Three ways Iowa football can improve coming out of bye week

Coming out of the bye week, it’s time for Iowa football to turn up the improvement dial.

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Three ways Iowa football can improve coming out of bye week

Iowa tight end Noah Fant celebrates scoring a touchdown during Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. The Badgers defeated the Hawkeyes 28-17.

Iowa tight end Noah Fant celebrates scoring a touchdown during Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. The Badgers defeated the Hawkeyes 28-17.

Nick Rohlman

Iowa tight end Noah Fant celebrates scoring a touchdown during Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. The Badgers defeated the Hawkeyes 28-17.

Nick Rohlman

Nick Rohlman

Iowa tight end Noah Fant celebrates scoring a touchdown during Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. The Badgers defeated the Hawkeyes 28-17.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

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Luckily for Iowa football, it had a bye week to rest and recover following a disappointing 28-17 loss to Wisconsin in a game that could go a long way in determining the Big Ten West champion.

In addition to relaxing, the week off served as a time to look at what can be improved.

The loss to the Badgers showed that there are numerous areas in which the Hawkeyes can improve, and there are plenty of other pieces to look at from the previous three games as well.

Now heading into the rest of the season with one conference game under their belts, it’s time for the Hawkeyes to take a step forward if they wish to see Indianapolis.

Noah Fant’s involvement

Noah Fant hasn’t been bad this season. He ranks fifth among tight ends in the conference with 169 yards, which is decent, but given the hype entering the season, not so much as many people had expected.

Throw out his 5-catch, 99-yard performance against Northern Iowa on Sept. 15, and he would only have 10 catches for 70 yards this season.

When Iowa went for it on fourth down on its first possession against Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes trusted Nate Stanley to reach the first-down marker on a quarterback sneak.

Stanley didn’t get it, though, and that hurts even more when you see Fant in one-on-one coverage on the outside — a scenario that would likely produce a touchdown more often than not.

Fant has been doing what he needs to do, though. Iowa has T.J. Hockenson on the other side, and he has racked up 15 catches for a team-high 238 yards.

Unsurprisingly, Fant has also been scoring touchdowns at will. He is tied for third in the Big Ten with 4. 

RELATED: Point-counterpoint: Who should Iowa’s offense target after the bye week? 

Turnover margin

The Hawkeyes have lost the turnover battle so far, with a turnover margin of minus-1 — tied for No. 84 in the country, ninth in the Big Ten.

Iowa has thrown 4 picks this season, while intercepting only 2 passes. The Hawkeyes have also lost 2 fumbles, but they have recovered 3.

At this point last year, Josh Jackson had 2 interceptions, picking off both in the first three games.

While the secondary might not be on the ball-hawking level of Jackson yet, A.J. Epenesa has been a menace up front. The sophomore from Glen Carbon, Illinois, forced a fumble in his first two games and as he gets more time on the field, he can cause even more havoc.

Amani Hooker has been a playmaker for the Hawkeye defense in the past, so it’s only a matter of time before he starts causing more turnovers against opposing offenses.

Iowa’s defense has been fantastic so far, still leading the conference in scoring defense, but creating a few more turnovers wouldn’t hurt. 

Special Teams

Iowa’s special teams haven’t been terrible for the most part, but they made some glaring errors against Wisconsin.

Two turnovers and a fair catch at the 3-yard line highlighted punt-return miscues, hurting the Hawkeyes’ chances to win.

Kicker Miguel Recinos has been shaky thus far, making 5-of-8 field-goal attempts this season after going 11-for-13 last year. He missed 2 against Iowa State, 1 against Northern Iowa, then hit his only attempt against Wisconsin.

Punter Colten Rastetter has been a pleasant surprise for Iowa fans, ranking fourth in the conference with 43.7 yards per punt, and he is tied for second with a long punt of 69.