Iowa football: Grading the Northern Iowa game

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Iowa beat UNI but their linebackers didn’t perform up to par.

Iowa beat Northern Iowa 31-23, but who performed well and who didn’t? School’s started which means that I’ll be giving out grades for each positional group.


Quarterback Jake Rudock took every snap, squashing peoples hopes (more like dreams) of Iowa implementing a double quarterback system. Rudock did pretty well with those chances. He finished 31-41 for 250 yards and two touchdowns. That’s a completion percentage of 75.6% which is 5.2% better than his previous career high. He also had a career high number of completions by 5. Iowa now moves to 9-0 in games where Rudock completes more than 60% of his passes.

Despite all of the good things, there were a couple of problems too. One of them was his tendency to check down. At the end of the first half his yards per attempt (ypa) was 5. That’s awful. It was great that Iowa was able to complete those short passes but sometimes he was too afraid to take a deep shot. He has to keep the defense honest and go for those big home runs every once and a while. Now in the second half he was much better and did actually take some shots. As a result, his ypa was 7.6 in the second half, a much better number.

One other aspect of the game Rudock needs to work on are his audibles. Rudock gets the freedom at the line to check to other plays based on what the defense shows him. The only problem with that is that Rudock too often would check to run plays. Whenever he would audible the UNI defense would react and assume it was a run and more often than not, they were correct. Because of that, Iowa’s run offense wasn’t as potent as it normally would be. Rudock needs to change it up and trust himself with some throws.

Overall though, Rudock deserves a good grade. He made some great throws and decisions.

Grade: B+

Running Backs:

Ok, I have a tough time grading this group. The running backs themselves gained a total of 99 yards on 31 carries. That’s an average of 3.2 yards per carry. That’s uh, not very good. On the other hand, they were sort of screwed by the offensive gameplan. Rudock would audible to the run and UNI would react and shut it down. UNI was focused on just shutting down the run and loading the box on the majority of the downs.

The running backs worked well with what they got. They would have a nice run, and then they wouldn’t get anywhere after that. The best example of that is the game of LeShun Daniels. He had a great 13 yard touchdown run on his first carry. On his seven other carries, he gained a total of 2 yards.

Iowa really shuffled around the running backs all game as well. Weisman led the team with just 10 carries with Daniels and Jordan Canzeri just behind him at 8 and 7 carries respectfully.

Overall, they had a meh day. They weren’t given too many great chances as the defense was just focused on shutting down the run.

Grade: B-

Wide Receivers:

Much like the running backs, Iowa didn’t really give the wide receivers too many chances to make big plays. Most of the catches were just check downs to the wide receivers. That’s why they didn’t have too big of a day.

Kevonte Martin-Manley led the wide outs with 8 catches for 62 yards. He played fairly well besides one drop. He was a reliable option for Rudock to throw to. Redshirt freshman Derrick Willies had the next highest amount of receiving yards with his one catch going for 46 yards. Willies will be a big play threat all year long with his speed and size.

Tevaun Smith had a huge second half, exploding for a run of 35 yards. He actually led the team in rushing yards because of that one attempt. On that same drive he came up huge with a great one handed catch in the back corner of the endzone. His reception numbers don’t look huge (4 catches for 17 yards and a touchdown) but he was a big part of Iowa’s win yesterday.

Speedster Damond Powell made his presence felt by taking an inside screen to a 12 yard touchdown. He looked good coming back from his injury. Meanwhile wide out Jacob Hillyer fumbled after making his only catch.

Despite not having eye popping statistics, the wide receivers for Iowa played well. They had some mistakes but they did make good things happen, especially in the second half.

Grade: B

Tight Ends:

The Iowa tight ends were pretty good in all facets of the game. They were great blockers for the running game. You would like them to be a little bit more dominating because it’s a FCS team but that’s they still played well. Jake Duzey in particular played well in the passing game, coming second on the team in receptions with 7. He only averaged 4.9 yards per catch so hopefully in the next couple of games that can jump up. Overall they played well though.

