The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Five things to watch for in Iowa’s game against Rutgers on Saturday

Hawkeye fans should keep their eyes peeled for the Scarlet Knights’ two-faced rushing attack, as well as Hawkeye receiver Kaleb Brown in his return to the two-deep depth chart.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Iowa punter Tory Taylor punts the ball during the 2023 Wildcats Classic, a football game between Iowa and Northwestern at Wrigley Field in Chicago, on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. Taylor had six punts compared to Northwestern’s eight punts during the game. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 10-7.

1. Rutgers’ rushing attack 

Unlike its last contest, Iowa will take on one of the best rushing attacks it will see all year with the Scarlet Knights.  Third-year running back Kyle Monangai leads the Big Ten with 903 rushing yards on 168 attempts, averaging more than five yards per carry. Iowa linebacker Kyler Fisher credited Monangai for his ability to get downhill. Hailing from New Jersey, Monangai dashed for a 45-yard run against top-ranked Ohio State last week, the longest play the Buckeyes’ defense has let up this season.

The Scarlet Knights’ second-leading rusher is quarterback Gavin Wimsatt, who’s amassed seven rushing touchdowns and 45.7 yards per game on the ground. Against Indiana, Wimsatt scampered for 143 yards and three scores, including an 80-yard dash. Containing a star running back has become routine for the Hawkeye “D,” but with this mobile of a quarterback under center, Iowa will have its work cut out for them on Saturday. In the second half against Northwestern, Wildcat QB Brendan Sullivan got some easy yards on scrambles up the middle. Such cannot happen again, as Wimsatt will make Iowa pay for not keeping a spy on the QB. 

2. Improvement in the punting game 

Just to clarify, Iowa punter Tory Taylor has been one of the Hawkeyes’ most critical players this season and one of the best at this position in the FBS. Ranking eighth in the nation in yards per punt, Taylor has downed 38 percent of his boots inside the 20-yard line, gifting the Iowa defense great field position and making opposing offenses travel quite the distance to the end zone. Against Northwestern, however, Taylor was somewhat off his game averaging 39 yards per offering, his lowest output of the season, nearly seven yards less than his career average.

In the eyes of Iowa special teams coordinator LeVar Woods, Taylor is more than capable of bouncing back. Woods said Wednesday that the punter from Melbourne, Australia, is the most mentally strong he’s seen and “rises to challenges.” Taylor will have quite the challenge before him on Saturday, as field position will be premium in what’s sure to be a close-score game. 

3. Kaleb Brown’s resurgence 

Iowa second-year receiver Kaleb Brown ignited plenty of cheers from the Black and Gold faithful at Wrigley Field last week when he snagged his first catch of the season; a 23-yard grab in the fourth quarter on the Hawkeyes’ game-winning drive. Talking to reporters on Tuesday, Brown said it felt nice to “break the ice” and that the catch was something he needed considering the work he’s put in behind the scenes. The Ohio State transfer said he knew he had to step up once starter Diante Vines suffered an injury against the Wildcats, and he did just that, all in front of his family in his hometown Chicago.

This week and back on the two-deep depth chart, Brown will have to be a factor again against a Rutgers passing defense that ranks sixth in the nation in passing yards allowed. Aside from running routes, Brown can also be an asset in the run game, taking jet sweeps alongside cornerback Cooper DeJean to make the Hawkeyes much more dynamic on the ground. 

4. Offensive line shuffle 

Wrigley Field wasn’t so kind to the Iowa offensive line, as four linemen went down due to injury last week. This group included starters Logan Jones, Rusty Feth, Mason Richman, and backup Beau Stephens. While Stephens is out for Saturday, the trio of starters are all listed at their usual respective spots on the depth chart, but Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz hinted Tuesday that plenty of players are banged up and will have “up in the air” statuses against Rutgers.

If any of those three cannot go against the Scarlet Knights, expect Tyler Elsbury to be the first man off the bench. Having the ability to play the tackle, guard, and center spots, Elsbury excels at identifying defensive fronts and making calls at the line of scrimmage. Iowa starting right tackle Gennings Dunker labeled him as the “dictionary” of the group. Any snaps for Elsbury won’t hurt the Hawkeye line, but if Iowa has to reach deeper into its reserves, protection for Iowa QB Deacon Hill might become dicy. 

5. Cooper DeJean snaps 

Iowa fans got their holiday gift early this year, as DeJean got his first two touches on offense this season last week. Taking a handoff eight yards for a first down and then running a decoy on the next snap, DeJean’s day on the offense was over in the blink of an eye. The last thing the Hawkeye coaching staff wants is an injury, but DeJean ought to get at most 10 snaps Saturday.

His presence will not only give the 69,000 plus at Kinnick Stadium another jolt of jubilation but also provide yet another threat to a depleted Hawkeye offense. At the very least, the sight of No. 3 on the other side of the line of scrimmage will serve as a distraction to Rutgers defenders and coaches alike, opening holes for other Hawkeyes like Brown or receiver Nico Ragaini to produce. 

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.