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B1G 2021, Iowa Potluck #2: Slow down there...

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In which the Iowa Offensive Experience is like driving across the entire state with a University Heights cop tailing you.

Syndication: HawkCentral
Iowa doing Iowa things. At some point we’ll have to talk about the FULL BANANA quarterback practice jerseys, too.
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Iowa Hawkeyes Week! On we march!

The Town: Whoa whoa whoa, there, slow down...

Yesterday, in our discussion of the Iowa program under Kirk Ferentz and Gary Barta, we analogized the Hawkeyes to Cedar Rapids, from the smell to the raw sewage we’re pretending to ignore to a system of law enforcement that’s basically just made up.

We apologize for nothing.

We also mentioned the speed trap cameras of I-380, and that reminded me of another set of speed traps nearer and dearer to Hawkeye athletes’ hearts—University Heights.

University Heights, IA, is a small enclave just west of Kinnick Stadium, a thousand people living in tidy subdivisions that jut off Melrose Ave and, you’ll be stunned to learn, were originally founded with racially-restrictive housing covenants. (Here’s more on that, along with a similar project in Minneapolis, if you’d like to learn today.)

Since then, it’s worth noting, University Heights elected a Lutheran pastor (and a Socialist, albeit on a nonpartisan ballot) to be its mayor from 1970-1976.

Today, though, University Heights is most reputable for being the foremost speed trap in all of Iowa:

With one officer on shift at a time, University Heights police made 5,217 traffic stops in 2008. It equals about 1,000 traffic stops per officer, or about five per resident — a rate much higher than the six other metropolitan communities analyzed by The Gazette.

If you’re on Melrose Avenue at any point for a tailgate, a game at Kinnick, or just a Tuesday, you’ll likely see a University Heights police car stationed somewhere on Melrose, just waiting for you to slip up. Even if you’re the coach’s son, apparently. [That isn’t the worst alcohol-related Ferentz son offense, for what it’s worth, but I digress.]

Tell us, writers:

  1. Is there a speed trap, a little “liberal professor enclave,” or a University Heights-style town near your campus? Tell us about it.
  2. What’s the cop-athlete relationship like at your school? Like at Iowa, are they jonesing to pull over any moped without the proper safety flag—or making noise or being Black? Is the annual Bye Week matchup with Campus PD one to watch for? Or do we not hear about as many of those reports?
  3. What are you having for lunch today?

Stew:

  1. So in Iowa you can get speeding tickets for going the speed limit if the police deem the conditions warrant it. You should not be surprised to know that University Heights has issued such tickets fairly regularly. They WILL pull you over for going 26 in a 25.
  2. I don’t think Iowa athletes are particularly targeted, outside of the typical racial disparity. They’re dumb college kids who sometimes do dumb college kid things and a subset get caught doing dumb things. For the most part I don’t think they get targeted or hidden.
  3. Hmm....maybe a sandwich with pepperoni, salami, ham, on hearty rye with some onions and spicy peppers. Or maybe some Pancheros. We’ll see.

RU in VA: The Liberal professor enclave is down the street, at Princeton. I’m surprised some of the 1700s brick colonials around there don’t have plaques on the front denoting who lives there “Dr. Edward C. Marcus Aurilius IV, Department Chair, Science Stuff”.

2. I dunno. The Chris Ash and Kyle Flood eras didn’t work out so well with cops, but Schiano is definitely more of an “I don’t care who you are - I get the report, you’re gone” kinda guy. So if it’s happened, it’s just a silent release. Rutgers cops are pretty cool. I got caught on the sidewalk carrying a keg with another student when were moving houses for a party - after they took our IDs (we were probably 18/19..?) they got a real call and took off somewhere else. Love the player, hate the game.

3. I am currently eating a Mandarin Chicken Salad. Yay.

Kind of...: (1) Madison is pretty pedestrian oriented, at least by American/Midwest standards. Never heard much about speed traps. In fact, the Beltline always struck me as closer to yesterdays 380 discussion than a speed trap.

(2) I can’t say for certain what the cop/athlete relationship is at this point, but...everybody knows about Wando’s, Kollege Klub, etc., and the headlines haven’t been too terrible. Between the Mifflin Street block party and Halloween in Madison, it seems clear that revelry is um, condoned, to a significant extent.

(3)

The Football: Whoa whoa whoa, there—well, you can’t slow down much more.

69.4 plays per game in 2020—89th in the country.
68.5 plays per game in 2019—89th in the country.
69.0 plays per game in 2018—92nd in the country.

Those are numbers consistently bested in slowness by only Rutgers and Maryland over Brian Ferentz’s tenure in Iowa City, though they are a marked improvement from the 110th-fastest offense in the country in Goddamn Greg Davis’s last year at Kinnick.

Now we all know, by 2021, that this is a feature, not a bug, of the Kirk Ferentz Offensive Experience. Run the ball, run the ball, complete a pass to the tight end, chew clock and move the ball methodically down the field, don’t make mistakes. Have Very Large Men on the offensive line to make sure that happens. Avoid flashy wide receivers (or tight ends!) who only make trouble and aren’t policed differently for Reasons, no sir.

And, in 2020, that strategy mostly worked once Iowa had pulled its head out of its ass and lost to Purdue and Northwestern!

