Iowa has reached the bye after eight games this season. After starting 2-0 and soaring to No. 11 in the Coaches Poll, the Hawkeyes sit 5-3 overall — 3-2 in Big Ten play — and have fallen out of the national spotlight. Iowa travels to Penn State on Nov. 5. It’s a good time to review and grade the Hawkeyes’ season to date.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The expectations were high for the offense.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard returned. So did wide receiver Matt VandeBerg and most of the offensive line.
Injuries were a problem throughout the first eight games. The consistency, especially in the passing game, hasn’t been there, especially after VandeBerg went down with a broken foot on Sept. 26. The Hawkeyes were held to 14 points or less in three of their last five games.
Here is a look at Iowa’s offense entering this past weekend’s games:
|Stat||Number||Big Ten Rank||National Rank|
|Points per game||28.1||7th||73rd|
|Passing yards per game||180.3||10th||106th|
|Rushing yards per game||167.9||9th||74th|
|Yards per play||5.5||9th||76|
|Turnovers||5||tied 1st||tied 2nd|
|Third down percentage||37.1||9th||89th|
Quarterback grade: B-
Beathard looked good early. He threw for 427 yards and 4 touchdowns in the first two games, but the loss of VandeBerg impacted him more than any other player. He’s topped 200 yards once in the four games without him.
Beathard has completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 1,380 yards, 11 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Those numbers aren’t overwhelming, but it’s partially due to the Hawkeyes relying on a short passing game and receivers struggling to get open.
The injuries on the offensive line did cause Beathard to face more pressure early in the season than expected. There were times he could have handled the pressure better in the pocket.
The offense is struggling. It’s a natural instinct for folks to look at the quarterback. Beathard wasn’t perfect in the first eight games, but he’s not the main source of the problem.
Running backs grade: A-
LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley are playing as well as any position group on the team. Wadley leads Iowa with 636 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns. Daniels has churned out 624 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns.
It helps that each ball carrier is capable of running between the tackles or on the perimeter and shows the ability to break free for big runs.
The running game was inconsistent in the first five weeks, but Iowa started to form an identity around the ground game following this 54-yard game-winning touchdown by Wadley against Minnesota.
Wide receivers/tight ends grade: D
The struggle is real for the Iowa passing attack without VandeBerg. He’s still second on the team in receptions (19), receiving yards (284) and is tied for the lead in touchdowns (3).
There just isn’t a downfield playmaker without him. Wide receiver Riley McCarron is doing a good job on short routes and leads the team with 336 receiving yards, but more is needed from the other receivers.
A foot injury limiting tight end George Kittle the last two games didn’t help matters. His return will be a plus, but opponents will likely game plan to stop him until a downfield passing threat emerges.
Offensive line grade: B
Pro Football Focus rates Iowa as the top offensive line in the country. It’s an eyebrow raiser, but the folks there review tape and know what they’re talking about.
The play was choppy at times, especially in losses to North Dakota State and Northwestern. The run and pass game suffered as offensive tackles Cole Croston, Boone Myers, center James Daniels and offensive guard Sean Welsh each missed time. There is no doubt injuries impacted the play up front.
It appears the line will be healthy following the bye week. The unit started playing better in the last few weeks. It could be primed for a strong finish to the season.
Overall grade: C
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