Archive for September, 2012
Saturday, September 29th, 2012
The Iowa football team is a little like Baskin-Robbins.
The Hawkeyes seemingly have a different flavor of play for every day of the month.
The Hawkeyes have scored 31 points in each of their last two football games, but the games left fans with decidedly different feelings.
A week ago, a mistake- and penalty-filled performance left folks fuming following a last-minute collapse against a Central Michigan team which lost by 31 points today to Northern Illinois.
Saturday, the only catcalls were directed in the direction of an official who slipped up while on the microphone, announcing to the crowd that "Illin...owa'' had called a late-game timeout.
The Hawkeyes came to play. Defense wasn't an issue. The offense had its moments and showed a creative touch when it mattered most.
It was a growth spurt for a young football team, a day when areas of concentration in practice translated into performance on the game field.
"We know we've got a lot of young players, a lot of inexperienced guys. The whole thing is to move forward and grow,'' Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We did some things last week, believe it or not, that were better than we had done them but when you lose, it typically doesn't show up. Today at least we took a step forward, which is what you have to do every week.''
The Hawkeyes will hear those words when they show up for practice Sunday.
Ferentz said broke the first five weeks of the season into a singular unit for his team, telling them that every week was going to be important.
"What I haven't explained to them yet, but I will (Sunday), the rest of these weeks are going to be really important, too,'' Ferentz said. "This five-week block, though, was really critical.''
Ferentz saw good and bad from his Hawkeyes in their 18-point win over Minnesota.
He called Iowa's first half its best 30 minutes of football this season.
"Second half, it wasn't terrible, but that first 30 minutes is what we're looking for,'' he said.
That search, in reality, will likely continue.
That is a byproduct of playing young players. The inconsistencies that that allowed Iowa to pile up 328 yards of offense in the first half and add just 46 more over the final two quarters will likely be part of this team's DNA as it continues to grow.
The good news for Ferentz is that he now can present his team with a crystal-clear example of what can happen.
The bar has now been set higher for the Hawkeyes for the rest of the season.
Reaching that level of success and sustaining it becomes the next challenge a young football team will attempt to achieve.
Friday, September 28th, 2012
Four things that will help Iowa win its Big Ten opener on Friday against Minnesota:
1. Establish the run. Working in synch with the offensive line, Mark Weisman has thrived by pounding the inside zone the past two games. The blocking of center James Ferentz and guards Austin Blythe and Matt Tobin has provided Weisman with more than ample running room and allowed the Hawkeyes to gain rushing yardage which is forcing opponents to put eight men in the box.
2. Keep chucking the ball. Iowa's passing game continues to evolve and the more opponents commit to defending the run, the more Iowa receivers should find themselves with one-on-one opportunities. The Hawkeyes connected on three passing plays of 20-plus yards last week against Central Michigan, needed growth through game experience from a segment which has been inconsistent.
3. Clean up their act. Iowa can help itself by returning to the disciplined style of football the Hawkeyes have been known for in recent years. Iowa was whistled for nine penalties last week, including four personal foul and two pass interference calls which extended Central Michigan drives.
4. Make life difficult for Minnesota QB Max Shortell. The more pressure Iowa's defense can put on the sophomore, the better. Iowa's defense has recorded five sacks and intercepted three passes through four games.
Four things Minnesota can do to retain ownership of Floyd of Rosedale trophy it earned the past two years:
1. Keep the heat on Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg. The Golden Gophers have sacked opposing quarterbacks 11 times this season and have passed last year's season total of four interceptions with seven picks this season. The Gophers have shown the ability to work fast and create havoc, something they must continue.
2. Hold their ground. Ra'Shede Hageman, a 6-foot-6, 301-pound nose guard, anchors a defensive line which has been stout against the run. They'll face their biggest challenge of the season Saturday in attempting to limit the Hawkeyes' Mark Weisman, who has gained 338 yards on 53 carries this season for Iowa for an average of 6.4 yards per rush.
