Posted by: marcmwm | September 12, 2008

The Big Analysis . . .

Game analysis: Hawkeyes vs. Cyclones

Photo

Liz Martin/The GazetteIowa’s Shonn Greene (left) pushes away from Florida International’s Kreg Brown during last Saturday’s 42-0 Hawkeye victory at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. Iowa’s rushing game could give the Hawkeyes an edge today.

 

Game analysis: Hawkeyes vs. Cyclones

Iowa offense vs. Iowa State defense

When Iowa State Coach Gene Chizik took the defensive coordinator job at Central Florida in 1998, he spent a lot of time around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a 90-mile drive away. The young defensive coach immersed himself in the defensive philosophies of Tampa Bay coaches Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin, otherwise known as the “Tampa Two.”

The scheme relies on speed, not size. Undersized defensive ends take wide splits to force bigger offensive tackles to get out in space and chase them down. Defensive tackles attack gaps and guard against the run while working toward the quarterback. Fast linebackers run sideline to sideline. The secondary lines up in zone coverage with both safeties deep. The defense is also known as the “Cover Two.” The Tampa Bay coaching staff put its own twist on it.

The zone with the safeties deep is intended to avoid the big play. The idea is to keep the offense in front of defensive personnel and use the defense’s speed to disrupt.

Does ISU have the personnel to fit this philosophy?

Senior end Kurtis Taylor is a proven force, second in the Big 12 last season in sacks. Last week against Kent State, he racked up a sack, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Right cornerback Chris Singleton has five career interceptions.All six ISU linebackers have seen action, with two interceptions coming out of the unit.

Sophomore quarterback Ricky Stanzi makes his second start today, his first with any sort of weight to it.

Yeah, this has been covered with everything short of papparazzi this week. In a half last week, Stanzi shredded Florida International. But forget that. Here’s what he did in the eyes of Iowa coaches: He made “makeable” plays, with the 59-yard TD to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, the 38-yarder to tight end Allen Reisner and the 8-yard TD pass to Colin Sandeman being prime examples.

That’s what Jake Christensen didn’t do in his 14 starts. You can argue that the personnel never came together for Christensen, but the plays just weren’t there, opening the door to a change.

The Cyclones, who’ve forced 10 turnovers, blitzed a huge percentage against the Hawkeyes last year. With a new QB, they’ll likely follow that plan again. This throws Iowa’s receivers and their ability to get open quickly into focus.

Iowa’s running game, led by 230-pound running back Shonn Greene, gives it an edge.

Advantage: Iowa

Iowa State offense vs. Iowa defense

In his days as Central Florida offensive coordinator, Robert McFarland’s offense featured two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher the same season. McFarland has brought his spread offense to ISU. The strength of it is its balance. Last season, the Cyclones produced three solid tailbacks who rushed for 300-plus yards and two wide receivers with 500 or more yards. If those numbers are to improve, some young players will have to come through.

The Cyclones have a QB rotation that should continue today. Austen Arnaud fills the role of “passer,” completing 20 of 26 for 264 yards and two TDs. Phillip Bates is the “runner,” leading the Cyclones with 138 yards, averaging 8.1 yards a carry.

The two are operating with a high rate of efficiency. They combine for a pass efficiency rating if 181.33, ninth in the country.The Cyclones are crazy deep at running back. Alexander Robinson, Jason Scales and J.J. Bass rushed for 100 yards in a game last season. Robinson sat out the Kent State game, but will return and will likely see the most carries.

Senior wideout R.J. Sumrall led ISU with 54 catches last season. He’s ninth on ISU’s career list with 107. Last week, he caught four passes for 104 yards and two TDs, the first two of his ISU career.

On the offensive line, the Cyclones return four starters, with 32 career starts between left tackle doug Derick and left guard Reggie Stephens.

This will be the first legit test for Iowa’s defense, which came alive against FIU for six sacks last week.

Iowa tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul have been everything four-year starters are supposed to be. Sophomore defensive end Adrian Clayborn has been Iowa’s most active defender, tying for the team lead with 14 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups. Reserve tackle Karl Klug earned Big Ten defensive player of he week honors with two sacks last week.

Strong safety is up for grabs. Redshirt freshman Tyler Sash started last week ahead of senior Harold Dalton. Right cornerback Amari Spievey seems to have made a home for himself, taking over for Jordan Bernstine, who missed much of fall camp with a hamstring injury. He has two breakups.

Iowa is unsteady at linebacker. Yes, outside linebacker A.J. Edds is tracking toward all-conference with his early-season performance, an interception, two tackles for loss and a sack for a safety. But after Edds, the middle spot is muddled, with sophomore Jacody Coleman figuring things out with junior Pat Angerer leading the Hawkeyes with two interceptions. On the weakside, sophomore Jeremiha Hunter is tied for the team lead with 14 tackles. He’s got the job that sophomore Jeff Tarpinian held before going down mid-camp with a hamstring injury that continues hamper him.

Advantage: Iowa State

Special teams

ISU true freshman Grant Mahoney has made 5 of 6 field goals and all 11 of his PATs. Against Kent State, the Linn-Mar graduate boomed a 48-yarder. So far, out of the 18 true freshmen who’ve played for Iowa and Iowa State, Mahoney might be the most valuable and may be at the end of the season, too.Junior punter Mike Brandtner has a 40.14 average on 129 career punts.

Against Kent State, the Cyclones blocked two punts and recovered a fumbled punt, setting up 14 points. The two blocked punts are the most for ISU since 2002.Punt returner Michael O’Connell, an Iowa City Regina grad, averages 18.5 yards on two punt returns.

Iowa’s rotating duo at kicker, Trent Mossbrucker and Daniel Murray, is 3-for-4 with a long of 44 yards and blocked attempt last week against FIU. No trends here. This could be the first time Iowa has needed them this season.

Someone needs to dust off punter Ryan Donahue. He’s been called on just three times this season. Last year against the Cyclones, he punted six times.

On any given kick, receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos looks as though he could end Iowa’s 64-game drought on kick returns for touchdown. Senior receiver Andy Brodell is third in the Big Ten and 25th nationally with 14.7 yards a punt return.

Advantage: Iowa

Coaching

Chizik has seemed to grasp, very early and quickly, the emotional element that drove the Cyclones back to prominence in this series. After ISU broke through in ’98, if all else failed, the Cyclones still had former coach Dan McCarney’s spit and vinegar to pull them up. Judging on rumored comments he made during an ISU booster event this summer, Chizik not only gets the rivalry, he revels in it.

Kirk Ferentz is 3-6 against Iowa State. Sure, Iowa was in complete rebuild mode his first couple seasons, but that doesn’t make this record any easier for him to swallow. Is the switch to Stanzi during the week of the Iowa State game a huge gamble? Ferentz isn’t big into gambles, especially when it comes to personnel. But there’s no other way to put it. Good or bad, the QB switch will factor in and you will be talking about it Sunday and Monday.

Advantage: Iowa

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