Posted by: marcmwm | October 12, 2008

That was the prototype

So, this week Ken O’Keefe gets to keep his job.

That was the simple solution to all of Iowa’s offensive problems the last three weeks, right? That was the quick and easy fix that coach Kirk Ferentz needed to get done for the Hawkeyes to move ahead. And if that didn’t work, then change the quarterback. And don’t think that talk wasn’t going to fire up again.

Ferentz spent a good portion of his Tuesday news conference last week defending his record, his offense and the playcalling of O’Keefe, the only offensive coordinator he has had in his 10 seasons at Iowa.

Saturday, Iowa’s offense did its part in showing the doubters that a multiple pro set offense can more than hold its own.

The score was Iowa 45, Indiana 9 at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. But it was also, power I 45, spread 9.

That was the prototype Iowa (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten). It was Iowa offense at its best and most pure form, best since Purdue 2006, best since 2005 for sure.

“That’s our style of football. That’s Iowa football, that’s Big Ten football,” Olsen said. “You’ve got to pound if you want to win. We pounded it and pounded it and finally we were able to break through and score some points.”

Iowa’s offense had near-perfect balance, rushing for 227 yards and passing for 195. When the Hoosiers (2-4, 0-3) needed to get their spread attack back out on the field in the second half, Iowa played a crippling game of keep away, ringing up a 21:26 to 8:34 advantage in time of possession.

When Indiana readied for yet another dose of Shonn Greene and his 235-pound barrel-chest, quarterback Ricky Stanzi tucked and rolled out, finding either wide receiver Andy Brodell or tight end Brandon Myers for just enough plays in the passing game to keep the Hoosiers frozen in their tracks.

“They weren’t getting the real long runs, but they were certainly getting the chunks,” IU coach Bill Lynch said. “When they do that, they get you committed to the run, and then they did a nice job with some play-action pass.”

Stanzi had a few misses Saturday, but for the most part that was play-action pass circa 2004, when sophomore quarterback Drew Tate dazzled the Big Ten with play-action playmaking that helped Iowa to a share of the Big Ten title, and 2005, when Iowa built itself around running back Albert Young and his 1,334 rushing yards.

Play-action passes work because Iowa is running the ball. And Greene did that and more, on an injured ankle just for degree of difficulty, rushing 23 times for 115 yards and a touchdown. And Iowa is running the ball because the offensive line is piling up defenders, tight ends are making seal blocks and wide receivers are putting bodies on safeties and corners.

“Well, yeah, when everything is going well, it’s easy to be out there and keep playing,” said Brodell, who had four catches for 95 yards and a 34-yard TD. “Really, the last few weeks we’ve moved the ball as well as we did today. We just haven’t executed in the red zone and haven’t protected the football.

“We are able to do that today, obviously. We put quite a few points on the board and that obviously makes it easier on our offense.”

Iowa went into Saturday’s game last in the Big Ten in red zone (inside the opponent’s 20-yard line) efficiency, scoring 19 of 26 times. Against IU, Iowa was 6-for-6 with TDs on five of those. Also, for the first time this season, Iowa didn’t turn the ball over.

“We’ve talked about finishing and I think we did that today,” said Stanzi, who brushed off five turnovers in two weeks to finish 12 of 20 for 184 yards and two TDs. “We need to keep concentrating on finishing in the red zone.” 

Iowa’s offensive line is becoming obvious, in a good way. For obvious in a bad way, you just have to go back to last season, specifically the IU game at Kinnick.

Pretty much the same group that Iowa dominated Saturday put up nine sacks on the Hawkeyes last season, tying the school record. Ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton combined for six sacks against Iowa last year. Saturday, Kirlew had one and Middleton failed to show up on the stat sheet.

Olsen and right tackle Kyle Calloway are the lone returnees from last year’s Indiana massacre. Left tackle Bryan Bulaga was still recovering from a shoulder injury. Center Rob Bruggeman was coming back from a torn ACL. And left guard Julian Vandervelde nursed an ankle injury.

Here is where Iowa’s O-line was much of last season:

“At times when guys have to play before they’re ready, it’s not easy, especially up front,” Ferentz said. “There’s really no place to hide up there. The way we play, it’s really tough to not be (found). It’s part of the maturation process, but I don’t want to minimize how hard those guys have worked.”

Here is where Iowa’s O-line is going into this week’s major matchup with Wisconsin (3-3, 0-3):

The Hawkeye Radio Network gave the entire O-line the game ball.

“We played a pretty solid game today, I thought,” Olsen said. “There are still plenty of areas for improvement. We could’ve been better.”

The contrast between O-line ’08 and last season’s starter kit could be summed up best by Olsen’s exchange with the media on Greene’s record pace. Greene rushed for more than 100 yards for the seventh straight game Saturday, the first time in school history a back has opened the season with seven 100-yarders. The last time an Iowa back had seven consecutive 100-yard games was Young in 2005.

“Did he get 100? I was hoping he got 100,” Olsen said. “We’d love to keep that streak going. Is that a school record? That’s pretty good then.”

It’s not only pretty good. It’s the prototype. It’s how this is supposed to work.

 

Photo

(Jonathan D. Woods/The Gazette)
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz (left) and Offensive Coordinator Ken O’Keefe remove their headsets in tandem during the second quarter Saturday.
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Responses

  1. You wrote “play-action pass circa 2004, when sophomore quarterback Drew Tate dazzled the Big Ten with play-action playmaking that helped Iowa to a share of the Big Ten title.”

    My recollection was 2005, when we had Albert Young run for 1300 yards and Drew Tate put up his best statistical year and we had a top20 offense… in 2004 Brownlee averaged 2.2 ypc and Drew Tate was in shot gun a lot and running for his life….we were 92nd in scoring offense in 2004.

    Small disagreement. Good article and information as always!

  2. I think you’re right.

    They did run more P-A pass in 2005. The ’04 was more catch is as catch can, whatever worked. I remember Tate making a ton of plays on the move. I’m not sure if a lot of that “move” was bootleg. If I had to guess, I’d say less than 40 percent.

    Good point, Logic.

  3. But in ’04 we went 10-2 because DT was a stud.

    Great game yesterday, and it’s always fun to see fans leaving their home stadium that early! Living in Indy I can not have to worry about the cutters riding me for another season.

    Time for an extension AND pay raise for KF!

  4. At half-time I thought we were in exactly the same position as we were during the Northwestern game. Then the guys went out and played the way I thought they would in the second half against Northwestern and completely dominated Indiana. It’s easier to call plays when the players run them as called and hold onto the ball. Stanzi said he had a more determined focus in the second half and it showed.

    How is a football team effected by the loss of their band from hazing? We’ll see if the Hawks can “Jump Around” in Wisconsin’s backfield this week.


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