By the numbers: Iowa football and the offense

With a shaky start to the season and a turn-around in the last two games, exactly how much has Iowa’s offense improved?


Shivansh Ahuja

Wisconsin’s Garrett Groshek avoids a tackle during a football game between Iowa and Wisconsin on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. The Badgers defeated the Hawkeyes, 28-17.

Anna Kayser, Assistant Sports Editor

Through the first four games of the season, Iowa’s offense has been anything but consistent.

Dealing with injuries, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz has been challenged with finding playmakers who can provide success but haven’t shown that the offense has a go-to player.

After an offensive blunder against Iowa State, the passing game needed to step up, and it did. Paired with a rotating group of running-backs, the offense has the full package — if it stays on track.

RELATED: Here are the answers to 4 questions we had before the Hawkeye football season

Rushing Yards — high 209 (Northern Illinois)

The running game typically isn’t a problem for the Hawkeyes, with head coach Kirk Ferentz making his money on how well the ground game plays.

On the ground in the first four games, Iowa has gained 669 total yards.

The highs came against Northern Illinois and Northern Iowa, in which Iowa’s offense collected 209 and 207 yards, respectively.

In both of those games, running backs Toren Young and Mehki Sargent were major playmakers. Young recorded 84 yards on 8 carries against Northern Illinois, with Sargent coming in with 40 yards on 12 carries.

Another running-back in the mix, Ivory Kelly-Martin, ran for 62 yards on 16 carries against Northern Illinois before being sidelined with an injury.

Despite Young leading the running game in Kelly-Martin’s absence, running for 82 yards on 14 carries against Northern Iowa, Kelly-Martin was the go-to guy against Big Ten matchup Wisconsin. He ran for 72 yards on 14 carries, with Young coming in at 34 yards on 6 carries.

With the success coming from each of the three running-backs, Iowa’s bread-and-butter should have no problem in the coming weeks if each can pull his weight.

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Passing Yards — high 338 (Northern Iowa)

It’s no secret that Iowa’s airborne offense was off in the first two weeks of the season. Against Northern Illinois and Iowa State combined, the passing game collected just 309 yards.

Tight end T.J. Hockenson seemed to be the go-to guy, with 97 yards on 10 catches during those two games. Wide-receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette and tight end Noah Fant were also in the mix for the receiving leaders.

On Sept. 15 against Northern Iowa, things took a big turn. Wide-receiver Nick Easley moved into the top receiver slot with 103 yards on 10 catches. Fant followed closely behind — despite only playing in the first half — collecting 99 yards on just 5 catches.

In Iowa’s third game, the passing game collected more yards in the air (338) than the first two games combined. It found its stride, just in time for Wisconsin.

Quarterback Nate Stanley proved that he gained his confidence back against Wisconsin, finding Hockenson, Smith-Marsette (back from an injury sustained against Iowa State), and Fant three times each.

Fant totaled 29 yards, and two of his 3 catches appeared in the end zone when it mattered most.

Smith-Marsette had trouble holding onto the ball against Wisconsin more than once but collected 58 yards on the catches he secured.

Hockenson caught for 125 yards and was on the receiving end of Stanley’s long pass of the game, a 46-yard Hail Mary third-down conversion with 9 yards on the chains.

Despite being overtaken by Wisconsin in the end, the offense will be all right.

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