After a week off, the Hawkeye Football team returned to action on Saturday and stayed undefeated in conference play after a 19-16 overtime win over Michigan State. It certainly wasn't Iowa's strongest offensive performance of the year, but the Hawkeyes did what they had to do when it counted. Time to take one last look back at the game with the Hawkeye Report Card.
The struggles of James Vandenberg continued. The senior signal caller had another tough day at the office, completing 15-36 passes for 134 yards. It should be noted that the conditions on Saturday were hardly ideal for an effective passing game and that has to be considered as we evaluate Vandenberg's overall performance.
It should also be noted that when Iowa needed Vandenberg to step up and make a big completion, he did that in the 4th quarter. Facing a 2nd and 26 from his own 16 yard line, Vandenberg went for the vertical route and connected on a perfectly thrown ball for a 35 yard gain. Iowa eventually tied the game on that drive.
Iowa finished the day just 6-19 on 3rd downs, which continues to haunt this offense. Whether they are by design or not, Vandenberg continues to throw short in front of the sticks on third downs and thus, the conversion rate is suffering. What we know is that he is making those throw. What we don't know is whether this is the design or if he is checking down. Overall, some decent moments, wrapped in an otherwise mediocre performance. GRADE: C-
At halftime, it looked like the Big Ten had finally caught up with Mark Weisman. The Hawkeye running back who was taking college football by storm was held to just 20 yards in the first half. Of course, he was facing a Spartan defense that came into the action leading the Big Ten in rushing defense.
When Iowa needed Weisman, he stepped it up in the 2nd half and finished with 116 yards on 26 carries. Included in there was another amazing third down run late in the game. Weisman took the ball on a 3rd and 8 play and ran behind the left side of the line for 37 yards. Three plays later, Weisman ran five yards for Iowa's only touchdown of the game. He also injured his ankle on the play and did not return.
Enter Greg Garmon, the talented freshman running back who had only played on the kickoff return all game long. Garmon struggled, but given that he was entering the game and getting his first carry of the game in overtime, you give the young man a pass and hope he does better next time around. GRADE: B
As mentioned earlier, conditions on Saturday were less than ideal and it sure seemed to impact the passing game. Keenan Davis had one of his strongest games as a Hawkeye with six receptions for 65 yards. The fourth quarter catch on a vertical route for 35 yards was one of the biggest plays of the day for the Hawkeyes. Kevonte Martin-Manley was solid all day in the underneath route, with six receptions for 42 yards. He did struggle a bit in getting separation on one reception in the first half that could have gotten Iowa a first down.
Welcome Jake Duzey to the reception ledger. Probably a pretty good feeling for the Michigan native to get two catches for 14 yards. It sure seems that Greg Davis is going to expand his role in the offense the rest of the season. C.J. Fiedorowicz had another pretty quiet day with one catch for six yards. While Duzey rises up the pecking order, it almost feels like Fiedorowicz is dropping, but part of that could be because opposing defenses are doing a good job of taking him away over the middle. GRADE: C
The Hawkeye offensive line continues to lead the way for the Hawkeyes, especially on the ground. A couple of negatives this week, one being too many penalties on the offensive line. Iowa finished with seven infractions for 50 yards and the bulk of that was on the offensive line. Second, Iowa allowed their first sack since the opening game of the season when they allowed six. You could excuse the line on that sack because it was off a blitz and the running back got trucked on the play by Kyler Elsworth. For the most part, Vandenberg had time to go through his progressions and make throws against a very good defensive line.
The run game was pretty slow in the first half as the Spartans stacked the box and Iowa's offensive line couldn't overcome the odds. Brandon Scherff and James Ferentz had another strong day, especially in the second half. Matt Tobin was very good late in the game, but also had a couple of penalties called on him for false starts. Overall, good, but not great day for the offensive line, but they were really good when it counted. GRADE: B-
OVERALL OFFENSIVE GRADE: C- For most of the day the Hawkeye offensive was really grinding their gears and not having much success. Some of the play calling was questionable, especially the third down calls in the passing game. For all of the flaws on third down, Greg Davis dialed up another great one late with Weisman going off the left edge for 37 yards. That call took guts because if they get stonewalled on the play, you are going to open yourself up for a lot of criticism. It worked, so it's a great call. The second down pass in the fourth quarter to Keenan Davis was another gutsy call that worked.
What a job Reese Morgan is doing with this group. It seemed like the rotation as tightened up a bit today, but maybe that's more perception than reality. If not for the emergence of Mark Weisman, the play of senior Joe Gaglione would be the biggest story of the year. Gaglione finished the day with 11 tackles, which is a big number for a defensive lineman. His motor seems to be giving this line an real identity. Louis Trinca-Pasat only finished with one tackle, but he seemed to be in the backfield a lot in the latter stages of the Hawkeye victory and he got his hand on the pass that Greg Castillo intercepted to end the game.
Steve Bigach and Dominic Alvis finished with four tackles each and were also very good against the Spartans. This group has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. They are getting better pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run very well right now. GRADE: B
This group has been outstanding all year and this week was no exception. Anthony Hitchens continues to lead the country in tackles, adding 15 to that total on Saturday. James Morris has raised the level of his play as well and is doing an outstanding job of leading the Hawkeye defense. He finished the day with 10 tackles and was very active. Christian Kirksey was very good, especially in the passing game. This group has given Iowa a tough and physical identity thru six games. GRADE: B+
You have to feel good for Greg Castillo. The senior defensive back has been maligned by Iowa fans through the years and he has responded in a big way with a game ending interception in overtime. Tanner Miller has had an up and down season, but he probably played his best game of the year against the Spartans. Micah Hyde was pretty motivated after the week he had and going up against his brother's old squad. He and Miller finished with seven tackles. Andrew Maxwell completed just 12 of 31 passes against the Hawkeye defense and really only had a handful of what you would call big plays through the air. GRADE: B
OVERALL DEFENSIVE GRADE: B Le'Veon Bell got his yards, rushing for 140. But, after a fast start, it really never felt like he dominated the game. Part of that could have been due to some questionable play calling from the Spartans, but Iowa's defense did a good job of tackling all game long and held the Michigan State offense to just 16 points on the day.
Two games prior to Saturday, Iowa's special teams might have reached an all time low. This week, while not an all time high, they have continued a two game improvement. If not for Ray Hamilton block in the back on a kickoff return for what would have been a touchdown by Jordan Cotton, it might have been graded excellent. What more can you say about Mike Meyer and you have to wonder where this Hawkeye team would be without their field goal kicker. Meyer was 4-4 on Saturday, including two pressure packed kicks in overtime. He should receive special teams player of the week in the Big Ten this week. Cotton has really given Iowa a boost in the return game and on the other side, Iowa's coverage teams have been doing very well. Punting game wasn't great, but given the conditions, it was adequate. GRADE: B+
STAT OF THE DAY
30:01 to 29:59
At the end of regulation that was the time of possession for the Spartans and the Hawkeyes. Within one second of being exactly equal. Seems appropriate that the game went to overtime.
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