Grade: B

Offensive Line:

The offensive line looked unstoppable at the start of the game. In the first two drives they were having their way with UNI’s defensive line. As the game wore on, they dominance wore off. Iowa’s offensive line was still winning the battle, but UNI was able to blow up some plays, particularly in the running game.

Some of that was the result of predictable play calling. UNI was basically playing for the run so they were loading the box. As for pass protecting, they got pressure on Rudock on a couple of plays but most of the time he had all the time in the world.

You would like them to be more dominating against a FCS team, but they are still working out the kinks as a unit. I’m not worried at all by their play but I do wish they would step it up a little next game.

Grade: B

Defensive Line

Iowa’s defensive line was incredible. It seemed like Northern Iowa had pressure on almost every pass and UNI couldn’t run the ball at all. Their leading rusher averaged 2.6 yards per carry, a statistic that would make every defensive coordinator in the nation overjoyed.

Louis Trinca-Pasat filled up the stat line with 10 tackles, 4 for loss, and two sacks. He was in on seemingly every play, always chasing the ball. Fellow defensive tackle Carl Davis didn’t have the same mind blowing stats like Trinca-Pasat but he was just as disruptive. Davis looked unblockable, giving the Northern Iowa offense fits.

Defensive end Drew Ott also looked great out there picking up a sack and applying plenty of pressure. He also was very stout against the run. Even Iowa’s back ups looked good as tackle Jaleel Johnson tossed aside a UNI offensive lineman for a sack. They played an amazing game.

Grade: A


Ugh. What can I say about these linebackers? They looked awful out there. They were missing on tackles, out of position, and sometimes looked lost out there. They let Northern Iowa running back David Johnson just completely wreck house in the passing game. On Northern Iowa’s first drive linebacker Reggie Spearman gave Johnson too much room, failed to make the tackle after the completion, and Johnson went for tons of yards.

Later on in the game, middle linebacker Quinton Alston let Johnson by him twice for big yards. One was a 70 yard touchdown to bring UNI to within one point. That coverage was downright terrible. They also whiffed on a number of tackles and missed some coverage. As a result, Northern Iowa averaged over 10 yards per attempt.

The only thing keeping this grade from being an F is they made some nice plays in the second half. Bo Bower in particular played very well, picking off a pass and sacking the quarterback. He was the lone linebacker that could be proud of how he played that day. Alston also had some good plays, especially in run support. He had two tackles for loss and showed some flashes.

Overall the linebackers had a bad day, but they can pick it up. They will only get better with experience.

Grade: D


The defensive secondary was a mixed bag. On one hand, the cornerbacks played very well. Desmond King basically shut down his side of the field. He could have gotten called for a potential pass interference call but besides that, he played perfectly. Greg Mabin at the other cornerback spot was a welcome surprise. He was great in run support and played the pass pretty well. He sometimes gave his wide out too much cushion on a couple of plays but that’s something he will learn more with experience.

The safeties on the other hand didn’t play as well. John Lowdermilk had some great plays, and some that weren’t as good. He was out of position on some of the coverages, but overall played well. You would have liked them to pay a little more attention to UNI running back David Johnson coming out of the backfield but that wasn’t their sole job. The other safety Jordon Lomax played a little worse. He was out of position on one of Johnson’s receptions and he ran himself out of a couple of other plays as well. Overall it was an alright first start but he could’ve done better.

Grade: B-

Special Teams:

Iowa had some great kick offs and they displayed good coverage as well. Mark Weisman had a (surprisingly) good return in particular, but they others needed some work. The punting game was dreadful, averaging around 36 yards per punt. The place kicking game wasn’t the best either as kicker Marshall Koehn made a 40 yarder but missed a 37 yard kick. There needs to be improvement here.

Grade: C-

  • TJ Fraser

    i believe Iowa will tighten things up through out this season. I have faith in that so looking for a great record in the end….Go Hawks!!!!!

  • Randy Lange

    Line backers-D- Defense backs-D- also I hope they can work on that, but f they don’t get it fixed, It’s going a long season.