Sept. 30, 2011
- 2011 Game Day Central
- 2011 Fall Camp Central
- America Needs Farmers
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
- Iowa Football Wallpaper
Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Can a three touchdown deficit be a good thing? It appears that way for the University of Iowa offense.
Staring into the eyes of a 24-3 deficit with 18 minutes, 11 seconds left at home against Pittsburgh on Sept. 17, the Hawkeyes scrapped their huddle, launched 22 passes and completed the comeback with a 31-27 victory. Iowa kept its foot on the gas pedal and during the final quarter against the Panthers as well as the first three quarters the following Saturday against the University of Louisiana at Monroe, the Hawkeyes gained 617 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
“Doesn’t seem like you need to spend much time any more in (a huddle), does it?” O’Keefe said yesterday at a press conference in the Hayden Fry Football Complex.
It also prompted UI head coach Kirk Ferentz to joke that for the rest of the season, the Hawkeye offense will go “100 percent no-huddle.”
During its 3-1 start, Iowa is averaging 37.8 points and 421.8 yards a game. The key is junior quarterback James Vandenberg, who has completed 62.8 percent of his 129 passes (32.3 pass attempts per game) for 1,095 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“We trust him,” O’Keefe said. “He knows what he’s doing and he’s a good leader. Trust isn’t an issue. It’s just making sure we don’t make something simple, complicated.”
With any offensive coordinator-quarterback relationship, trust is a virtue. That is amplified even more in a pure, two-minute, no-huddle setting.
“James has an enormous amount of freedom and he knows the packages we use,” O’Keefe said. “He knows the protections we need to be in, and he knows the routes.”
“If you’re protecting well and you’re catching the ball well and your quarterback is giving people a chance, that helps push the tempo, there’s no doubt about it. It wouldn’t be very good if you were three-and-out very often. That changes the whole dynamic of things and usually it changes the way coaches feel about it.”
UI offensive coordinator
And he knows how to distribute the ball effectively and efficiently. Three UI wide receivers have 14 or more catches this season, running back Marcus Coker has 11 receptions, and seven other players have at least one catch. Vandenberg’s ability to dispense the ball accurately — and at a rapid pace — helps the offense flow.
“If you’re protecting well and you’re catching the ball well and your quarterback is giving people a chance, that helps push the tempo, there’s no doubt about it,” O’Keefe said. “It wouldn’t be very good if you were three-and-out very often. That changes the whole dynamic of things and usually it changes the way coaches feel about it.”
Against ULM, it wasn’t the three-play drives that gave the Hawkeyes fits as much as it was those of the four-play variety. Iowa had just two three-play drives against the Warhawks: the first was a 41-yarder that ended with the team’s sixth touchdown of the day; the second was the final offensive series where the Hawkeyes were more intent on chewing seconds, not yards. The two four-play drives ended with a punt and a lost fumble.
During the comeback against Pittsburgh, Iowa’s no-huddle offense produced three seven-play scoring drives of 73, 64 and 64 yards. The first four drives of the game for the Hawkeyes resulted in four plays (punt), two plays (interception), three plays (punt) and three plays (punt).
So what crippled the Panthers, also crippled the Warhawks.
“We liked the tempo and felt comfortable with the tempo,” O’Keefe said. “We thought we would come out (against ULM) and take it from there. Because of their defense — it’s hard to prepare for so many personnel and formation groups — we probably went into the game with the most simple game plan we have had in a long time in a lot of ways.”
While Vandenberg is slinging footballs, the stable of young Hawkeye running backs is getting more time to grow. Having youth in his position group is something O’Keefe said running backs coach Lester Erb has been used to for four years running.
“Lester is getting brand new guys ready all the time,” O’Keefe said. “They just arrived at the barn and they are just on their feet walking, and now we expect a couple of them to start running.”
Marcus Coker is the “wily veteran” with eight starts under his belt. This season he has rushed 87 times for 380 yards and four touchdowns. The freshman foursome of Mika’il McCall, De’Andre Johnson, Jordan Canzeri and Damon Bullock has combined for 30 carries and 145 yards.
“These young guys have not played a whole lot,” O’Keefe said. “Every day is a new experience.”
The next new experience will be on Oct. 8, on the road, against Penn State. Game time is 2:36 p.m. (CT).