The Iowa junior quarterback has helped the Hawkeyes to a 10-0 start. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com
IOWA CITY, Ia. – There's a lot of credit that can be passed around for an Iowa football program putting together its best offensive season in 13 years.
Let the back-slapping begin with offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who hasn't exactly been mistaken for the most popular man on campus since his first season here in 2012. But the former play-caller for Texas' 2005 national championship team has struck a winning balance in Iowa City this fall.
Here's the balance: 2,117 yards rushing and 2,097 passing. Here's the record: 10-0.
And here's the big reason for Davis' success:
"This year he has the tools he needs, and he has people he wants," wide receiver Tevaun Smith said.
No question, Iowa presents a more diverse challenge than it did from 2012-14 now that multi-talented C.J. Beathard is the starting quarterback and four uniquely effective players are sharing time at running back.
Iowa is averaging a Davis-era high 33.6 points, 421.4 yards and 22.1 first downs per game. Those are substantial upticks from Davis' first year of 2012 (19.3, 310.4, 17.4), when Iowa went 4-8.
The outside grumbling continued through last season, even though the offensive numbers improved (28.6, 400.1, 21.5), in part because Beathard was on the bench behind Jake Rudock and because injuries forced converted fullback Mark Weisman into the No. 1 running back role for a third straight year.
"We were all aware of it," Beathard said. "Obviously last season wasn't the season any of us wanted (7-6) – which wasn't a successful season in our eyes. That's tough you have a lot of outside people talking, bashing the program, bashing everything.
"He's a great offensive coordinator. We knew that all along."
While Saturday's Purdue game is the center of attention for the Hawkeyes, they have no plans on stopping if they clinch the Big Ten West.
Davis was offensive coordinator for Texas' 2005 national championship team with quarterback Vince Young and running back Jamaal Charles. That group far outpaced these Hawkeyes (512.1 yards per game, 7.1 per play), but the point is that Davis does have a history of success when he has versatile players at his disposal.
Give credit, too, to Davis, 64, for having an open ear along the way – even while calling plays from the press box.
"On the sideline, a lot of receivers try to give suggestions. He listens to quite a bit of them because we're actually down there on the field and they want to know what we see out there," Smith said. "That definitely helps, too – the fact that he trusts us and we understand the playbook."
The entire offensive coaching staff has had a hand in changing the culture from 2014.
Iowa is averaging 4.8 yards a carry (over 4.1 a season ago) since "run-game coordinator" was added to offensive line coach Brian Ferentz's title.
There's running backs coach Chris White, who has made trust an important factor in helping get LeShun Daniels Jr. to cut pounds (to 225) and Akrum Wadley to add some (at 185). Daniels, Wadley, Jordan Canzeri and Derrick Mitchell Jr. have combined for 2,136 yards from scrimmage.
"You've got to give a lot of credit to coach White," Daniels said. "He does a great job coaching us so we're well-rounded in all parts of the game."
Senior running back Jordan Canzeri, still recovering from high ankle sprain, says there's a reason for Iowa's success this season.
Receivers coach Bobby Kennedy (who coached with Davis at Texas) has his five-man rotation blocking effectively downfield, and you could probably count the number of Iowa drops this year on one hand.
New tight ends coach LeVar Woods, who switched over from leading the linebackers, has done such a good job with Henry Krieger Coble and George Kittle (combined 37 catches, 442 yards) that losing top returning receiver Jake Duzey to a knee injury hasn't been noticed as much.
Iowa will try to extend its school record Saturday against Purdue (11 a.m., ESPN2) of four consecutive Big Ten games with scoring 30 points or more. The Hawkeyes are averaging 33.6 points this year, and would be the program's highest since the 2002 Big Ten co-championship team averaged 37.2.
Like the concept of "New Kirk" with head coach Kirk Ferentz, there's a new feel surrounding Davis this year, too.
"We're trying new things," Smith said. "We're just trying to find ways to open up the offense and obviously win games."
Iowa's offense under Greg Davis
A look at the numbers of the Hawkeyes in Davis' four years as offensive coordinator, with Iowa's stat leaders each year at three skill positions:
- 2012 (QB: James Vandenberg; RB: Mark Weisman; WR: Kevonte Martin-Manley)
- Rush: 123.0; Pass: 187.4; Total: 310.4; Per play: 4.7; TOs/game: 0.9; First downs: 17.4
- 2013 (QB: Jake Rudock; RB: Mark Weisman; WR: Kevonte Martin-Manley)
- Rush: 179.4; Pass: 174.7; Total: 372.0; Per play: 5.3; TOs/game: 1.7; First downs: 19.7
- 2014 (QB: Jake Rudock; RB: Mark Weisman; WR: Kevonte Martin-Manley)
- Rush: 163.1; Pass: 237.0; Total: 400.1; Per play: 5.5; TOs/game: 1.7; First downs: 21.5
- 2015 (QB: C.J. Beathard; RB: Jordan Canzeri; WR: Matt VandeBerg)
- Rush: 211.7; Pass: 209.7; Total: 421.4; Per play: 5.9; TOs/game: 0.9; First downs: 22.1
Matchup: No. 6 Iowa (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) vs. Purdue (2-8, 1-5)
When, where: 11 a.m., Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City
The line: Iowa is favored by 22.
Forecast: Snow has entered the picture, with 3-5 inches possible from Friday night to Saturday; temperatures in the high 20s.