10 @ 10: Both Iowa, Illinois struggling to finish plays
A strong-armed approach to improving Iowa’s run game and more are part of today’s Hawkeye 10@10, your daily dose of Iowa news and notes.
Delivered each weekday at 10 a.m. at Hawkmania.com, your home for all things Iowa, here is today’s Hawkeye 10@10:
1. Iowa wide receiver Matt VandeBerg said following Saturday’s loss at Michigan State that more consistency in the Hawkeye passing attack is critical to help open things in the run game.
“Anytime you want to be an effective offense, you have to throw the ball and run the ball,’’ VandeBerg said. “You know we missed on a few deep balls again today, so that doesn’t help the run game either. Just as an offense, we need to get better collectively.’’
The Spartans forced Iowa into six three-and-out situations in the loss.
2. Iowa is working to push forward following its first 0-2 start in the Big Ten since 2009.
“We can’t have these last two games affect us in the next couple of weeks,’’ linebacker Josey Jewell said. “We have to get back to work and do what we can to become a better football team.’’
3.With a bye week on the horizon, coach Kirk Ferentz is remaining true to his word that Iowa will re-evaluate lineup spots next week after the Hawkeye season reaches its midpoint.
There is only one change on the Iowa depth chart for Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against Illinois.
Cole Banwart is listed as the second-team center behind James Daniels. Spencer Williams was listed at No. 2 a week ago.
All other positions remain unchanged from the two-deep roster announced prior to the Michigan State game.
4. Michigan State receiver Felton Davis became the second Big Ten player in as many weeks to earn a piece of Big Ten offensive player of the week honors for efforts against Iowa.
Davis had a career day against the Hawkeyes, scoring both of the Spartans’ first-quarter touchdowns in the 17-10 win.
The 6-foot-4 junior caught a career-high nine passes for 114 yards in the win.
He shared the honor with Penn State receiver DaeSean Hamilton, who became the Nittany Lions’ career receptions leader with 181 after a nine-catch, 122-yard effort against Indiana.
Wisconsin safety Natrell Jamerson was named the defensive player of the week after recording the first two interceptions of his career including a 36-yard pick six in a win over Northwestern.
Penn State’s Saquon Barkley was named the special teams player of the week after returning the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and throwing a touchdown pass in the win over Indiana.
Linebacker Ben Stille of Nebraska was named the Big Ten freshman of the week after recording three tackles for a loss, a sack and forcing a fumble in a win at Illinois.
5. Spreading the ball around continues to work for Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley.
In Saturday’s loss to Michigan State, the sophomore led an offense which included connections with nine receivers for the third time in the Hawkeyes’ five games.
Stanley connected with eight receivers.
Colten Rastetter threw the other pass, hitting A.J. Epenesa for a first down on a fake field goal attempt.
A dozen Hawkeyes have caught passes during Iowa’s 3-2 start, an effort led by 20 catches for 222 yards by Nick Easley. Akrum Wadley and Matt VandeBerg have each caught 13 balls.
6. Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke said he simply took what the Iowa defense was giving him when he rushed for 15 yards on a third-and-12 play on the Spartans’ final possession of Saturday’s game.
“Going into the game we knew that if we got into a third down, third and long situation, Iowa was going to run two man, they’ve been doing it all season. So, I was looking to throw the ball but when a defense plays two man and nobody has the quarterback, which was the case there, I just took off and ran,’’ Lewerke said.
His work following an Iowa timeout with 3 minutes, 38 seconds left in the game extended a drive which left the Hawkeyes with just 45 seconds on the clock when they eventually took possession.
7. Iowa isn’t the only Big Ten team struggling to finish plays.
As his team begins preparing for Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Iowa, Illinois coach Lovie Smith talked about missed opportunities in the Illini’s 28-6 loss to Nebraska in Friday’s conference opener at Memorial Stadium.
“It’s been a similar tone the last couple of weeks,’’ Smith said. “There are some things we need to do better in all three phases. We have some players getting better, but overall, being able to put it together and play a complete football game is what we need as much as anything.’’
He pointed to missed red zone opportunities, among the reasons Illinois will start Jeff George Jr. at quarterback in place of Chayce Crouch this week.
“We need to be able to get a touchdown when we’re down there,’’ Smith said. “Defensively, we need to be able to take the ball away. We didn’t finish an interception that we should have had and a fumble that was on the ground. Those things add up.’’
8. Joining T.J. Hockenson and Akrum Wadley with three catches in Saturday’s loss at Michigan State, Matt VandeBerg has now had at least one catch in his last 24 games for the Hawkeyes.
He has 119 career receptions and passed Scott Chandler (117) and Clinton Solomon (118) on Iowa’s career list and is currently 11th all-time.
Marv Cook is in 10th on that list with 126 catches.
9. Saturday wasn’t the first time Michigan State has limited Iowa’s rushing attack.
The last time the Hawkeyes had fewer than the 19 yards they rushed for Saturday against the Spartans was in 1999 when MSU limited Iowa to seven rushing yards.
The Hawkeyes’ team rushing total was the lowest for Iowa in a single game since a 2005 loss to Ohio State when the Buckeyes held the Hawkeyes to a minus-nine yards.
10. This is homecoming week at Iowa and events include a chance to meet and mingle with former Hawkeyes.
Nate Kaeding will moderate a panel discussion on Wednesday that will include memories and stories from a handful of former Iowa football players including Tim Dwight, Lou Matykiewicz, Jim Molini, Chuck Long and Mike Haight.
The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Levitt Center for Advancement located near Hancher Auditorium on the Iowa campus.