Will Iowa's Offensive Line Play Improve Against the Cyclones?
For the most part, Iowa's offensive line play was considered to have improved from last season in the Hawkeyes' 24-14 win over Utah State last Saturday — in pass protection, at least.
The run-blocking left a bit to be desired.
Just look at the final stats from the season-opening contest and the need for improvement is obvious. On 36 rushing attempts, the Hawkeye backfield tallied just 88 yards for 2.4 yards per carry against the Utah State defense.
"Playing the first game is always kind of hard to see what you're going to get because we never know, I mean, they have a new defensive coordinator this year," starting center Logan Jones said of the Aggies hiring Joe Cauthen to their staff.
"We were watching their personnel and things like that trying to figure out what they were going to run," Jones said Saturday. "But at the end of the day it's about getting things done. We're going to have to go back to watch the film and see the things we need to improve on, because we weren't perfect in any aspect of the game today."
Kirk Ferentz added a similar sentiment following the win.
"It was a tough preparation. I'm not making excuses. It was a little bit of a tough preparation," he said. "The coordinator has been at a couple of other schools -- watching last year's Utah State's film was in a nutshell not going to be beneficial to us. It was one of those ones where you are trying to piece things together. They did some things today maybe we didn't expect, but I think our guys adjusted to it."
"Most of the running game, from what I could tell, was more of a matter of cutting a guy loose or not getting the right fits we need. It's never easy, but I think it might get a little easier as we start to have film that's a little bit more -- we'll probably watch their film 49 times this week, and they'll probably watch ours 49 times. So it will be overkill this week. Last week we were all trying to throw darts."
"It's that fundamental stuff that we're working on this week to be a little bit better," he said during Tuesday's media availability. "We've been working on some basic stuff like first step and then eye-aiming point when you're punching. It's been the day-one stuff."
"Watching the film from the ISU game last year, I noticed we missed a lot of makeables," Dunker added. "There were definitely a lot of blocks that should've been made. It just comes down to fundamentals -- maybe your hips aren't square like they're supposed to be, or maybe your feet are a little bit jacked up. That impacts how you're blocking."
For his part, quarterback Cade McNamara sees opportunity for him to aid the offensive line groups efforts on Saturday.
"I think the best thing for us is to try to take advantage of isolations," he said. "We're just going to do everything we can to move the ball. Whether that's stretching the ball downfield or dicing it up underneath -- that's what we're going to try to do."
Obviously with the Cy-Hawk rivalry, Iowa's players and coaches are more familiar with the Cyclones -- but that doesn't mean the task at hand will be any easier this weekend.
"The challenge is that they make it really tough to run," Ferentz said. "It's kind of ironic, you think of their front -- I think people refer to it as a three-three stack, so you think of that as being a spread defensive front. But, they do really to a great job of getting free guys to the ball."
"One thing about them is that they really tackle well at all positions," he continued. "You can't say that about every football team. They've done a really good job of that. They have a great way of getting guys free to the ball, and they don't miss tackles."