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Football report card: Hmmm

BY CODY GOODWIN | OCTOBER 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa football team was idle this past weekend, the first of two bye weeks the team has this season. At 4-1 (1-0 in conference), the Hawkeyes are in a good position through the season’s first six weeks, despite not playing their best football.

And that should be somewhat encouraging for fans everywhere. Iowa’s just two wins from bowl eligibility — which means, in theory, the Hawkeyes could reach six wins before November.

But the team’s first five games are in the books, which means it’s time for us to dish out some grades on Iowa’s first half of the season.

(We realize we’re not quite halfway through the season, but the placement of this year’s bye weeks makes today as good as any to grade the team.)

Without further ado …

Offense: C-

This is a pretty generous grade. At times, Iowa’s offense has been incredibly difficult to watch. Part of that is on the play calling. But an even bigger reason has been the lack of execution.

Iowa currently ranks 94th out of 128 in total offense, averaging slightly more than 372 yards per game. The passing game hasn’t been mediocre, at just 232.2 yards per game, but it hasn’t been great, either.

The running game, on the other hand, has been well below what’s expected, at just 140.2 yards per game. That’s good for 91st in the nation.

“We feel like we were really slow getting the running game started. I don’t have a great answer as to why that was,” Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis said last week. “… We’re not scoring enough points.”

The offense has showed signs that it can be electric and dangerous, but it hasn’t shown that consistently. The talent is certainly there to be one of the better offenses in the Big Ten. It’s just a matter of executing better.

Defense: B+

A well-earned B+, at that. If the first five games are any indication of what the rest of the season will hold, it’s that the defense will carry this season’s team.

Iowa’s defense ranks among the nation’s top 20 in scoring defense (No. 16), rushing defense (No. 7), and total defense (No. 15). The pass defense isn’t bad, either; it ranks No. 41 in the country.

Another interesting stat: The Hawkeyes have allowed just 50 plays of 10-plus yards this season.

While that might seem like a lot — right at 10 such plays per game — it actually ranks No. 9 in the country in such plays.

Even more, four of the teams ranked ahead of Iowa in that category have played one fewer game.

“I think we’ve got the pieces of our defense and the guys in the right spot right now,” defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. “We’re really working good as a team.”

Special Teams: D

The punting game is as bad as ever. Dillon Kidd has kicked all 23 of Iowa’s punts this year, and he averages 38.1 yards per punt. That ranks in the basement of the Big Ten and outside to top 100 in the country.

Marshall Koehn seems to have figured it out in the field-goal game. While he’s just 5-of-8 with a long of 52 yards, he’s connected on his last three after starting 2-of-5. Koehn’s also owns the nation’s best touchback percentage on kickoffs at 79.2 percent.

But the kickoff-return game could be better. Iowa’s return men average 23 yards per return, which is good for 36th in the nation. The punt-return game has basically been nonexistent — just 6.67 yards per return, good for 84th.

Early season MVP: Mark Weisman

The hammer hasn’t been as potent in Iowa’s running game so far this season, but he’s done the job extremely well. He averages just 3.3 yards per carry but leads all Hawkeye running backs with 260 net yards rushing and 6 touchdowns — the latter is good for 25th in the country.

Needs Improvement: Total offense

Head coach Kirk Ferentz will say — and, in a few different ways, has said — that it all comes down to execution. Luckily for Iowa, the season is still young, and the opportunities are still there for the taking. There is still time to correct the miscues.

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


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