Hawkeye offense seizes scoring opportunities


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LINCOLN, Neb. — The offensive stats from Iowa’s 38-17 win over Nebraska don’t tell the whole story. But that’s only if you take them from the surface level.

The stats, on the whole, were well below Iowa’s season averages. The Hawkeyes garnered 151 rushing yards but averaged 191.5 before the game. Iowa also passed for a meager 126 yards — the passing game averaged 207 aerial yards per contest prior to the Heroes Game.

And there are a myriad of reasons Iowa put up 38 points — 12 points higher than its season average, by the way — ranging anywhere from defense to penalties to, yes, opportunistic offense.

“Going into this game, we heard a lot of noise about how this wasn’t a rivalry,” tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz said. “I think we came in and really proved our selves.”

Early on Black Friday, before Iowa’s offense hummed, it looked as if the Hawkeyes were going to rely on their defense to keep them in another game.

Iowa took the opening kickoff into Nebraska territory on an 8-play, 34-yard drive that ended in a punt. On the ensuing possession, Anthony Hitchens then picked off ’Husker quarterback Ron Kellogg III to give Iowa the ball around midfield — but that drive ended on downs just outside the red zone.

But with Iowa’s third possession, Jake Rudock made for certain that his team got into the end zone. On the drive’s seventh play, a third-and-goal from the Nebraska 10, Rudock stepped up and zipped a pass to C.J. Fiedorowicz. Touchdown, Hawkeyes — and they wouldn’t really look back.

The rest of Iowa’s touchdowns came on efficient drives of no more than five plays, making the aforementioned seven-play touchdown drive the longest one of the day for the Black and Gold. Before halftime, Iowa converted a three-play, 41-yard drive into a touchdown for a 14-3 advantage at recess.

And the three touchdowns that came in the second half took a combined eight plays that spanned 90 yards.

The efficiency of the offense sparked lots of excitement from the Iowa contingent that was cornered off in Memorial Stadium. It was a drastic improvement from a unit that has struggled to find its footing at times throughout the season.

But even Rudock knows that his offense reaped the benefits of the defense’s play.

“That’s huge,” he said. “They had a couple of turnovers. They did a good job on that fake punt. That just makes a short field for us and makes it a lot easier.”

A short field is an understatement, as Iowa’s average starting field position throughout the game was its own 43. Further, each Hawkeye touchdown stemmed from a drive that started in Nebraska territory — two came followed a Husker turnover, while another two followed a turnover on downs.

Iowa’s longest drive of the day came immediately after halftime, when the offense drove 70 yards on eight plays for the field goal that answered Nebraska’s first touchdown.

The efficiency can even be tracked through the time of possession, where, on the Hawkeyes’ touchdown drives, they only held the ball for an average of a minute and 33 seconds.

The stats are telling and will surely not be taken too seriously simply because they surfaced during a single game. But on a day when everything seemed to go Iowa’s way, the head coach will take that.

“Just really pleased,” Kirk Ferentz said. “Our focus — as it has been since the end of last November was just to try to improve, working hard and maximizing our opportunities. That is kind of the formula we have tried to use.”

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