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Iowa Football's Midseason Report Card

BY CODY GOODWIN | OCTOBER 10, 2013 5:00 AM

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Kirk Ferentz’s crew is six games through a 12-game — maybe 13 — season. The Hawkeyes’ 4-2 record (1-1 Big Ten) seems to be right where everybody thought it might be. That being said, Iowa is also this close to being 5-1 (cc: Northern Illinois game), which would’ve put it one win away from bowl eligibility.

But reaching the halfway mark means it’s time for us to dish out some midseason grades. We’ll grade the offense, defense, and special teams, as well as naming a midseason MVP and a player/position/unit that needs to improve is Iowa is to go bowling this winter.

Without further ado …

Offense: B-

The Hawkeye offense is in much better shape through six games this season than it was through six games a year ago. Quarterback Jake Rudock has thrown 8 touchdown passes this season, which is one more than James Vandenberg’s total from all of last season.

Iowa also has a consistent, mostly established running game. Mark Weisman averages a little more than 100 yards per contest, and backup Damon Bullock has shown to be serviceable as well.

That running game has given this year’s Iowa offense a different, more confident feel. Without the Michigan State game, Iowa seemed like it could run the ball on nearly everybody with ease. That stable running attack led to a solid play-action passing game. It was a tough one-two punch to counter.

But the Michigan State game proved that the Hawkeyes need to continue making strides and mix up some of the play-calling if they want to contend with some of the Big Ten’s better teams. The tools are there. It’s a matter of using them consistently and correctly.

Defense: C-

Big plays will kill any momentum the defense builds. And, of course, Iowa has given up plenty of those — specifically on scoring plays.

The Hawkeye defense has given up 10 touchdowns so far this season, and all of them have come through the air. Further, nine of those scores have come on plays of 20 yards or longer — the outlier being a 17-yard touchdown pass against Iowa State.

The good news here is that Iowa’s rush defense, which ranks third in the Big Ten, has yet to allow a touchdown. But those big passing plays appear to be the Achilles heel of the team. Against Northern Illinois alone, Iowa gave up scoring plays of 40, 21, and 33 yards through the air.

The front seven has been stout all season, but if the Hawkeyes had somehow shut down these big passing plays to the end zone, they very well could be looking at (maybe) 6-0.

Special Teams: D-

This should be an F. Point blank. Allowing two teams this season to convert on fake punt attempts shouldn’t ever be allowed. Ferentz was very candid about this on Tuesday, saying that he “may be leaning towards where you never see us try to return one again.”

But it’s hard to fail a unit that’s scored twice this season. Shout out to Kevonte Martin-Manley and the rugby punt for keeping the special teams out of the basement.

Even then, punt and kickoff returns have never been Iowa’s specialty. Without Martin-Manley’s 184 yards on four punt returns, Iowa has collected just 56 yards on punt returns this season. Not bad, but certainly not good.

Midseason MVP: Mark Weisman

This is easy. Iowa looks like a different team when Weisman is pounding through defenses. The offense as a whole looks more confident when he does, which reverberates through the entire team. Look at the Minnesota game, for example: Weisman romped while the defense shut down the Gophers.

Improvement Needed From: Pass Rush

The Iowa defensive line — and front seven as a whole — haven’t had too much of an issue getting to the quarterback this season. What’s needed, though, is the ability to finish. Iowa is averaging just one sack per contest, good for 11th in the Big Ten. More pressure — and more sacks — will likely help bring down the number of big-play touchdown passes Iowa surrenders. (Or at least that’s the theory).


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