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Hawk Talk

It’s a good time for Iowa to have a bye week as they can heal up and get ready for a road trip to Penn State and the start of the Big Ten season.
The Hawks have played one-third of their season, but I’m going to hand out midterm grades for the offense, defense and special teams.

Offense
The Hawkeyes go into the bye week averaging 37.8 points per game on offense.
I know they played Tennessee Tech and Louisiana Monroe (ULM) but they scored 41 against Iowa State in overtime and 31 against Pittsburgh.
Last weekend, Pittsburgh gave up only 15 points to a pretty good Notre Dame team.
Iowa is led by James Vandenberg, who has completed 62% of his passes for 1,095 yards, 10 touchdowns and only one interception. The best stat is the one pick.
I would put up the Hawks top three receivers with anyone in the league. I haven’t seen every Big Ten team play, but Marvin McNutt (25 catches, 413 yards, four touchdowns), Keenan Davis (19 catches, 286 yards, three touchdowns) and Kevonte Martin-Manley (14 catches, 181 yards, three touchdowns) are as good as it gets.
Marcus Coker leads the team in rushing with 380 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 4.4 per carry. He has also caught 11 passes.
The tight ends, Zach Derby, Brad Herman and C.J. Fiedorowicz, have combined for 10 catches, but if they start double-teaming the wide outs, watch for their production to improve.
I like the no-huddle look but sometimes it’s good to see a long drive to give the defense a rest.
I’ll give the offense a B+ to start the season

Defense
The defense is giving up 23.8 points per game. The opposition is averaging 3.2 yards per carry and the Iowa defense is giving up an average of 385.8 yards per game.
Opponents are converting 30-64 (47%) on third down and the Hawks have eight sacks.
James Morris leads the way with 40 tackles and one interception.
Christian Kirksey follows with 39 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and one fumble recovery.
Iowa’s defense is made for the linebackers to lead in tackles so they are right on time with those stats.
Micah Hyde leads the team with two interceptions and Shaun Prater has a pick-six that went 89 yards in the first game against Tennessee Tech.
Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said before the season that the defense would be a work in progress.
Moving Micah to corner and Jordan Bernstine and Tanner Miller to strong and free safety gives the Hawks more speed and quickness.
In the defensive line, Thomas Nardo moved to starting tackle and Dominique Alvis to defensive end. That should give Iowa stability. They are developing good depth, also.
I went out of town last Monday and didn’t mention that Thomas Nardo was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. He had a career-high 12 tackles, a sack and helped hold ULM to 59 yards rushing, the longest being six yards.
I do believe the defense will get better, but I have to give them a C+ to start the year.

Special Teams You have to start with punter and fifth-year senior Eric Guthrie, a great story and great kid. He sat behind Ryan Donahue for four years and now is one of the top punters in the Big Ten.
Eric has punted 15 times, averaging 44.9 yards per punt. He has six punts inside the 20 and the opponents are averaging only 5.2 yards a return.
Mike Meyers is perfect on extra points (17-17) and has made 8-10 field goals.
Mike had a couple of kickoffs go out of bounds and the kickoff coverage has given up a couple of big plays.
Iowa needs to get better in kickoff coverage if they want to make a run at the Big Ten championship.
The Hawks have been doing a good job returning punts and kickoffs. Micah Hyde and Jordan Bernstine are leading the way in those two departments.
I’ll give the special teams a B with room for improvement.
The Hawkeyes open the Big Ten at Penn State. They have played the Nittany Lions tough the last few years… let’s hope they can keep it up.