Red-zone offense

Halfway through the 2019-20 season, Iowa has done a lot of things well. The Hawkeyes boast a 4-2 record and one of the best defenses in the nation.

Michael Sleep-Dalton and Keith Duncan have both been exceptional on special teams for the Hawkeyes, particularly in Iowa’s dramatic victory over Iowa State.

Where Iowa has struggled the most this season — most notably against Michigan and Penn State — is on offense. In particular, the offense has struggled finishing off drives with touchdowns.

Nate Stanley and the Iowa offense have been reasonably successful moving the ball down the field this season. However, when the offense gets into the red zone, the Hawkeyes sputter.

A combination of giving up sacks, committing penalties, and poor play-calling has forced Duncan to attempt far too many field goals this season. Or even worse for Iowa, red-zone trips don’t lead to any points at all.

Iowa’s losses against the Wolverines and Nittany Lions were close ones, and if Iowa punched the ball into the end zone after many opportunities in opposing territory, the games may have gone very differently.

The Iowa offensive line has been a revolving door of sorts this season, so some signs of struggle are to be expected. But when the offense has threats like Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette at receiver and Mekhi Sargent and Tyler Goodson at running back, scoring touchdowns — especially after entering opposing territory — should be an expectation.

Iowa has a chance to improve upon this facet of the game in the second half of the season, and it will need to in order to keep Big Ten West hopes alive.

-Robert Read

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