3. Play to its strengths. Max Shortell is not as much of a threat to run as the injured quarterback he is replacing, MarQueis Gray. A strong-armed sophomore, Shortell threw for a career-high 231 yards against Syracuse last weekend. A.J. Barker has been his favorite target. Barker, who had one catch a year ago, has 14 catches for 283 yards this season.
4. Exploit an edge on special teams. Minnesota's kick returner, Troy Stoudermire, enters Saturday's game 328 yards shy of an NCAA career record for kick return yardage. Iowa will need to be aware of his presence as a potential field-position difference maker.
Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
One of the few questions the Iowa football team has answered during its 2-2 start to the season is at an unexpected position - running back.
Injuries to Damon Bullock and Greg Garmon provided Mark Weisman with an opportunity he seized.
And with the return of Jordan Canzeri to the field this fall looking more likely by the day, it is possible that in a couple of weeks coach Kirk Ferentz may find himself with unanticipated depth at the running back position.
"It will be a nice problem to have,'' Ferentz said.
Weisman has topped 300 yards and scored six touchdowns over the past two games - something no Iowa back has accomplished since Tavian Banks in 1997 - and Ferentz said that chance probably would not have happened without the lack of depth Iowa had at the position.
"Randomly, two weeks ago, we decided to work him a little bit in the backfield, back carrying the football, again, having no idea what was going to happen,'' Ferentz said. "That's just kind of luck there, I guess, good timing, whatever you want to call it. The most important thing is that Mark's taken this opportunity and done something with it.''
Ferentz welcomes the chance to blend the physical running style of Weisman with the slashing style of Bullock and Canzeri.
He's not alone.
"It would be great to be able to mix and match backs with different styles depending on the situation,'' quarterback James Vandenberg said. "That would be great.''
If Canzeri returns and when Bullock joins Garmon and Weisman in the backfield, it is likely that true freshman Michael Malloy will redshirt this season.
"If we can keep him out, we will probably,'' Ferentz said today. "We haven't made that decision, but we'll probably think more about that next week.''
Given the sudden depth Iowa has, a welcomed byproduct of injury situations, it probably would be the prudent thing to do.
Saturday, September 22nd, 2012
Iowa tasted reality this afternoon at Kinnick Stadium.
The Hawkeyes nearly overcame a mistake-filled start, before Central Michigan taught Iowa what it is like to play a 60-minute game.
The Chippewas, strong early, on the ropes late, played like a team which returned 18 starters when it mattered most, ignoring an eight-point deficit on the scoreboard with less than a minute left to escape Kinnick Stadium with a 32-31 victory.
Ryan Radcliff looked like the savvy senior quarterback he is as his team chewed up 92 yards of real estate over the final 2:18 to frustrate the Hawkeyes.
When it was over, coach Kirk Ferentz said his team probably got what it deserved.
Uncharacteristic of Iowa, the Hawkeyes were flagged for three personal fouls and a couple of pass interference as part of a 9-penalty, 106-yard day.
Iowa fans chose to jeer the officials throwing the flags, with some hurling profanity in their direction as they left the field, but the harsh reality was as Ferentz stated.
Iowa got what it deserved with the lack of discipline it displayed at times during the loss.
"There is a point in any game where you have to keep your poise and let the referees officiate,'' Ferentz said. "I think every player has to realize if they get involved in a two-way, they run the risk of getting caught. Sometimes both guys get caught and other times, just one. We just have to be a smarter team.''
The Hawkeyes begin working on that Sunday, reviewing tape and correcting mistakes before moving on to next weekend's Big Ten opener against Minnesota.
Saturday's loss leaves Iowa 2-2 in the league, joining Michigan, Illinois and Penn State with that record as league play begins.
The Hawkeyes' loss was the third this season by a Big Ten team to an opponent from the Mid-American Conference. The Hawkeyes join the Nittany Lions and Indiana in that club.
As much as anything, Iowa walks away from today's game with a clearer picture of how much work remains to be done by the youngest Hawkeye team Ferentz has coached.
