Iowa was on the road Saturday, looking to defeat Indiana and snap a two-game losing streak. The Hawkeyes got off to a fast start and quickly jumped ahead 14-0, but the Hoosiers (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten) came back and held on to beat Iowa (4-5, 2-3), 24-21. Let's take a look back at how the Hawkeyes performed in Bloomington.
It was another up-and-down day for James Vandenberg against the Hoosiers. Statistically, it was probably his best game of the season. After all, he was 21 of 34 for 249 yards and a touchdown. However, though he showed signs of improvement, he also continued to struggle with the same issues that have plagued him this season. He was jumpy in the pocket, locked on receivers and while his accuracy was improved from previous weeks, he missed or under threw open receivers on several occasions. He also threw an interception in the end zone to wipe out an opportunity to put points on the board early in the third quarter. Grade: C-
The rushing yards were tough to come by for Iowa on Saturday. With Mark Weisman and Brad Rogers back in Iowa City recovering from injuries, it was up to Damon Bullock to handle the majority of the carries against Indiana. Though he had some nice runs, overall, the running lanes never really developed for him and he finished with 25 carries for 83 yards, including a 4-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter that gave the Hawkeyes a brief lead. Bullock also caught three passes for 24 yards.
Bullock continues to show good patience and vision, waiting for the hole to develop rather than force the issue, though he didn't have a whole lot of opportunities to do so against the Hoosiers. Bullock gave Hawkeye fans a bit of a scare when he came up clutching his knee after getting tackled in the second half, but after going to the sideline, he returned shortly thereafter.
Greg Garmon handled backup duties, though he didn't see a lot of action, as he received just one carry for 11 yards. Grade: B-
Wide Receiver/Tight End
If there was one standout on offense for Iowa on Saturday, it was Kevonte Martin-Manley. The sophomore wide receiver was Vandenberg's favorite target and caught seven passes for a career-high 131 yards, including a 24-yard TD reception midway through the first quarter. He was able to get open for much of the day and probably would have added another touchdown but was underthrown on a 39-yard reception in which he got past the secondary.
Overall, it was a much better performance from last weekend. The receivers were able to get open more consistently, ran crisper routes and, most importantly, held onto the ball. Keenan Davis also had a good game for Iowa, catching five passes for 57 yards. C.J. Fiedorowicz hauled in three passes for 25 yards, while Jordan Cotton caught two for 10. Jake Duzey rounded out the group with one catch for 2 yards. Grade: B
The offensive line struggled for most of the game Saturday, as Indiana was able to dominate the battle up front and outmuscle Iowa in the trenches. The Hawkeyes allowed seven tackles for loss, including two sacks. Even when Iowa wasn't tackled in the backfield, the rushing lanes were few and far between with the Hawkeyes held to less than 100 yards rushing for the second time in three games. Indiana also made things difficult in pass protection, constantly collapsing the pocket and putting pressure on Vandenberg. With Iowa essentially working in two new starters, the struggles weren't totally unexpected, especially against an experienced defensive line. Grade: D-
Overall Offensive Grade: F
Once again, the individual grades don't match the final, but when you manage just 14 points against the Big Ten's worst defense, you know you are having problems. The Hawkeyes simply cannot generate any kind of consistency on offense. One drive, they are able to move the ball efficiently and look good doing it. The next, they leave you wondering if they'll be able to pick up another first down the rest of the game.
It was a so-so performance for the defensive line. On the plus side, Iowa held Indiana to just 67 yards rushing on 30 carries, good for a 2.2-yard average. On the negative side, the front four continue to struggle generating pressure on the opposing quarterback. Like Matt McGloin two weeks ago, both Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld were able to sit in the pocket and pick apart the defense without facing down much of a pass rush. After a nice start to the season, the defensive line has faltered of late.
Joe Gaglione led the group with four tackles and a sack, while Louis Trinca-Pasat added three stops. Steve Bigach, Mike Hardy, Carl Davis, Dominic Alvis and Drew Ott all finished with one tackle. Grade: D+
Like the defensive line, the linebackers had their issues on Saturday. Against the run, they were great. They clogged the running lanes and were able to get into the backfield to stop the Hoosiers from getting anything going on the ground. Things were not as great in pass coverage, however, as there were missed assignments and missed tackles throughout the game.
Despite these issues, Christian Kirksey turned in a great game for the Hawkeyes, as he finished with eight tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception that he returned for a touchdown, his second INT return for a TD this season. Anthony Hitchens continues to add to his impressive tackle totals after picking up 14 (1.5 TFL) against Indiana. James Morris completed the starting trio with six tackles, including 2 TFL and a pass breakup. Grade: C+
Not a great showing by the secondary on Saturday. While they were solid in run support, for the second time in three games, the Hawkeye defensive backs were picked apart by the opposition's passing attack. While they were not helped out by a non-existent pass rush, the Hawkeyes had problems in coverage. Indiana receivers were able to consistently get free thanks to poor or blow coverages, including on what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter.
Nico Law received his first career start and played well. He led the defensive back with eight tackles (0.5 TFL) and broke up a pass. Micah Hyde was next with seven tackles (1 TFL) and broke up two passes, while B.J. Lowery had six stops. Tanner Miller had four tackles and Greg Castillo added one. Grade: D
Overall Defensive Grade: D
While the defense only allowed 24 points, the Hawkeyes once again were torched in the air to the tune of 406 passing yards. There was no pass rush to speak of and pass coverage was shaky at best. After a strong start to the season, the defense has struggled mightily the past three games.
Not much to speak of for the special teams on Saturday. You know things weren't great when the highlight of the game is Mike Meyer preventing a touchdown on a kickoff. Another positive would be John Wienke placing a punt inside the Indiana 15-yard line, but that is the end of the list. Connor Kornbrath continued to struggle with consistency, with his punts ranging from a long of 53 yards to a short of 20 yards. Overall, he punted seven times for an average of 37.7 per punt. The Hawkeyes didn't do much in the return game, but allowed a 39-yard return to set Indiana up with great field position Grade: D
Overall Grade: D-
At this point, what more can you say? The offense struggled to score like it has all season, while the defense had issues with consistency. This was a game Iowa had to have to keep bowl hopes alive. While it is still technically possible, the road to becoming bowl eligible is now much tougher.
Stat of the Game: 2000
Iowa is under .500 after the first game in November for the first time since 2000, Kirk Ferentz's second year at the helm.
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