No-huddle offense sparks Iowa to victory
Last week, James Vandenberg insisted that Iowa wouldn't start games with a no-huddle offense. Or a shotgun formation. Or a five-receiver set.
Well, so much for that.
Iowa had five receivers across the field when Vandenberg called for a hurry-up on the second play of the game on Sept. 24, and the Kinnick Stadium crowd roared with applause.
The Hawkeyes opened their first possession with seven no-huddle plays, and the up-tempo style led to an eventual Vandenberg 1-yard touchdown run.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz was sarcastic before turning serious when asked about the no-huddle after Iowa's 45-17 win over Louisiana-Monroe.
"[We're] just trying to please the fans and the media," Ferentz said. "That's a simple, simple answer there.
"I think James is certainly comfortable in that position. It's something we'll fool around with, and as we go along, that's something we can kind of integrate into our thinking."
The coaching staff's decision to open up the offense proved to be worthwhile, especially in the first half.
The Hawkeyes mounted a 28-3 lead heading into the break.
"We didn't do it much in practice," Vandenberg said of the early, up-tempo pace. "I think we did it to spark us; it was something we built off of from last week [when Iowa used the style late to mount a fourth-quarter comeback against Pittsburgh]. It's a really easy way to get everyone involved quick and get everyone in a rhythm. I think it was nice to start off that way."
Vandenberg found wide receiver Marvin McNutt down the sideline for a touchdown late in the first quarter and again late in the second. McNutt is now one score shy of tying the record for touchdown catches in Iowa history.
The senior receiver said he didn't do anything differently on Sept. 24 than in any other game to gain position on opposing defenders.
"I just try to put myself in the best position for [Vandenberg] to throw the ball," he said. "As a receiver, you always feel like that when you get a one-on-one matchup, you should be able to beat anyone."
While the no-huddle and shotgun formation wasn't used exclusively during the game, it was apparent that McNutt and the Hawkeyes' other top receivers — junior Keenan Davis and redshirt freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley — benefited from those sets.
Martin-Manley hauled in six passes for 82 yards, and as a unit, the trio recorded a combined 15 receptions for more than 200 yards.
Offensive lineman Adam Gettis said that while he was content with the pro-style offense, the no-huddle was clearly beneficial against Monroe.
"I think it was good to set the tone. We wanted to put points on the board quick, and that no-huddle was a great idea by Coach [Ken] O'Keefe," Gettis said. "That was the best thing for us at the time. Whatever works, works."
Ferentz said he was unsure whether the Hawkeyes would continue to use their no-huddle offense.
"I think it starts with the quarterback," Ferentz said. "James, since he's been here, has always seemed pretty comfortable in [an open offensive set] … it's a compliment to all of our guys at least.
"The past two weeks, we've done a fairly decent job of being efficient in that mode of operation."
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