The attention to detail lacks the consistency it takes to be successful on a regular basis and if Iowa has hopes of making any sort of noise in the Legends Division race, that has to change.
"We have got a lot of work to do right now, a lot of things to improve on and we are going to have to do it fast,'' Ferentz said.
Friday, September 21st, 2012
Four things the Iowa football team can do to put itself in a position to defeat Central Michigan on Saturday:
1. Establish the run. Another week, another twist to the long-running saga the Hawkeyes face at running back. Mark Weisman is expected to get his first start on Saturday, Mike Malloy and Jordan Canzeri could see their first playing time and while Damon Bullock is doubtful, Greg Garmon is questionable. As was the case last week when Bullock gained more than 60 of his 77 yards in the first quarter, everything starts up front with the play of Iowa's offensive line.
2. Defend the run. The running game has been the Chippewas' strength this season and the play of Iowa's front seven on defense will be important in keeping Central Michiagn's offense in check.
3. Air force. James Vandenberg threw for over 200 yards for the first time this season last weekend vs. UNI. While he works to complete his first touchdown pass of the season, Vandenberg's main focus is continued consistency. He hit 64.3 percent of his passes last week, connecting on 18-of-28 throws. Vandenberg completed 58.7 percent of his passes a year ago.
4. Make the most of an edge on special teams. The consistency of Mike Meyer at placekicker and the struggles of Central Michigan in the punting game can give Iowa an edge here. CMU's Richie Hogan averages 33.8 yards per punt through two games. Iowa's Connor Korbrath has averaged just under 38 yards per try, but the freshman must avoid clunkers like the 11 yarder had had a week ago for Iowa to exploit this edge.
On to the flip side, four things Central Michigan can do to pull off the upset Saturday at Kinnick Stadium:
1. Defend aggressively. James Vandenberg has not been sacked since the opening week of the season, but the Hawkeyes will face the most aggressive defense they have seen in the young season. The Chippewas have shown the blitz, but with three sophomores starting the secondary, mistakes there could be costly.
2. Have a big day from big backs. Central Michigan's Zurlon Tipton averages 121 yards per game rushing and he brings a Big Ten-type body to the tailback position for the Chippewas, packing 219 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame while averaging 8.6 yards per carry. The team's second-leading rusher, Anthony Garland, is 6-1, 218, and averages 5.7 yards per carry.
3. Improved quarterback play. Ryan Radcliff struggled in the Chippewas' 41-7 loss to Michigan State, completing 17-of-38 passes while finishing 100 yards below his season average from 2011 of 273.8 yards per game. Radcliff has topped 300 yards 10 times during his starting career at CMU. He'll need a bounceback game. The Chippewas scored their lone points against the Spartans on an interception return.
4. Start strong. Although Central Michigan rallied from a 24-10 deficit to defeat SE Missouri State 38-27 in its opener, the Chippewas cannot afford to fall too far behind if they hope to have a chance late against an Iowa defense which has given up one touchdown and one field goal over the final 30 minutes of its first three games of the season. Iowa opponents have been limited to a 5-of-23 third-down conversation rate in the second half so far this year.
Tuesday, September 18th, 2012
Mark Weisman is preparing for the first start of his college football career on Saturday, but that is about the only thing that has changed for the Iowa sophomore who rushed for 113 yards and scored three touchdowns last weekend for a Hawkeye offense in need of a lift.
"I'm the same guy,'' Weisman said today.
Nobody is stopping on the streets of Iowa City.
"Maybe it's because I walk around a lot with headphones on,'' he said, flashing a smile.
Mostly, Weisman just appreciated the opportunity to get on the field and play football.
"It felt good to be out there. I was a little sore Sunday, but it was a good kind of sore,'' Weisman said.
Weisman doesn't know how his role will play out this week, but as was the case last Saturday against Northern Iowa he will be prepared for whatever comes his way.
"That's the thing about this team. Whatever we're asked to do, that's what we do. I'll be ready, but that's what I've always tried to be,'' he said.
"It's what we're all about here.''
