The Box Score: Inside Hawkeye Football Statistics
The Box Score is a weekly segment in which a Daily Iowan football reporter uses statistics to contextualize Iowa football’s performance over the course of the season.
There’s been two Iowa football teams that have taken the field this season. There’s the team that began the season, the 4-1 squad that excited fans and showed promise. Then there’s the more recent team, the one that’s gone 1-3 in its last four games.
Somewhere between those two teams is Iowa’s true identity, the 5-4 squad that can’t beat the good teams but gets the wins over the bad ones. And while it might be crazy to split the team like this, there’s definitely a stark difference from how Iowa started the season to how it’s played since. And the stats show just how bad the recent funk really is.
Rushing Offense — 101.8 yards per game (in Iowa’s last four games)
As most Iowa football observers might guess, this is abysmally low — especially for a team that relies heavily on the running game. To throw more salt in the wound, the Hawkeyes have scored just one rushing touchdown during this 1-3 stretch.
In the five games prior to this funk, the Hawkeyes averaged 244 rushing yards per contest and scored 9 times on the ground. And there’s a reason for this we’ll get to in a moment, but that’s truly a remarkable difference.
Of course, the offense isn’t solely to blame for Iowa’s recent woes.
Rushing Defense — allowed 212.8 yards per game (in Iowa’s last four games)
Recall that the Hawkeye defense was the only unit in the country that hadn’t allowed a rushing touchdown at one point in time. They’ve allowed 4 in the last four games.
In the five games previously, Iowa’s rush defense allowed, on average, 79.2 yards per contest. That was good enough to rank the Hawkeye run defense among the nation’s best.
But there might be a reason for this, too — the same reason Iowa’s rushing offense has sputtered.
Combined Record of last 4 opponents — 27-8
And if Northwestern’s 4-5 record is removed, the combined record of Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin is 23-3.
Maybe that justifies Iowa’s poor play. Maybe it doesn’t. That the Hawkeyes were able to go toe-for-toe with Ohio State (at least for three quarters) should have given them plenty of confidence for the rest of the season — at least in theory.
But there’s another reason Iowa couldn’t close that game, along with others, this season.
Second-Half Scoring — Opponents 126, Iowa 75
To put it plainly, Iowa isn’t a second-half team. To further illustrate this point, let’s look at something a little more specific:
During the second halves of the Hawkeyes’ four losses, they’ve had the ball with an opportunity to score game-tying or go-ahead points 14 times. In those 14 drives, Iowa has punted eight times, has thrown three interceptions, and has scored just twice — the 85-yard touchdown from Jake Rudock to Jake Duzey against Ohio State and a field goal this past weekend against Wisconsin.
To make matters worse, each of those interceptions led to points for the opposition. The Badgers used both of theirs to set up touchdowns that sealed the victory on Nov. 2. Northern Illinois used the other one to kick a game-winning field goal in the season-opener.
What this says is that this football team is built to play with a lead. Without one, it’s almost doomed. In each of Iowa’s five wins, it has jumped out to an early lead and held onto it. The only time it gave up its lead and won was against Northwestern — a team the Hawkeyes needed overtime to defeat.
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