Duzey shines in loss to Ohio State


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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jake Duzey had no idea he’d get the ball. Nobody knows for certain until the play unfolds, he said — that’s one of the joys of football, the idea that any receiver can get the ball on any given play. But on Oct. 19, during Iowa’s seventh and final play of the third quarter, Duzey streaked down the right side of the field with the ball veering toward him through the air.

The 6-4, 245-pound tight end was just behind two Buckeye defensive backs when the pigskin landed in his hands, allowing him to zip off 85 yards to the end zone for the first touchdown of his young career. Duzey led all Iowa receivers with a 6-catch, 138-yard performance in Iowa’s 34-24 loss to No. 4 Ohio State on Oct. 19.

Duzey, C.J. Fiedorowicz, and George Kittle all played an important role during Iowa’s dominant first half. The three tight ends combined for 11 catches for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns. The trio was on the field for majority of the first half, pushing the Buckeye defense as Iowa executed its most-efficient offensive half of the 2013 season.

“That’s a position we’ve felt good about going back to the spring,” Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz said. “[The three-tight-end set] was a package we implemented a little bit. Just thought it might help us a little bit.”

Ferentz also said part of the idea behind using three tight ends was being able to hang onto the ball. The vision held true during the first 30 minutes of play — Iowa crushed Ohio State in the time-of-possession battle at recess, keeping the Buckeye defense out on the field for just more than 18 minutes of play.

And as many would expect, the time-of-possession advantage translated to the scoreboard. Iowa held a 17-10 lead at the half, out-gaining the Buckeyes in total yards (222 to 189) and offensive plays (43 to 25).

“That’s not the type of defense we want to play,” Ohio State junior linebacker Ryan Shazier said. “That’s not the type of defense we’re known for. We’re known as a defense that shuts down the run” — Iowa tallied 101 rush yards on 21 carries in the first half — “and makes people adjust to what we’re doing.

“At half, some players and coaches just basically said, ‘We need to get it together.’ ”

And for the most part, Ohio State did just that, save for Duzey’s 85-yard pitch-and-catch from Jake Rudock. Iowa appeared to be a completely different team offensively in the second half, accounting for just 153 more yards on 18 second-half plays.

Duzey said the downtick in production came largely because Iowa abandoned that three-tight-end offense after halftime.

“We had to get away from it a little bit and be more up-tempo,” he said.

The plan didn’t work, as seen by the 24-7 scoring advantage Ohio State had in the final 30 minutes. Not using three tight ends made offensive production hard to come by for the Hawkeyes — especially in the running game; Iowa tallied just 30 yards on the ground in the seven minutes it had the ball in the second half.

Using three tight ends was a curve ball, of sorts, for many who have watched Iowa football all season. Two seasons ago, when Ferentz hired Greg Davis as his offensive coordinator, there was a notion that Iowa would soon run a spread, fast-paced offense. The Oct. 19 game was reminiscent of the Ken O’Keefe days, where tight ends played a huge role in the Iowa offense.

And watching it work on one of the nation’s stingiest defenses gave everybody on the offense reason for optimism — and maybe a hope that Iowa will come back to it in the future.

“It’s definitely a bit different,” Rudock said. “Usually when that happens, you’re on the goal line. It seemed to be pretty effective, and it was good to throw something different at them.”

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