Saturday, September 15th, 2012
Kirk Ferentz likes to say that Iowa football is seemingly at its best when a few good stories emerge.
Throughout his 14 seasons as the Hawkeyes' head coach, that has frequently been the case.
From walk-ons who turn into NFL draft picks, to players like Tyler Luebke and Sam Brownlee who became the next man in when injuries mounted, those are stories which have helped sculpt the program that Iowa is.
Mark Weisman became one of those stories today.
The walk-on fullback had taken a few snaps at running back in practice this week but by the end of the second quarter of the Hawkeyes' 27-16 win over Northern Iowa, he was Iowa's go-to guy at tailback.
Injuries to Damon Bullock and Greg Garmon and an illness that kept Mike Malloy off the practice field all week made Weisman the next man in.
He picked up the script and ran with, creating his own place in Hawkeye lore by scoring three touchdowns, rushing for 113 yards on 24 carries and catching three passes for 33 yards in the win over UNI.
He runs like the proverbial bull in the china shop, plowing over what ever gets in the way of his north-south approach to the game.
And so did Weisman, who was ready when called up through his work in practice.
Ferentz said following today's game that Weisman probably had made as much progress in fall camp as any player on the team, something which positioned him to move into the lineup when starting fullback Brad Rogers found himself dealing with a few preseason bumps and bruises.
Weisman then took the ball and ran with it, laughing off the suggestion that his style resembled that of Shonn Greene.
Instead, Weisman is content being Weisman.
He walked on to the Iowa program after leaving the Air Force Academy, praising the institution but saying it wasn't the best fit for him.
Ferentz said he isn't quite sure how Weisman ended up in Iowa City, saying he thought one of Weisman's high school coaches was friends with Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle and running backs coach Lester Erb.
"I'm just glad he's here,'' Ferentz said. "I was really glad after seeing him in the spring, and then watching him go today.''
He's become another one of those Iowa stories, the type of story the Hawkeyes will take as many of as they can get.
Friday, September 14th, 2012
Four things Iowa must do to win its football game Saturday against Northern Iowa:
* Establish the run. The Hawkeyes averaged 2.4 yards per carry last week against Iowa State. Getting Damon Bullock and the running game on track will go a long way in helping set up the framework for a passing attack which has been sporadic at best in the Hawkeyes' first two games.
* Get into the head of UNI quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen. A veteran Iowa secondary has the ability to create some issues for the Panthers' redshirt freshman quarterback, a cool customer thus far in his career. Kollmorgen has yet to throw an interception and has been sacked just once through two games. Expect Iowa to try to change that.
* Start strong. The Hawkeyes have combined for two field goals in the first quarter of their first two games of the season.
* Score touchdowns. Iowa has snapped the ball inside the red zone on six drives this season and hasn't scored a touchdown on any of them. No other FBS team has been inside the 20 more frequently without scoring.
Four things Northern Iowa must do to win its game Saturday at Iowa:
* Establish the run. Sound familiar? Led by 2,000-yard career rusher Carlos Anderson and former Clinton prep David Johnson, Northern Iowa's ground game has potential. It hasn't had much success yet. The Panthers have averaged 100.5 yards per game on the ground and were held to 41 rushing yards in a season-opening loss at Wisconsin.
* Win the battle of special teams. Kicker Tyler Sievertsen is a preseason all-American at the FCS level and senior punter Kyle Bernard has averaged 44.7 yards on seven punts this season. The Panthers can help themselves with those legs in terms of putting points on the board and gaining field position.
* Hang around. FCS teams have won five games this season over FBS team, mostly by keeping the game close into the final quarter and finding ways to win at the end. The longer the Panthers hang around Saturday, the better their chances of beating Iowa for the first time since 1898.
* Control the line of scrimmage. The Panthers' young offensive line held its own at Wisconsin and will need a similar effort against the Hawkeyes. QB Sawyer Kollmorgen has been sacked just once this season and he has had time to operate a passing attack which has averaged 17.5 yards per catch.
Wednesday, September 12th, 2012
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Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
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