Offensive Balance Key on Saturday
Oct. 3, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa football team averages over 200 yards rushing (244.4) and passing (203.0) -- it's that kind of balance that offensive coordinator Greg Davis will be looking for when the Hawkeyes face the Spartans inside Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.
"We've been able to run the ball and mix it up, due in large part to our offensive line," said Davis after Thursday's practice. "We have good leadership on our line with our two tackles Brett Van Sloten and Brandon Scherff. Anytime your two tackles are playing well, that's a great start, because a lot of times the inside people can get help."
Davis went on to say that winning the line of scrimmage will play a big part in Saturday's outcome.
"If you can run the ball then your play action and first-down drop backs are all easier to protect," Davis said. "If you get into a game where you are playing from behind or you have to throw the ball, you put a lot of pressure not only on the line, but also the receivers, quarterbacks and protection calls."
The Hawkeye offense will face a Spartan defense that hasn't allowed more than 17 points in a game and is tops in the country in total defense (188.8), pass efficiency defense (72.6) and pass defense (153.8), and second in rush defense (58.2).
Davis points to Michigan State's experience that makes them such a tough defensive unit.
"They a really good defensive football team," said Davis. "They have seven veterans, and the guys who are new are also extremely talented. They've been doing the same thing for a number of years and do it well. They play really tight man-to-man on the outside, which allows them to overload the box."
Iowa QB Jake Rudock enters Saturday's game 39 passing yards shy of 1,000, completing 79 of his 128 pass attempts (61.7 percent) through five games. So far this season, opposing quarterbacks are completing only 36 percent of their passes against the Michigan State defense.
"Being successful on first and second downs is always important, but it will be especially important in this game," said Davis. "Their third down package is unique in what we see in the Big Ten. They do several different styles of blitzes -- so when you can stay out of long yardage and stay in that situation where you may run or throw, it gives you an advantage."
Leading the Hawkeye ground attack is junior Mark Weisman, who averages 123 yards on 119 attempts. The bruising running back's 119 carries lead the country and are more than 10 different teams. Junior Kevonte Martin-Manley leads the Hawkeye receivers averaging 5.2 receptions per game, which ranks fifth in the Big Ten.
Saturday with be the 45th meeting between Iowa and Michigan State, with the Hawkeyes winning seven of the last eight meetings in Iowa City dating back to 1994. Kickoff is set for 11:01 a.m. (CT) in Kinnick Stadium with the game being televised on ESPN2.
Tickets are still available for Saturday's Homecoming contest by logging on to hawkeyesports.com, calling 1-800-IA-HAWKS or visiting the UI Ticket Office on Friday.