Plenty of blame to go around for stalling Hawkeye offense

Andrew Logue
Iowa receiver Tevaun Smith runs for yardage against Minnesota. He started the game strong, but the entire offense collapsed as the 51-14 loss wore on.

The Iowa offense is a mess.

And that may be the most stomach-churning aspect of the Hawkeyes' roller-coaster football season.

"It's disappointing," left tackle Brandon Scherff said after Saturday's 51-14 loss at Minnesota, "because it falls on my shoulders to get everybody ready."

Scherff's comments were commendable, and the offensive line deserves its share of scrutiny, but multiple position groups share the blame.

Iowa, 6-3 heading into Saturday's 11 a.m. game at Illinois, began this season with eight returning starters after averaging 26.3 points and 377 yards per game in 2013.

Through nine games this season, the Hawkeyes are averaging 27.9 points and 378.8 yards.

Those modest increases include late touchdowns in otherwise lopsided losses to Maryland and Minnesota.

Some statistics have dipped. Iowa is rushing for 147.7 yards a game, after netting 179.9 on the ground a year ago.

But starting quarterback Jake Rudock has seen his completion percentage increase, from 59 percent as a sophomore to his current clip of 63.7.

Rudock threw an interception once every 26.6 attempts last fall. This season, he's been picked off once every 62 passes.

So why have things bogged down?

First off, opponents are making defensive adjustments. Iowa has scored 94 points in the first quarter (37.5 percent of its season total, 251), but just 54 in the second quarter (21.5).

It gets even worse after halftime, where the Hawkeyes have scored just 31 points in the third quarter (12.4 percent).

Under the guidance of offensive coordinator Greg Davis, Iowa has taken early leads in each of its three losses, only to stall.

It happened Saturday against the Gophers.

"I feel like nothing was really clicking on offense," receiver Tevaun Smith said.

When asked why, Smith said, "I have no idea."

A second reason for Iowa's offensive woes can be traced to special teams.

The Hawkeyes rank dead last in the Big Ten when it comes to punt returns (an average of 4.1 yards) and 11th in average per punt.

That's giving up a lot of territory. Against Minnesota, Iowa had five offensive possession begin inside its own 15-yard line, and a deflected punt preceded the Gophers' go-ahead touchdown early in the second quarter.

"They pretty much had their way, basically in all three phases," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Offensively and defensively, they didn't let us control the line. ... And our special teams did nothing to help us."