciting tandem next year.


Brandon Myers, Seth Olsen, Bruggeman, Greene and Andy Brodell will be missed, but I think the Hawks will be in more of a ‘reloading' mode than a ‘rebuilding' mode, and I don't think it's far fetched to think Iowa can average 30 points per game or more again next season.




Iowa finished up this season allowing just 13.0 points per game, which ties the 1981 defense for ninth best in a season, all time.  That number is also tied for the best points allowed per game mark since the 1960 team allowed 12.3 points per game. 


In this day and age of offensive football, where scoring points happens far more frequently and often than it did even ten years ago, that is a mind-boggling statistic.  I sure hope Iowa fans remember just how good this group of Iowa defenders were, because it could be some time before we see another Iowa team hold opponents to fewer points than this year's squad, if we ever see that again.  After all, it had been 27 years since that number was equaled, and some people might say that the 1981 Iowa defense was the best in school history (232.5 total yards allowed per game, when the other nine, top-ten squads in school history in that category came in 1962 or earlier).


That 1981 club holds the school record for fewest rushing yards allowed per game for a season, at 79.7.  #2 was the 2002 team at 81.9.  Numbers three and four belong to the 2004 and 2003 defenses, and the 5th best rushing yards allowed mark in Iowa history belongs to this year's 2008 Iowa defense, who allowed just 94.0 yards per game. Notice a pattern there?  I guess I would just say, give me all the ‘bend but don't break defense' I can take. 


Interesting to note that four of the highest scoring offenses in Iowa history have come during the 10 years Kirk Ferentz era, and four of the best scoring defensive marks have come during the 10 years of the Kirk Ferentz era, with the same coordinators.


When you combine Iowa's points per game, taking away the points allowed per game, that is a scoring margin of 17.3.  I might take a look at this number later in the winter, but I would guess this would be one of the best such marks in Hawkeye history. 


I took a look at some of the highest scoring teams from this year in the NCAA, and applied the scoring margin measure.  Texas Tech averaged more than 43 points per game, which is about six points better per game than Iowa's all time best mark.  But their margin was under 17.  Missouri scored more than 42 points per game, but their margin was not as good as Iowa's.  The same for Oregon, Rice, Oklahoma State and Rice, all teams that ranked in the Top 10 in points per game this season.  Six of the Top Ten scoring offenses this year had scoring margins of less than 17 points. 




One of my favorite articles in any preseason magazine is Phil Steele's ‘Turnovers = Turnaround' column in his annual publication.


The premise is that teams who were ‘plus' double digits in turnovers are mathematically more likely to not being able to duplicate such a feat the following year, which likely means fewer wins.  The same mathematical likelihood also applies to teams that had bad turnover years.


Even though all of the bowl games have yet to be played, Iowa will finish no worse than 10th in the NCAA in turnovers gained this year, with 32.  That ties the 2004 season as the best under Kirk Ferentz.  The 2002 team had 31 takeaways.  Iowa is going to finish 4th in the nation in interceptions this year with 23, which ties a school record that was set in 1986.


Iowa is currently 22nd in the NCAA in turnover margin, which uses your takeaways and subtracts your giveaways.  Iowa had 8 more takeaways than giveaways, which is a solid number.  It has done better, but more often than not, it has done worse.  Coincidentally, Iowa was +8 in the turnover margin department last year, but had three fewer wins. 


Part of that reason is Iowa allowed 46 sacks in 12 games, where this year it allowed 27 sacks in 13 games, a night and day difference.


Next year, I think the Hawks will have fewer than the 24 turnovers this year's team gave away, but they will probably not record 32 takeaways.  One more note here; just three of the 21 teams that had a better turnover margin than Iowa had this year had losing records; Baylor, UTEP & NC State.  15 of those 21 teams finished with 8 or more wins.


Look for more 2009 Iowa football ponderings as the week unfolds.

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