Tyler Goodson is a fearsome rusher in the Hawkeye backfield, having racked up 7 TDs and over 5 ypc in 2020. And despite a new OL coach in George Barnett, OTs Alaric Jackson heading to the NFL Draft, and Mark Kallenberger leaving the program amid, but not officially related to, allegations of program bullying directed at his younger brother, who has ADHD—you know, I’m starting to think there are some issues within this Athletics Department—Iowa once again is grading out as one of the best offensive lines in college football thanks to All-American C Tyler Linderbaum and a bevy of experience at the guard positions.

There is, of course, the quarterback play.

Spencer Petras grew into the role over the course of 2020 precisely because the Hawkeyes asked him to do less. After throwing the ball 89 times in the opening two losses, Petras only hit 30 attempts once the rest of the way, throwing 8 TDs to 2 picks in the Hawks’ six-game winning streak to end the year. He still, though, ended with a 9:5 TD:INT line, just a 57.1% completion rating, and rarely has had to win games himself. His one-speed fastball has led to problems, namely that teams can stack the box, try to beat them, and...well, succeed, if they’re not Nebraska.

So, writers:

  1. Do you think there’s any actual way of reforming Iowa’s offense toward “Not a self-inflicted liability” in 2021? Or is it just “Run the ball and, if things go pear-shaped, hope Spencer Petras wins you games?”
  2. Outside of “be better, duh,” what’s a (serious) systematic or programmatic change you’d make to your favorite program? Play faster? Slower? More jet sweeps? More four verts?

RockyMtnBlue: I’m not sure about “not self-inflicted liability”, but I don’t see Iowa’s offense changing a lot with Petras. They clearly demonstrated last year that putting the game on Petras’ shoulders is not necessarily a good idea. Combine this with how good Goodson is and you’re asking for trouble if you open it up. As a long-time Michigan fan I can certainly understand Iowa fans’ frustration with that offense, but allowing Petras to manage the game and do comparatively little worked pretty well last year. Why change?

Before we talk about ‘play faster’ or ‘play slower’, how ‘bout we just start to acknowledge that tempo is actually a thing? THEN we can decide the tempo we want. Michigan averaged 65 plays last year and around 71 the two years before that. Unlike Iowa, this doesn’t appear to be design. I think they’re just incapable of getting plays in.

RU in VA: I don’t catch a lot of Iowa games, but I don’t see any changes working. Ferentz is like Herman Boone. WE RUN A VEER. IT’S LIKE NOVACAINE, GIVE IT TIME, IT ALWAYS WORKS.

2. I would like the Tight End Pop Pass re-instated into modern offenses. Line up 7 down lineman with two TEs, quick playaction and hit the TE on a 7 yard pass up the middle.

It’s never done anymore - I mainly think it’s because every coach is trying to outsmart themselves and recruit into Lebron James at TE. We’re at the turnaround for Air Raid/four verts/passing camp offenses now. Time to regress back to the mean. Remember when bellbottoms were cool in the 90s?

At some point in the future, JNCO will be back. And you’ll be ready.

Stew:

  1. No. They’ve been very clear that the offense’s purpose isn’t to score points, but to protect the defense. Scoring points is secondary. Nothing about that is going to change.
  2. Iowa needs to take more deep shots. Petras has a big arm and is not that accurate, so let him chuck it deep and let the wide receivers attempt to make adjustments. It worked for Penn State, fergodsake!

But mostly please, please, please, mix in some power/gap blocking into the running game. Teams will absolutely not expect it.

Beez: (1) The biggest barrier to changing a “run the ball and hope it works well enough with a good defense” strategy is, in the B1G West, it mostly works. In fact, it works somewhere between “Wisconsin, Iowa, and Northwestern only ever run the ball and play defense and they always with the division” and “Nebraska and Purdue are always trying to sling the ball and look at them.” It doesn’t REALLY work, in the larger sense of “work” as pertains to CFB, but it works well enough.

(2) I’m not sure what Wisconsin needs to do on offense. “Get better at passing” is the obvious answer, but how? Better/faster WRs? More focus on pass-catching TEs and less on “can play offensive line in a pinch” TEs? Of course “have better QBs” is an idea, but I haven’t gotten to Step 2 of that idea.

Kind of...: (1) I don’t expect Iowa’s offense to look much different but they have a pretty good WR corps (even without ISM) and might benefit from taking more shots downfield. Tyrone Tracy got UW for a 75 yard TD in 2019...and then caught 14 passes last year. Probably not a coincidence that Iowa and inertia both start with “i.”

(2) UW should do the same. If Mertz is near as good as he’s supposed to be, the Badgers NEED to stretch the field on occasion. There’s more speed and experience than usual at WR. Neither Berger nor Mellusi are thumpers carrying the rock, so backing the safeties up a yard or two would really help.

Poll

How would YOU fix the Iowa offense?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    MORE tight ends
    (19 votes)
  • 20%
    Have Petras go full Penn State—YOLO FOR EVERYONE
    (19 votes)
  • 20%
    Mix up the running scheme a little bit
    (19 votes)
  • 13%
    A little more tempo on occasion
    (13 votes)
  • 24%
    I will take 8-4 every year and I will like it
    (23 votes)
93 votes total Vote Now