Maybe Iowa was waiting for that ideal football weather. Saturday’s game time temperature figures to be somewhere in the high 60s, great weather to enjoy a football game. But maybe that weather means more to the defense! Iowa has looked quite fatigued at the end of games in the past year, most noticeably last Saturday when Iowa State ended the game with 4 straight touchdown drives in regulation and overtime. It will be cooler on Saturday, and that could be key because Pitt’s “high octane offense” comes into town. Here are 3 things to look for during Saturday’s Week 3 matchup vs. the Pitt Panthers.
1. Run, Marcus, Run – Getting running back Marcus Coker off to a hot start is a necessity on Saturday. Pitt’s defense has not been very good through their first 2 games vs. Buffalo and Maine, 2 offenses that don’t have the fire power that the Hawkeyes ave. Coker has 3 fumbles through his first 2 games, as well as a poor 3.9 pards per carry. Iowa’s offensive line should be able to get leverage vs. Pitt’s new look defensive line, opening up plenty of holes for Coker to find. Iowa loves to turn their running game into a down-the-field play action attack.
2. Defensive Line Pressure – Did Iowa’s defensive line know there was a game last Saturday? They essentially looked non existent when trying to pressure Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz. Their absentee act forced defensive coordinator Norm Parker to use linebackers Christian Kirksey and James Morris as blitzers, something Iowa isn’t accustomed to doing. When they did create some pressue, Jantz was able to scramble and make plays down the field, the most obvious being the 3rd and 20 late in the 4th as the Cyclones were driving to tie the game. The defensive line looked exhausted all day, so the conditions could be an advantage on Saturday. They have a large task in making sure Tino Suneri doesn’t get comfortable on Saturday, as the junior quarterback is quite turnover prone when faced with adversity.
3. Offensive Playcalling – Kirk Ferentz and Ken O’Keefe took a lot of heat for the way they handled the Iowa offense last Saturday. There were 2 notable decision that fans can pin point. The Iowa Hawkeyes had the ball on the 20 yard line with 1:17 and 2 timeouts. Iowa only needed a field goal to escape Ames with a win, and instead Ferentz and co. decided to run the ball and play for overtime. The second is in overtime when Iowa decided to run a reverse pass with Marvin McNutt on the 20 yard line. Most football analysts would tell you that you never see a team run a reverse when they are in the redzone, let alone a receiver reverse pass. Iowa has gotten by being extremely vanilla with their playcalling, but it finally may be time for a change. In years past they have relied on their defense in the 4th quarter, and that may not be a viable option this season. Should a situation arise like last Saturday in the first half vs. the Panthers, I’d love to see Vandenberg and co. get their chance to drive down the field and try and get some points on the board.