Leistikow's DVR Monday: Reviewing Tyler Linderbaum's dominance, Spencer Petras' latest game for Iowa football
There was a little of everything in Iowa’s 30-7 win against Kent State on Saturday. We saw a safety, a 20-play drive, a baffling replay decision and a curiously timed fake punt.
As such, welcome to a potpourri edition of DVR Monday. Let’s start with the offense.
Who stood out on the offensive line?
Iowa used eight offensive-line combinations against the Golden Flashes, as it tries to develop a young group. But when it comes to determining which five-man mix works best together, the conversation still needs to start at center. From the first snap Saturday, Tyler Linderbaum showed why he is considered the best at his craft in college football.
On Iowa’s opening play, Linderbaum drove linebacker A.J. Musolino from the middle of the field into the Kent State bench, as Tyler Goodson ran up the middle for 15 yards.
On a third-and-10 during Iowa’s 20-play, 95-yard scoring drive in the second quarter, Linderbaum was on a seek-and-destroy mission. The target was safety K.J. Sherald, and Linderbaum clocked him to spring Tyrone Tracy Jr. for a 10-yard tunnel screen.
Even though Goodson’s 35-yard touchdown burst in the third quarter went around left end, it was Linderbaum that made the key block. Linderbaum not only picked up blitzing linebacker Mandela Lawrence-Burke on the third-and-9 call, he turned his defender to the right, sealing a lane for Goodson to get to the outside without breaking stride.
Late in the fourth quarter on Goodson's third touchdown run (from 2 yards), Linderbaum blocked his assignment into the back of the end zone. It was a punishing exclamation point.
OK, so this quickly turned into a Linderbaum appreciation thread. But he does make everyone around him better. As such, I thought true freshman Connor Colby was fantastic off the bench at right guard. There was a reason Colby played more than twice as many snaps (50) than starter Justin Britt (24) — because Iowa’s offense was on the field longer when it was Colby’s turn in the rotation. The Hawkeyes converted a key fourth-and-2 run to Gavin Williams behind Linderbaum and Colby, who blocks with a mean streak.
Fifth-year senior Kyler Schott got 19 snaps at left guard in his first action of the season and looked good. In my opinion, the “best five” Saturday were (left to right) Mason Richman, Schott, Linderbaum, Colby and Nick DeJong. That’s not a knock against left-guard starter Cody Ince or Britt. All seven guys should (and probably will) continue to play.
Is Spencer Petras too locked-in on his first read?
That was probably the most popular question I received from readers this week.
With a major asterisk here because there’s no way to know for sure without a private film session with Iowa’s quarterback, it appeared that Petras threw to his first read on 29 of 36 pass attempts. He was 5-for-7 on checkdown throws for 36 yards.
Is that a bad thing? It could be, if Petras is too focused on his primary read to see an open receiver deep (as broadcaster Ed Podolak suggested he did with Charlie Jones late in the first quarter). But I didn’t see many instances of him missing open receivers.
What I saw on film was a quarterback who made mostly accurate, decisive throws. Petras is at his best when he sets his feet and fires quickly. Two of his top throws Saturday ended up incomplete because Tyrone Tracy Jr. couldn’t hang onto the ball (officially; more on that later). A couple of his tosses to tight end Sam LaPorta were absolute dimes. And his fourth-quarter deep shot to Nico Ragaini had beautiful touch, between the cornerback and the closing safety. As BTN analyst Anthony Herron said, you don’t want to overthrow those deep shots when the receiver is open.
As has been the case the last two weeks, Petras was better on review than it felt on game day. I know some fans don’t want to hear this, but it was a good day for him (25-for-36, 209 yards, no turnovers). He needs to improve on off-schedule plays, but those aren’t his strength — something tougher defenses have exposed. That's why you're seeing Petras focus on those early reads so much.
What was the replay official thinking?
Let’s go to the NCAA rule book to try to explain why on earth Tracy's 16-yard catch in the third quarter was reviewed then overturned by replay official Ken Myers.
There are four parts to a legal catch. The first three in summary: 1) Firm control of the ball. 2) Touches the ground in bounds. 3) Maintains control “to perform an act common to the game.” Check, check and check. Upon receiving the ball from Petras, Tracy took three back-pedaling steps and was tackled by cornerback Elvis Hines.
The fourth piece to a legal catch is where the initial ruling of complete overturned. The rule book states, “If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass … he must maintain complete and continuous control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground.” Yes, Tracy moved the ball to his right arm as he was being brought down, and yes, the ball touched the turf briefly after his right forearm hit the ground. But where the replay official erred is that Tracy was not “in the act of catching a pass” — he had already caught it and made "an act common to the game."
So, upon review, it was still a very bad call. And I don’t think it would have been reviewed if not for extra time due to an equipment matter between downs.
A better use of review would have been three plays later, when Crum was ruled to have successfully sneaked for a first down on third-and-1 from Kent State’s 33. When Jack Campbell and Jestin Jacobs stuffed the play, it sure looked like a generous ruling to reach the 34-yard line. Upon review, the football was in Crum’s right arm when he was tackled — seemingly behind the line to gain. Crum’s left shoulder reached the 34, but the ball didn’t. It certainly was worth a review. But because Kent State goes so fast between plays, Myers didn’t have much time to buzz the officials on the field.
The defensive play of the game was made by Jack Campbell.
And, yes, that could be an evergreen sentence.
On third-and-8 at Iowa’s 35-yard line early in the second half, Kent State had a great play call against Iowa’s dime defense. A screen to the right to Marquez Cooper was wide open. The only defensive back who would have a chance to stop it from being a 35-yard touchdown was Jack Koerner, who was taken to the ground with an excellent wide-receiver block.
But Campbell saved the day. After charging in on a blitz, the middle linebacker saw the screen developing and brilliantly evaded the block of offensive lineman Jack Bailey. Campbell closed quickly and caught Cooper just after he caught the pass and tackled him for no gain.
It was an incredible display of athleticism from a 6-foot-5, 243-pound linebacker that saved six points. Campbell’s stop forced Kent State into a fourth-and-8 try, and Terry Roberts broke up that pass to end the threat.
What was Iowa trying to do on its fake-punt attempt in the fourth quarter?
Good question. Bad call.
First of all, why take a delay of game on fourth-and-4 from Kent State’s 37 to then fake it on fourth-and-9? The only thing that makes sense is Iowa wanted to really sell Kent State that it was punting.
Second, long snapper Luke Elkin was one of four Hawkeyes to go on pass routes, but he was an ineligible receiver downfield. Elkin was covered up by Dane Belton (to his left) on the line but went 5-6 yards beyond the line of scrimmage (three is the maximum allowed). There was no flag on the play, but there should have been.
Third, Kent State wasn’t fooled. Two defenders saw tight end Sam LaPorta curling toward the right sideline and met him shortly after Tory Taylor’s pass arrived for a 3-yard gain. If those players had retreated into punt-return blocking, the play would have worked — maybe for a touchdown. But neither did. Taylor’s pass was a little high, which also messed up the timing, but you can’t expect a punter to be on the money with an air-distance throw of 15 yards.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 26 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.