The Box Score: Inside Iowa Football Statistics


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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.

Iowa was last bowl eligible in 2011 — when Miley Cyrus was still normal, the Chiefs were in the basement of the AFC, and Harry Potter débuted for the last time ever. Things have certainly changed.

The only congruency between 2011 and 2013, with respect to the Iowa football team, is the 10-game record between the two teams: both sat at 6-4 (3-3 Big Ten). But they were two completely different squads that used two completely different paths to reach the elusive 6-win mark that guarantees a 13th game.

Total Defense — 319.2 yards per game (11th in NCAA, 4th in Big Ten)

The defense has been, by-and-large, the reason Iowa is in the position it’s in right now. The yards-per-game stat is one thing, but it’s important to note that the Hawkeyes are also surrendering 18.7 points per game, too, which is good for the 13th-best scoring defense in the country.

Iowa is ranked fourth in the conference in scoring defense, too, behind the same four teams it trails in total defense: Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State.

Back in 2011, the defense wasn’t nearly as stout as it is this season. That year was predominantly an offensive one, with James Vandenberg and Marvin McNutt making plays. This year’s offense — particularly the passing game — isn’t anywhere near as potent as the McNutt-Vandenberg combination was.

Receivers hit — Jake Rudock, 18

This is impressive, and it shows Rudock knows how to spread the ball around. But just one of those receivers has gained more than 300 receiving yards: Kevonte Martin-Manley, who has managed just 304.

So maybe spreading the ball isn’t the best thing for an offense to be dangerous. In 2011, Vandenberg’s main target was McNutt, who accounted for 65 catches for 1,089 yards and 10 touchdowns through the first 10 games.

You’d need to compile Iowa’s top four receivers from this year together to attain similar numbers that McNutt posted.

But while the passing game has lagged, the running game has been Iowa’s go-to on offense.

Rushing Offense — 193.9 yards per game (43rd in NCAA, 6th in Big Ten)

Those rankings don’t look pretty on the surface, but the average is much better than the rushing average Iowa had in 2011 — Marcus Coker (remember him?) was the leader in a rushing attack that managed 137.7 yards per game (that’s through all 13 games).

To further illustrate the reliance on the running game, note that Iowa has ran the ball 431 times this season compared with just 350 times in 2011 (through 10 games). And when you take into account that Iowa’s snapped the ball on offense 729 times this year compared with 650, it’s easy to see that the passing play totals are nearly equal (298 pass plays this year compared to 300, through 10 games, in 2011).

The number of rushing plays is staggering — just 11 other teams in the nation have run the ball more times — but, as one might guess, it leads to another stat that defines this Iowa team.

Average Time of Possession — 31:40 (34th in NCAA, 6th in Big Ten)

This is a team that, when playing the right opponent, can milk the clock for long, demanding drives. The 2011 squad, on the other hand, held the ball for an average of 28:33 at season’s end.

This stat means a number of things for that year’s team. But perhaps the biggest is that that defense couldn’t get off the field to give the offense more chances. They were younger, and, as Kirk Ferentz would most certainly say, inexperienced.

But that brings us full circle now, because this year’s defense is very talented and more experienced. The defense has been, by-and-large, the reason Iowa is in the position it’s in right now.

In today's issue:

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