They’ve only played one game, so realistically making any judgments about this year’s University of Iowa Hawkeyes football team on offense is premature. That being said, it’s the job of a sports journalist to overreact and be impatient to offer opinions. In the interest of debunking the stereotype, perhaps to the detriment of my own career in sports writing, I’m going to make my opinion somewhat boring. It’s too early to tell what the 2013 Hawkeye offense is going to be.
Any assessment of an offensive performance has to start with the coaching. There were a few calls I thought were questionable, especially the deep pass on the third and one play at the end of the third quarter that I already wrote about. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis did a good job at mixing up the plays. The Hawkeyes ran the ball 43 times and threw the ball 37 times. Issues weren’t about how much Iowa ran or threw the ball; they were more about when they ran or threw the ball.
The Hawkeyes did a mediocre job at spreading the ball around. Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock were clearly the focus of the offensive game plan as their 38 combined touches were over four times the amount of any other Hawkeye. Kevonte Martin-Manley did set a new career high with nine catches, but none of the other players for Iowa had more than two touches. It’s too early to label the Iowa offense as Bullock, Martin-Manley, Weisman and nobody else though. It did appear that tight end CJ Fiederowicz was the target in the red zone.
In his first start at quarterback for Iowa, Jake Rudock went 21-of-37 for 256 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. The yardage was good, but a completion percentage of 56.8 and a touchdown to interception ratio of -1 isn’t going to win many games for Iowa in the Big Ten this year. Involving more receivers and experience should improve both numbers for Rudock. Rudock showed some athleticism on his four scampers, but don’t expect the Hawkeyes to implement a triple option attack anytime this year.
In the running game, Weisman got exactly 100 yards on 20 carries for a five yards per carry average but did lose a fumble in the first quarter. Bullock added 76 yards on 17 carries for a 4.5 yard a carry average. If both backs can keep their averages at four to five yards a carry throughout the season, the Hawkeyes will be in every game. The offensive line play was the best part of the Iowa attack. Rudock wasn’t sacked and the team averaged 4.7 yards per rush. That group continuing to perform well and staying healthy will go a long way to helping the passing game develop.
The biggest concern for head coach Kirk Ferentz offensively right now should be the three turnovers and going 7-of-17 on third down. Gaining over five yards per play and being over 400 total yards of offense are good signs. After just one game, I refuse to overreact either direction. Last Saturday could have been an accurate display of this offense’s identity, but it could also have been either a jumping off point or a high-water mark. Let’s wait and see.