Mom and Dad forced us into a room to act nice to each other for 15 minutes to ask a few questions to Black Heart Gold Pants. So without wasting any more punts, here is what they had to say.
1. Look, the Iowa offense did not look great on Saturday. Granted SDSU may be the best team in the FCS but what in the world does Spencer Petras hold over Kirk Ferentz? Is he hanging out with his wife? What is going on at the quarterback position?
Reading ahead a bit here, I’m going to try and limit this to just the QB issues, but suffice it to say if QB was the only problem it really wouldn’t be a problem.
Having that caveat out of the way, I think the simplest answer here is Iowa just has nobody better suited to take over. There’s no way around the issues Petras has had. He’s inconsistent, he misses easy throws, he locks in on Sam LaPorta, he’s an immobile statue, he sees ghosts and has absolutely no pocket presence and he’s generally been a below-average FBS quarterback at best during his time in Iowa City.
BUT, he apparently is an all-world practice QB when the bullets aren’t flying and he’s not actually being hit. He’s reportedly head and shoulders above Alex Padilla when the lights aren’t on and frankly, we saw Padilla with the lights on a season ago and it wants much better with a completion percentage under 50% and a slew of should-have-been interceptions.
And young guys Joe Labas and Carson May just have absolutely no shot at playing time because Iowa is apparently the most complex system in college football. Or at least it asks more of its QBs from decision-making and defensive assessment standpoint than virtually any other program to the point a player needs multiple years in the system to not totally bitch things. This leads us to your next question.
2. Now that we got quarterback stuff out of the way, is it the only reason for Iowa’s offensive issues?
QB play is a major problem, but to me that’s a symptom of the real issue which is the offense as it is designed and called. Having a QB like Spencer Petras could be overcome if a true competition for that spot was possible. But because of the issues just mentioned re:pre-snap reads, setting plays, audibling at the line, etc, there’s just no way anyone but the three-year incumbent is going to win the job.
Layer onto that some of the worst offensive line play of the KF era over the last 15 games and you’ve got a recipe for passing game disaster.
But this is Iowa, they’ll surely be able to run the ball, right? RIGHT?!? Wrong. The Hawkeyes averaged 1.6 yards per carry against FCS South Dakota State in week one. Some of that is the fact you’ve got several injuries (RG Tyler Elsbury) or guys who missed most of camp (LT Mason Richman, LG Nick DeJong), but some of it is simply a scheme. Zone blocking is a thing of beauty when you have cohesion, but when you’re working 9 guys in trying to find the best unit it looks like a hot mess and there’s just no willingness to mix in gap schemes or try to help the line out with jet motion, misdirection or anything.
So you can’t run the ball to set up the pass, your QB has no pocket presence and now no time (3 sacks, 5 hits and 8 hurries in week one) and thanks to a pair of transfers and now FOUR scholarship WRs out due to injury, nobody to throw to.
We could spend 2,000 words on the issues for the Iowa offense but suffice it to say it’s going to stink on Saturday and all season long.
3. Iowa’s defense continues to look stout. What makes this team continually so successful on defense? the second part of this is we saw turnovers kind of fuel the whole thing a season ago. Are fans kind of expecting this team to turn over teams at the same rate again?
It’s truly a crime that Brian Ferentz’s offenses continue to spoil the work done by Phil Parker’s defense. Parker truly is one of the best to do this and that’s the answer to continued success. He has a system that works and has spent two decades recruiting players to fit his wants and needs. Now, there are injuries there too (Iowa just lost DT Yahya Black to a broken foot on Saturday and starting WLB Jestin Jacobs exited the game and is not listed on the depth chart this week), but Phil has built depth there that Iowa just doesn’t have on offense.
In terms of the takeaways, yes, Iowa fans expect that to continue largely because it’s continued for the better part of a decade. Having not checked the stats after Iowa did not turn over SDSU in week one, I’ll say through the end of last season the Hawkeyes led the nation in takeaways since 2017. I know this gripes a lot of Cyclone fans I talk to, but it’s a combination of scheme and coaching that drive that much more so than luck. Parker plays a style of defense that allows offenses to continue operating until they make a mistake and he coaches his secondary to capitalize on those mistakes in a way that few other programs have been able to replicate. There are just very few instances of Iowa DBs dropping potential interceptions the last few years.
4. Does Tory Taylor get invited to the Heisman ceremony and why? How does Iowa continue to have this success on special teams?
With the way this offense has looked so far he has an outside shot. Taylor was legitimately Iowa’s best weapon in week one with four points directly attributable to him pinning the Jacks inside the 5. There was a point where it looked like it might make more sense to just punt on first down to keep pushing SDSU back than to risk a turnover.
As to how Iowa keeps churning out specialists, I think it’s sort of the inverse of the offense. It’s a staff that values that phase of the game on an equal footing with the offense and defense and LeVar Woods has done a tremendous job turning into a weapon for this program. Now it’s becoming a bit of a destination for specialists and the Aussie pipeline is flowing.
5. Where is the best place for Iowa State fans to tailgate in Iowa City without getting a beer can tossed at them(disclaimer, we have our own shit fans too)?
I’m admittedly a really bad source for this question. I’ve got three kiddos under 8 and my ability to get after it at a tailgate has been in steady decline for the better part of a decade. I would say genuinely to walk Melrose and treat people well and generally, they’ll do the same. Some good-natured ribbing is to be expected, especially since Cyclone fans haven’t been to Iowa City since 2018, but there will always be some bad apples. Avoid them and it’s hard to have a bad time in town.
6. Prediction time, Who wins and how?
Well, this is the part where I’d normally talk about how great Iowa’s defense is and how I think trying to break in a bunch of new offensive pieces against them is a major edge for the Hawkeyes. But this Iowa offense is just so unbelievably bad that I can’t envision the Hawkeyes managing more than 10 points barring a turnover fest with defensive scores.
I’ll say Iowa State 13, Iowa 6 with a whole lot of kicking/punting.