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

Grading Iowa football’s performance against Rutgers

In a contest with plenty of season-bests across both offense and defense, there were plenty of As to give around.
Cody Blissett
Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz and Iowa punter Tory Taylor exit the field after a football game between Iowa and Rutgers at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights, 22-10.

Passing Offense: A- 

Outside of his cringe-worthy interception to close out the first half, Deacon Hill’s performance on Saturday was the best of his career, and perhaps the best of any QB donning the Black and Gold in 2023. Throwing for 223 yards on 20 completions for a 64.5 percent accuracy rate, the Wisconsin transfer certainly changed a lot of fans’ minds with his effort on Saturday, and perhaps give some more hope that he can be more than game manager down the stretch. Even on that first-half drive that resulted in the pick, Hill made some of his best throws on the day, stepping up in the pocket and delivering darts in tight windows. 

Plus, it was also great to see so many players get involved in the receiving game, as seven Hawkeyes caught at least one pass, ranging from first-year tight end Zach Ortweth to sixth-year wideout Nico Ragaini. Yet perhaps the most essential performance was that of Kaleb Brown, whose speed and elusiveness were on full display on his 10-yard touchdown catch. Over the past two games, the Ohio State transfer has proved he can be a factor in this offense, and might even earn a starting spot next week if Diante Vines’ injury lingers. 

At the end of the day, by average FBS school standards, the passing offense today was acceptable to say the least, but by Iowa’s expectations, the numbers against Rutgers were extraordinary. By the way, the Scarlet Knights had the sixth-best passing defense in terms of opponent passing yards per game, yielding just under 160 per contest. Hill exceeded this number, and really only had three bad plays: the interception, the fumble, and the inopportune sack. 

Rushing offense: A 

While the Hawkeye ground game never had any big gains on the ground, maxing out on running back Kaleb Johnson’s  27-yard carry in the fourth quarter, Iowa still had a decent day running the ball. Totaling 179 net yards on the ground, the Hawkeyes averaged 3.9 yards per attempt, a far cry from where they were at in their previous two games, where they didn’t even sniff three yards per carry. 

After not getting a touch against Northwestern, Johnson had himself a nice bounce-back game with 54 yards on 10 carries. In fact, Johnson and fellow backs Jaziun Patterson and Leshon Williams all took at least 10 reps and churned out more than 50 yards each. This balance was a pleasure to witness, as it bore reassurance that any player in the Iowa backfield can get the job done. 

There was also some diversity in the run play design, as Brown took two jet sweeps for a total of 20 yards. Now if only Cooper DeJean could appear on the rushing stat sheet, now that would be a dream. 

Passing defense: A+ 

Granted, Rutgers quarterback Gavin Wimsatt wasn’t too prolific of a passer heading into Saturday, averaging just 130 yards through the air. Yet against the Hawkeyes’, Wimsatt had his third-worst performance of the season, tossing for 93 yards on seven completions. Two of those catches resulted in more than 15 yards as Iowa did a great job of limiting the big plays. The one miscue was from Hawkeye cornerback Jermari Harris, who missed a tackle on Scarlet Knight receiver Ian Strong on third down, allowing for an extra 20 yards after the catch. 

To Harris’ credit, the third-year from Chicago more than made up for his error, racking up three solo tackles and two pass breakups the rest of the way. 

After not having a pick since Oct. 21 against Wisconsin, it’s been a bit of a drought for the Hawkeyes in the interception department. Fortunately for them, that dry spell was broken with safety Quinn Schulte’s snag in the fourth quarter. And based on his teammates’ words, the play couldn’t have happened to a better person. 

The Hawkeyes’ performance against Rutgers in the passing game proved once again that the Iowa secondary is far more than All-American Cooper DeJean. 

Rushing defense: A+ 

As previously mentioned, Wimsatt isn’t much of a passing QB but nevertheless is far more talented with his legs. Averaging 45.7 yards per game on the ground heading into Saturday, Wimsatt had the single-season program record. Yet after sixty minutes of football against Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker and Co., that mark certainly took a hit, as the quarterback ran for a grand total of negative two yards. Believe it or not, he was only sacked once. 

The Scarlet Knights’ leading rusher, Kyle Monangai, also had a dismal performance. Heading into Kinnick as the Big Ten’s leading rusher with 913 yards, Monangai scampered for just 39 yards, with 23 of those occurring on Rutgers’ opening drive.

Led once again by linebacker Jay Higgins with eight total tackles, the Iowa defense roughed up Monangai, leaving the back shaken up after a hard hit in the second half. 

Averaging just 1.5 yards per carry, Rutgers’ greatest offensive assets were reduced to non-factors, thus eliminating any chance of victory for the Scarlet Knights. 

Special teams: A-  

In perhaps the most shocking stat of the day, Iowa punter Tory Taylor booted the ball just three times, landing only one of his offerings inside the 20-yard line. As for kicker Drew Stevens, it appears he has to start each game with a miss in order to hit his stride. After missing a 47-yarder on his first attempt, the second-year was on the money the rest of the way, accounting for 10 of Iowa’s points. 

On Rutgers’ nine punts, Iowa returned just one for a measly three yards. 

Coaching: A 

After shying away from fourth-down attempts against Northwestern and Minnesota, Kirk Ferentz elected to go for it twice on fourth down, converting on both attempts. While the choice for a two-point conversion was a little strange, it’s not like the Hawkeyes’ play was a failure. A wide-open Kaleb Brown’s knee apparently hit the turf just shy of the goal line, and that wasn’t even called on the field initially. 

Also, give credit where credit is due: offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz called a good game today. The Hawkeyes ran the ball just 15 times more than they threw it, averaged 5.2 yards per play, and didn’t have a single three-and-out for the first time this season.  

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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
Cody Blissett
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.