The Box Score: Inside Iowa football stats, Week 3

BY BEN ROSS | SEPTEMBER 18, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Box Score is a weekly segment in which a Daily Iowan football reporter uses statistics to contextualize Iowa football’s performance over the course of the season.

This appears to be a season of question marks for Iowa football. On Sept. 15, the Hawkeyes saw two out of three able running backs listed on the roster go down with injury, and Iowa’s offense remains near the bottom of the Big Ten in many statistical categories.

But the Iowa defense has continued to outplay expectations, forcing key turnovers and ranking in the upper echelons of the nation.

Here are some stats that help show where Iowa sits as it enters Week 4 of the regular season:

Quarterback rating: 101.8

Starting quarterback James Vandenberg is still looking for his first touchdown of the season, and his passer rating is the seventh worst in college football. The Keokuk native is also averaging 5 yards per pass attempt, so it’s clear that Iowa is missing the downfield threats at receiver it has had in seasons past.

But through three games, he has thrown just two interceptions and has completed close to 60 percent of his passes.

Anthony Hitchens tackles per game: 12.33

The junior is leading the Big Ten with 37 tackles, a mark good enough to place him in the top 10 nationally. That’s pretty good for a player who received little hype going into the season. Hitchens’ surprising performance has been one of the reasons for the Iowa defense’s play.

Rushing yards per game: 136

Iowa’s passing attack has received plenty of blame this season, but its running game ranks just 88th in the country. If it weren’t for Mark Weisman’s breakout game, Iowa would have been even closer to the bottom. The Hawkeyes are still averaging less than 3 1/2 yards per rush — a drop from a team that averaged just below 5 yards per carry with Marcus Coker a year ago.

Field Goals made: 8

Kicker Mike Meyer is tied atop the nation with two other players in field goals converted. He has gone 8-of-9 on his attempts thus far this season, so he has been extremely reliable. But it also speaks to Iowa’s red-zone struggles that he has seen so much action already.

Yards allowed per game: 294

The Iowa defense is 22nd in the nation, and it has kept the team in all three of its games. And it isn’t only yards that the Hawkeyes are preventing: Iowa has let opposing offenses reach the end zone just four times, and the Hawkeyes rank 18th nationally with just 14 points allowed per game.

Time of possession NCAA rank: 13th

Iowa hasn’t always been able to reliably move the ball, but the Hawkeyes have managed to chew up the clock through three games — a staple of Kirk Ferentz’ offenses. In total, Iowa has held onto the ball for 100 minutes and 52 seconds, or about 56 percent of its season so far. This underrated stat could be a saving grace for the Hawkeye season in the thick of the Big Ten schedule.

In today's issue:

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