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The Box Score: Inside Iowa football statistics

BY DANNY PAYNE | SEPTEMBER 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa football team found itself in hot water after the first two weeks of the season, playing games that were too close for comfort against Northern Iowa and Ball State. That style of play finally bit the Hawkeyes against Iowa State in a 20-17 loss.

There are a few areas of concern, particularly for the Hawkeye offense.

Total offense — 377 yards per game (92nd in Division I, 11th in Big Ten)

Much has been made of Iowa’s mediocre offense. The Hawkeyes have yet to field a running back that’s rushed for more than 50 net yards in a game, Jake Rudock doesn’t seem to use all the weapons effectively, among other issues.

But one of the best ways to look at how unproductive Iowa’s offense has been is the time of possession. The Hawkeyes have had the ball on offense for an average of 32:38 minutes per game, which ranks third in the Big Ten. That’s also good for 23rd in the nation.

What’s more, Iowa has run the most plays in the Big Ten with 229 from scrimmage.

Should Iowa wish to be even remotely competitive once it enters conference play, offensive coordinator Greg Davis and Company will have to find ways to be more efficient, first and foremost. There isn’t any excuse for having the ball that often and failing to capitalize.

Yards per punt return — 6.4 (78th in Division I, 10th in Big Ten)

Sure, this is a small sample size, because Iowa has only returned five punts this season, but Iowa’s punt-return game has been fairly nonexistent. Matt VandeBerg has taken all but one punt this year (Desmond King fielded one for a 1-yard loss against Northern Iowa).

Thing is, this isn’t anything new. Kevonte Martin-Manley’s two punt returns for touchdowns last season against Western Michigan were both outliers — they went for a combined 146 yards. Without those plays, Iowa averaged roughly 8.7 yards per punt return, while Martin-Manley averaged around 9.3.

The Hawkeyes average would have been right in the middle of the Big Ten at season’s end.

The 2013 Hawkeye squad’s performance is better from what VandeBerg has provided this year, yes, but it’s still pretty insignificant. Take away two long returns that inflated the stats against an awful team in Iowa’s largest win in the last two seasons, and there lies a team that’s lousy in a category that can potentially give a huge boost.

Red-zone touchdown percentage — 57.14 (86th in Division I, 12th in Big Ten)

This ranking is somewhat skewed because the season is only three weeks old. But the Hawkeyes don’t match up well against their conference opponents.

On 14 trips inside the 20-yard line, Iowa has scored eight touchdowns and made one field goal. The percentage is just barely better than last year’s finish, which scored 28 touchdowns on 54 tries (51.86-percent).

That squad scored six touchdowns on nine attempts through its first three games in 2013.

Given the monsters Iowa has on the offensive line and bulldozers in Mark Weisman and LeShun Daniels Jr., in the backfield, it’s something that shouldn’t be an issue. But it is, and the Hawkeyes will need to fix it moving forward.

Follow @dannyapayne on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa football team.


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