Leistikow's DVR Monday: Were Iowa backups that bad against Purdue?
When Iowa took a 28-0 lead at Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday, the yardage disparity was staggering: 322 for the Hawkeyes, 38 for Purdue.
But by the time the game ended, the Iowa camp — players, coaches and fans alike — felt a little unsatisfied. Purdue wound up with 505 total yards and made Iowa's final victory margin of 49-35 appear less dominant.
This week’s DVR Monday took a closer look at the circumstances that allowed Purdue to score 21 points in the final 8 minutes, 40 seconds, and did some run-game charting — which even led to an official stat change.
Were the backups that bad?
I agreed Saturday with Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz’s decision to transition to second-teamers late in the third quarter, and still do today — even though C.J. Beathard and Desmond King had to re-enter and clean things up.
- On his first series with a 42-14 lead, freshman quarterback Nathan Stanley was off the mark on a third-and-4 throw to Ronald Nash that could've/should’ve gone for a first down. It wasn’t an easy throw, but a completion there would’ve limited the available clock for Purdue (which kept playing its first-stringers) to reel off three rapid-fire touchdowns and given Iowa's offensive second wave more experience.
- Ferentz kept two defensive starters in for all three Purdue scoring drives. One of them, linebacker Bo Bower, was victimized for several key conversions, including a 26-yard completion to running back Brian Lankford-Johnson on fourth-and-10. Ferentz said keeping Bower and free safety Brandon Snyder in was to make sure the inexperienced players were getting the right calls and put into the right spots. “Sure didn’t look like it,” Ferentz said afterward, “but that was the purpose behind it.”
- I would’ve liked to see Iowa go for a fourth-and-5 from Purdue’s 33 with Stanley at the helm, up 42-21. It would’ve been a good experience-building moment for the rookie quarterback. Instead, the Hawkeyes wound up punting for a net 13 yards.
- Manny Rugamba’s performance was up-and-down. Iowa's No. 3 cornerback couldn’t have had better coverage on Bilal Marshall’s 7-yard touchdown grab. But it was a great back-shoulder throw by David Blough, and a great catch. Rugamba also showed a nice reaction to become a blocker and helped spring King for a pick-six interception. But the true freshman did get beat for one 33-yarder to Marshall and unnecessarily held a receiver instead of forcing Blough to make a perfect throw — two teachable moments.
- It was a mixed bag for No. 4 cornerback Josh Jackson, too. The sophomore stifled Purdue star receiver DeAngelo Yancey on one route for a pass breakup, but later gave up a 54-yard scoring bomb to Yancey.
- I thought freshman Levi Paulsen gave a good account for himself in limited action as Iowa’s backup right guard, after starter Boone Myers departed with an ankle sprain. Paulsen's rise was notable, as he seems to be up to No. 7 on Iowa’s offensive-line pecking order, especially as Iowa has injury questions this week.
In conclusion, I don't think it can be affirmed (or denied) that Iowa's defensive backups are a major drop-off from the starters. I saw some good things amid the bad things.
Last TD shouldn’t have counted
One more thing that shouldn't be pinned on the backups: Officials missed an obvious penalty on Purdue’s final touchdown, which occurred with 17 seconds to go.
Tight end Brycen Hopkins, flanked to the right side, clearly took the first step of his pass route before the ball was snapped — a false start that wasn’t called.
No. 5 cornerback Michael Ojemudia was caught flat-footed as a result. Even though he recovered to create tight coverage on Hopkins, the Purdue player tipped the ball in the air and made a look-what-I-found catch — as strong safety Miles Taylor lunged for an interception attempt — and jogged into the end zone.
It was a fluky 37-yard touchdown that never should’ve counted. And a 49-28 final would’ve felt more satisfying than 49-35.
Left, right, middle
A question I’ve gotten in recent weeks: Why does it seem like Iowa runs left so often? The thought prompted me to chart the Hawkeyes’ 46 called running plays in West Lafayette (didn't count QB scrambles, sacks or the last-play kneel-down):
Runs to the left: 18 carries, 79 yards, 2 TDs (4.4 avg.). The best play in this bunch was the Hawkeyes’ first handoff of the game, a 29-yarder for LeShun Daniels Jr. The average was hurt by four rushes to the left netting minus-1 yard after left-tackle Myers got hurt.
Runs up the middle: 14 carries, 114 yards, 1 TD (8.1 avg.). Akrum Wadley’s 75-yard scoring scamper went right through the heart of Purdue’s defense and came out of a shotgun, spread-out formation. “Believe it or not, we do game-plan a little bit,” Ferentz quipped about the play afterward. “I’m only kidding. We’re going to try to mix that stuff in.” That play was the middle-run anomaly, though: none of the other 13 went for more than seven yards.
Runs to the right: 14 carries, 179 yards (12.8 avg.). A 45-yard reverse to Jerminic Smith got counted here, and so did Daniels’ career-long 67-yarder in the third quarter, which was sprung by a terrific block by left guard Keegan Render.
Bottom line: Iowa produced big plays going every which way and kept a left-right-middle balance. But it does seem like a good conclusion for Iowa to rush to the right side, where right guard Sean Welsh and right tackle Ike Boettger roamed Saturday.
Don’t hurt me, LeShun
Did you know that DVR Monday now performs a public service? (Insert laugh.)
The re-watch revealed that Purdue statisticians incorrectly credited Daniels with a 6-yard gain in the fourth quarter, when in fact Wadley earned those yards.
So after an e-mail exchange alerting proper authorities of the error, the stats were corrected — making Wadley’s official totals against Purdue 15 carries for 176 yards (instead of 14 for 170) and Daniels’ 23 for 150 (down from 24 for 156).
And with that, Wadley — not Daniels — became Iowa’s leading rusher of 2016.
Wadley has 592 yards; Daniels has 589. “AkShun” (as coined by colleague Mark Emmert; copyright pending) forms one of seven running-back duos in college football that features two 500-yard rushers.
Speaking of stat changes, Iowa was initially credited with two sacks Saturday. That total was downgraded to one after Jaleel Johnson had his 1-yard sack on Blough correctly taken away (he had gotten credit for it despite being flagged for tripping on the play).
That meant the only official Iowa sack Saturday came via an intentional grounding call.
Iowa’s pass rush wasn’t very forceful at Ross-Ade Stadium, with quarterback pressure only materializing if there was excellent downfield coverage.
The Hawkeyes (by my count) only pass-blitzed four times on Blough’s 59 attempts, instead relying on the secondary to hold up in coverage. That's a big reason Blough wound up passing for 458 yards and five touchdowns.
With the toughest part of the schedule coming, Iowa will need more one-on-one wins from defensive ends Parker Hesse, Matt Nelson and Anthony Nelson.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 22 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.