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The Box Score: Inside Iowa football stats, Week 4

BY TORK MASON | SEPTEMBER 25, 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.

The Hawkeyes seem to be like an old car: There’s always something wrong, and if it’s not the engine, it’s the brakes.

James Vandenberg and the Iowa offense had struggled for the first three games this season. No passing touchdowns and numerous red-zone failures put the pressure on the defense. And the defense held its own until last week, when Central Michigan stole a 32-31 victory over the Hawkeyes in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

Here are a few stats that reflect where Kirk Ferentz’s squad stands as it moves into the Big Ten season.

Tackles for loss: 26

The defensive line has exceeded preseason expectations so far this year. The defense, as a whole, has the second-most tackles for loss in the Big Ten, and defensive end Joe Gaglione leads the Big Ten with 6.5.

But it’s not just the defensive line having all the fun. The back seven has combined for 12.5 tackles for loss through four games. That’s a sign of more aggressive play than in years past. The back seven combined for 22.5 tackles for loss in 13 games in 2011.

The Black and Gold has been a very familiar sight in opposing backfields, and that has kept Iowa in every game so far this season.

Sacks: 5

Iowa’s success at stopping the run in the backfield hasn’t translated well to putting pressure on the quarterback. The Hawkeyes’ 5 sacks ranks 10th in the Big Ten, 94th nationally. And of those, Gaglione has 3.

The lack of pressure was never more glaring than against the Chippewas. Quarterback Ryan Radcliffe was able to sit back in the pocket and pick apart the Iowa secondary to the tune of 283 yards and 2 touchdowns on 26-for-35 passing.

The Hawkeyes will be in trouble if a second reliable pass rusher doesn’t emerge soon. Teams will start to double-team Gaglione as he enters the conference season, and if he’s neutralized, defensive coordinator Phil Parker will be forced to blitz to generate pressure.

Sacks allowed: 6

James Ferentz talked last week about finding consistency, and he and the rest of the offensive line seem to have discovered it. The line allowed 6 sacks against Northern Illinois on Sept. 1, but it hasn’t allowed one since.

That protection has been kind to Vandenberg. The senior has thrown for 679 yards over his last three games and picked up his first passing touchdown against Central Michigan. If his play is any indication, the protection is allowing him to get more comfortable in Greg Davis’ offense.

Mark Weisman has been a boost for the offense, but Vandenberg is going to have to keep getting better for the Hawkeyes to compete in the conference.

Rushing yards per game: 155.75

Iowa fans have grown accustomed to seeing a lot of different running backs over the years, but few have risen as quickly as Weisman. He’s averaging 84.5 yards per game on the year, but that includes two games in whocjh he only played fullback and had 8 rushing yards. The sophomore has since burst on the scene at tailback and is averaging 165 yards per game in his two games as a primary ball carrier.

Sophomore Damon Bullock is sixth in the Big Ten averaging 93.33 yards per game, and Weisman ranks ninth. The two have yet to be utilized as a thunder-and-lightning combination, but it could be a potent mix if that happens. The hypothetical duo should open up the play-action passing game that Vandenberg excels at.


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