So hate week. This is going to be my first Iowa-Iowa State game attended in person. I'm not sure how I've never been before...maybe I'm just too cheap, but I'm excited to finally experience this game live.
Contain Steele Jantz
Thanks Captain Obvious, right? It's pretty much the same thing every week with Iowa's defense against a mobile quarterback. The defense struggled early against Northern Illinois to contain Jordan Lynch as he ran draw after draw on third downs.
But the defense adjusted and improved. In the second half, besides the 73-yard touchdown, NIU had -5 yards of offense. The defensive ends were a big part of this. Joe Gaglione had 3 TFLs, a sack, and a forced fumbled. And Dom Alvis added 2 TFLs and a sack.
So there are some reasons to be hopeful.
But last year, Jantz ran wild against the Hawks. He looked like a Heisman candidate passing for long third down conversions, running for others. He often extended plays with his feet and found receivers down-field after the coverage had broken
I had the ISU game turned on, but was glued to the Iowa game on Saturday, so didn't see much of Jantz. But from all reports, he had a very good game. He complete over 70% of his passes and averaged 6.2 yards per attempt (basically double of what Vandenberg averaged). He threw 2 touchdowns, but still had an interception (he had 11 last year before he was benched).
So the key here is to make Jantz uncomfortable and keep him in the pocket. Under pressure, he makes bad decisions that Iowa's secondary is good enough to take advantage of. And ISU's offensive line is not an impenetrable force. They gave up 4 sacks to Tulsa and as a result, Jantz finished with -9 rushing yards.
I don't even think I need to say anything about this. Iowa has to, HAS to, have some vertical element to its offense. It's not just the fact that the horizontal offense struggled mightily in the redzone and the passing game looked all around awful. Teams are going to figure out very quickly that all they need to do it load the box against the run and defend the short passing game. Also, blitz.
Iowa needs to get its pass protection figured out quickly. ISU gave up 4 sacks, but Iowa gave up 6 in week one (which is tied for last in the country). Part of the reason there was an absolute absence of a vertical passing game, was that Vandenberg just didn't have time to sit in the pocket and let plays develop. Even when he did had time, he had already been hit so many times, he got jittery, lost his footwork, and made poor decisions. As Kirk Ferentz said on Tuesday, the good news is that these are all correctable thing. And if last season was any indication, Vandenberg should look a lot more comfortable playing in Kinnick Stadium than on the road.
Maybe Greg Davis is a sly old dog and was just setting us all up with his horizontal game to pull out a ferocious vertical attack to be unleashed this week. I have my fingers crossed.
In the red-zone
Another obvious one. Iowa needs to improve. In the past Iowa has had the defense that allowed them to settle for field goals. And while the D looked great at times in the second half last week, it is still not at the point where it can carry the team. The offense needs to capitalize on opportunities to score touchdowns. At least take a freaking shot at the end-zone... Stretch plays on 3rd-and-long aren't always going to work.
Iowa State scored on 5 of 6 red-zone trips against Tulsa...4 of those scores TDs. Holding Iowa State to a FG attempt is going to be a win for the defense. ISU's kicker is JUCO kid that red-shirted last year. At Iowa Central, he was 10/13 in his two years there. Last Saturday he made his lone FG attempt from 30 yards. So yeah...basically he's unproven.
And, if you go back to last year in the third overtime, Iowa failed to get a TD and settled for a FG. Iowa State was able to punch it in. And that was that.
The play of the game last weekend for Iowa was the John Wienke punt downed inside the 1 by Greg Castillo. It led to a 3-and-out by the defense, a short punt by NIU, an 18-yard return by Micah Hyde, and finally the game winning TD by Damon Bullock.
Iowa State was on the opposite end of a similar situation. In the first quarter against Tulsa, the Golden Hurricanes downed a punt on the 3 and on the next play stuffed ISU running back Jeff Woody in the end zone for a safety. They followed that up with a TD thanks to the short field to take a 10-7 lead.
Iowa State had some good punting of its own as well. Kirby Van Der Kamp punted 9 times and averaged 43 yards per kick. Five of his punts were downed inside the 20 and he had two go over 50 yards. For his efforts, he was named the Big 12 special team player of the week.
For Iowa, Connor Kornbrath punted 3 times and averaged 41 yards per kick. The most encouraging thing was that his first collegiate punt was a 51-yarder that he booted standing in Iowa's end zone. It was a good start.
So slight advantage ISU on punting. Iowa should have the advantage on kickoffs though. Meyer, after only having 4 touchbacks all year, had 3 on Saturday. Those extra 5 yards really helped. On ISU's 7 kickoffs (though on was from the 20 following the safety), they only had 2 go for touchbacks. Plus they gave up an average of 28 yards per return. They also gave up a 60 yard return in the first quarter. Iowa gave up just 20 yards per return with a long of 28 yards.
I think everyone else is probably with me on this one...this is the most worried I've been of an Iowa State win in Kinnick in a very long time. But I also think Iowa will get the job done. The friendly confines of Kinnick will lend itself to a much improved passing day by Vandenberg. The running game will continue to be solid and I think Garmon will have a bigger impact this week. The offense will turn a couple of the FGs into TDs and put up more than the 18 lousy points last week.
The defense will do its part as well. Steele Jantz will get his yards on the ground and through the air, but the D will do just enough to keep him rattled and will lead to a costly turnover.
Final score: Iowa 27 - Iowa State 24