The Box Score: Inside Hawkeye Football Statistics
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 (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) picked up a much-needed win this past weekend, solidifying the odds of Kirk Ferentz’s squad earning a trip back to the postseason. It’s no secret the 2013 Hawkeye squad can compete against some of the country’s best units, as shown in its Oct. 19 effort against Ohio State.
Iowa still has its fair share of issues, however. The offense is still comically inefficient at times, which proves this is nothing more than an average team.
Yards per play — 5.44 (84th in NCAA, 7th in Big Ten)
Quantifying offensive production with just one number is a near impossibility. Points per game can be a misleading stat, because field position and non-offensive touchdowns can blur what the observer sees. Looking at yards per play, though, will give fans and spectators a much better idea of the relative strength of an offense or defense.
As its yards-per-play rate shows, the Iowa offense is still struggling to develop consistent success moving the ball. Workhorse running back Mark Weisman will never put up astronomical numbers in terms of yards per carry. And first-year starting quarterback Jake Rudock hasn’t completed a high percentage of intermediate length passes, which explains the Black and Gold’s current standing in this statistic.
Rushing Defense — 2 touchdowns allowed (1st in NCAA, 1st in Big Ten)
This Saturday’s game against Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) will feature a matchup between possibly the most stout rushing defense in the nation and one of the country’s top rushing attacks.
The Badgers have rushed for nearly 300 yards per game thus far. Sophomore running back Melvin Gordon has put up what could be mistaken as video-game numbers, averaging 9.5 yards per rush on his way to 11 touchdowns.
But Gordon isn’t the only weapon used in the Badgers’ rushing attack — James White and Corey Clement give Wisconsin three players who average more than 6 yards per carry. Iowa does not have a player who averages 5 yards per carry.
The Hawkeyes’ rush defense has been extremely successful in the red zone and is now the only team in the country that has allowed fewer than 3 touchdowns on the ground.
Physical battles in the trenches will be particularly significant on Saturday. Iowa’s defensive line will have to outplay Wisconsin’s powerful offensive line if the Black and Gold are to pull off the upset.
Total Offense — 397.6 yards per game (75th in NCAA, 9th in Big Ten)
While offensive coordinator Greg Davis would surely like to see this number go up, this isn’t a terrible average considering the Iowa offense averaged just 310 yards per game last year.
If we look a bit closer, though, the Iowa offense still has room to make serious improvements. Against BCS automatic qualifying conferences — teams that play in the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC, Pac-12, and American Athletic Conference — Iowa’s offensive production has sputtered.
Against such teams, the Hawkeyes have averaged just 21 points and 357 yards per game. Big offensive days against Missouri State, Northern Illinois, and Western Michigan have skewed the true effectiveness of the Iowa offense.
Though this team may secure a few more wins this season and appear in a respectable bowl, the offensive philosophy and execution will have to improve in future seasons.
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