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October 22, 2007The Hawkeyes fell to 3-5 on the season with the loss on Saturday to Purdue. This week, What's Hot and What's Not faces a tough task in finding a lot of positives, but one of them is a surprise. What's Not has plenty of candidates this week as the struggles continue for the 2007 Hawkeye Football team.
What's hot this week is A.J. Edds. The converted tight end had his coming out party at the linebacker position several weeks ago against Wisconsin, flying around the field and making plays. He's been improving steadily since then, and it was evident again on Saturday until he had to sit out the second half with an elbow injury. He looks pretty good out there in coverage, and really has some wheels. One play in particular stood out, where A.J. had a sack to move the Boilermakers out of field goal range at a critical point in the game. The guy just has a knack for making plays. Fine linebacker play is becoming a hallmark of the Iowa program.
Also hot is innovation in the offensive play-calling. As the weeks march by, the oft-maligned Ken O'Keefe has been giving different looks to the opposing defenses. While he's no Mike Martz yet, KOK has definitely slipped some variety into the Hawkeye playbook. While it is curious that the running game is all but abandoned against a team that allows 137 yards rushing per game, at least some variety is working its way onto the field. I wish the same could be said of the defense more on that later.
I'm struggling for positives here folks
What's hot is the opposing team shanking a punt for once. While I still remain high on Ryan Donahue, the young punter had a bumpy game, delivering some very good and some not so good punts. It was something of a moral victory to see another team struggle in this very important aspect of the game. Shankabout is fair play, it would seem.
What's hot is that next week we won't have to face that aggravating spread offense again. From what I've seen out of Michigan State, they are more of a traditional, power-running type of team, and the Iowa defense seems to play much better against these teams. On the other hand, they are averaging over 30 points a game. Maybe not so hot oh well, I'm still calling an Iowa victory on this one. It's looking like Moeaki will be back in uniform this week; couple that with the same kind of offensive line performance as against Illinois, and the Hawks could put up some points.
Hmmm what else. Oh, a friend of mine had the "Campus Girls of Iowa Swimsuit Calendar." In a moment of boredom, I began flipping through it. Exceptionally hot. Before I knew it, I had missed an entire quarter. Just kidding kinda. Hey Miss December, shoot me an email sometime. As I'm sure you're aware, us writer types are known for having boatloads of cash, a winning disposition, and impeccable hygiene. What are you laughing about out there?
Very very un-hot is the Juggs machine in Iowa City. Actually, I'm not sure if the thing even works. Dropped passes have been an ongoing problem this season, but this is bordering on the ridiculous. In the first series alone there were three dropped balls, which really puts your offense in a tailspin from the get go. An already struggling quarterback begins losing confidence in his receivers, winds up holding the ball to long, and gets sacked. Say what you will about young receivers, but when the quarterback hits you in the hands, you have to hang on to the ball. Fine, they are inexperienced, I get it, but these guys have been playing football for most of their lives; it's not like this is the first time they have stepped on the field. I don't care if you are the best route runner in the world, if you can't catch the ball you aren't doing the team any good. They need to pop in some tape of Easy Ed Hinkel now that guy could catch the ball.
Equally frigid is the at times maddening lack of fundamentals that was on display at Ross Ade Stadium, and this was a collective effort by both the coaching staff and the players. On a great punt by Donahue to open the second quarter, the two downfield players were there but they just kind of looked at each other while the ball squirted between them and into the end zone. It was like a rabid weasel or something had just run between them. On another play, after just coming back from a commercial break, a time out needed to be called. The previous couple of minutes wasn't enough time to get a play called? It's possible that there was something in the defense they didn't like, but isn't that what an audible is for?
Also not hot was the secondary play at times. There were at least a couple of occasions in this game, and one very notable one against Iowa State, where if the defender had simply turned around and looked for the ball he could have made a play on it. I'm not sure if this is a case of their being out of position and having to close the gap or what, but it seems like it would be a relatively easy thing to teach. Get that head on a swivel, boys.
Speaking of the secondary, what's up with the defensive game plan against the spread? At some point you have to realize that if you're going to give these spread offenses a five yard cushion, they are going to take advantage of it. Fine, it's not a huge play, but do it enough times, you will move the chains. The spread seems to me to be kind of a "scratch where it itches" type of football philosophy. Now where have I heard that before? My fear is that we will see exactly the same thing from Northwestern that we saw from Indiana and Purdue with similar results.
What was not hot at all in this game was an overall sense of defeatism. In particular, I'm referring to the punt to end the second half. I guess I don't see the point in punting at that juncture. One of the things that seemed to fire up the offense against Illinois was going for it on fourth down a confidence booster if you will. With so little time left on the clock, why not throw a Hail Mary, and see if you can get another miracle catch like the one Trey Stross had a few weeks ago? The worst that can happen is an interception in the end zone and is there really much difference between giving the ball to Purdue at the 20 on a touchback, or where they wound up? These players are clearly lacking in confidence, and sometimes the big picture needs to be considered within the game. Take a shot.
Finally, what was definitely the least hot thing of the week is Joe Tiller's stache. I keep hoping that one of these days there will be a pornography raid, and they'll bring out boxes and boxes of old school reels from the 60's featuring Wilford Brimley err, Joe Tiller, from some lonely dude's basement. What is with that thing? And if it isn't unattractive enough already to look at, but then we have to have Pam Ward wax poetic about it, and give us the history of that monstrosity? I can't tell you what compelling drama it is to learn that Joe Tiller has had that stupid thing since he was 19 years old. I know it's ESPN 2, but still I am the eggman coo-coo-cachoo.
See you next week.
Questions or comments? Miss December? Email me at email@example.com. And no, I don't have any old school reels featuring Joe Tiller, so don't ask.