IOWA CITY, Iowa — It was a one-sided 42-3 win for Iowa over Iowa State last Saturday. How were the Hawkeyes able to win so easily? What worked against the Cyclones?
There were five keys to the game. Let’s break down the film.
Revolving around the run
It’s Iowa. Most weeks things start with the rushing attack. That was certainly the case with Iowa State. Iowa rushed for 198 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per game. The Hawkeyes controlled the game with their rushing attack and, to be frank, consistently opened up sizable holes and could move the ball with ease on the ground until the reserves came in.
Iowa took advantage of an Iowa State defensive front that came in with questions about its run-stopping ability. This was what the Hawkeyes needed to do and they excelled.
One of the best examples of Iowa’s rushing success came on running back LeShun Daniels’ 43-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Upon the snap, the Iowa State defensive line slants toward the tight end. The Iowa offense line down blocks and creates a crease on the backside of the play. Iowa State cornerback Brian Peavy breaks too far up field and can’t close down on the hole Daniels runs through.
Iowa left tackle Cole Croston makes a key block. He gets in the way of Iowa State linebacker Willie Harvey, who is in the best position to tackle Daniels at the second level. The block helps spring Daniels. He is known more as a bruiser, but he showed his playmaking ability as he outruns the Iowa State defense to the corner and gets to the end zone.
Everything came together from the offensive line to the running back on this play.
Running to air it out
The ground success forced Iowa State to focus on the handoff and it opened up the aerial attack.
Let’s look at running back Akrum Wadley’s 26-yard touchdown reception. The first three plays of the drives were runs. Iowa State appeared to be expecting another run. Both safeties move within 9 yards of the line of scrimmage before the snap. Neither will blitz.
The Hawkeyes run a play-action fake to Wadley. Iowa State linebacker Reggan Northrup and cornerback Jarnor Jones both move toward Wadley. Wadley stutter steps in the hole before running down the seam. The move seems to catch both defenders off guard as Wadley runs right past them. Beathard completes an easy pass for the touchdown.
There is no safety help over the top because Iowa State safety Kamari Cotton-Moya goes with the Iowa receiver at the bottom of the screen as he runs a crossing route.
This is a good play design that meets a coverage it can work against. The confusion around the stutter step, and the earlier running success, helped it become a big play. This touchdown helped Iowa pull away early in the first quarter. This score made the game 14-0.
Passing game takes flight
It’s unfair to say the passing game put together a strong day just because of the running game. Iowa’s aerial attack had as strong of a day as the rushing attack. C.J. Beathard threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns.
Iowa put a multidimensional offense on display, compiling 435 total yards. Iowa could move the ball however it wanted.
The two biggest reasons, at least in the passing game, were wide receiver Matt VandeBerg and Beathard. The two connected seven times for 129 yards and one touchdown.
They made plays that Iowa State simply couldn’t defend. Let’s look at VandeBerg’s 12-yard touchdown reception. Beathard calls an audible when he sees Iowa State about to blitz. VandeBerg runs a corner route. Beathard, after rolling to his right, places the football just over the hands of Iowa State defensive back D’Andre Payne. VandeBerg makes a diving catch for the touchdown.
There wasn’t anything Iowa State could do here. Payne was in great coverage. Beathard and VandeBerg just made a better play. It was something they would do throughout the contest.
No room up front
The Iowa defense did a lot right. The biggest key to its success was the play up front. The rush defense was a question mark after Week 1. Iowa looked better in Week 2, allowing 126 yards for a 3.6-yard average.
It all wasn’t due to the return of linebacker Josey Jewell, who was ejected for targeting in the first quarter of the season opener. The Hawkeyes also controlled the line of scrimmage.
Take this play by defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson. He engages Iowa State offensive guard Patrick Scoggins and easily sheds the block, meeting Iowa State running back David Montgomery in the backfield.
The Big Ten Network announcers said Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker wanted to see his defense do a better job at getting off tackles. Johnson did so here. Iowa’s play up front helped make the Iowa State rushing attack a nonfactor in the outcome of the game.
No time to throw
The strong play of the defensive front carried beyond the rush defense. Iowa recorded three sacks and got pressure on the Iowa State quarterbacks, especially early in the game when Iowa started asserting its authority.
The best example of the pass rush came on the worst drive for the Iowa defense. Iowa State moved the ball into the red zone late in the first quarter. This is the time to mention that three of the seven receptions by Iowa State receiver Allen Lazard came on this drive. Lazard finished with 111 receiving yards, but the Iowa defense did a good job of keeping him from making a significant impact in the game. Several of Lazard’s catches came after the outcome was all but decided.
Iowa would get back-to-back sacks after Iowa State moved to the Iowa 4-yard line. This is the first one, where Johnson blows up Scoggins. Johnson wins the one-on-one matchup with a bull rush where he pushes Scoggins back 5 yards before knocking Scoggins down with his right hand and wrapping up Iowa State quarterback Joel Lanning.
Johnson may have put together the best game of any Iowa defender. He made seven tackles, including two for loss, and one sack.