Saturday, September 28, 2013

Game Day: Iowa at Minnesota in Big Ten opener for Hawkeyes, Gophers

Something has to give on Saturday in Minneapolis?

Look for a game won in the trenches, as Iowa (3-1) and Minnesota (4-0) take battle in TCF Bank Stadium, in the 2013 Big Ten opener for each team.

Both teams emphasize the running attack, so how will explosive plays on play action help each team? Iowa's run defense has not given up a rush touchdown in 2013.

Who will win the battle in the red zone on Saturday?

Other areas that have played a big role in this series lately:

- Turnovers
- Special Teams
- Explosive Plays - play action is only one area to watch!
- Third down efficiency for each offense and defense

A Look at Minnesota in the Battle for Floyd of Rosedale!

OFFENSE for Minnesota begins and ends for the most part with the run. The balance is a running quarterback and the backs. The starting quarterback hasn't thrown either a touchdown or interception on 20 passes. Back up Nelson has two interceptions, one touchdown on 41 passes. Play action has been an issue at times for Iowa secondary.

Left Tackle 78 - Ben Lauer  6-6 302 R-Fr.  Plymouth, Minn. (Wayzata HS), 74 - Marek Lenkiewicz 6-5 289 R-Jr. Tinley Park, Ill. (Victor J. Andrew HS)
Left Guard 52 - Zac Epping 6-2 321 R-Jr.  Kenosha, Wis. (Tremper HS), 73 - Joe Bjorklund 6-5 288 R-So.  Rosemount, Minn. (Rosemount HS)
Center 63 - Jon Christenson 6-4 306 R-So.  Minnetonka, Minn. (Minnetonka HS), 53 - Tommy Olson 6-4 301 Jr.  Mahtomedi, Minn. (Mahtomedi HS)
Right Guard 64 - Caleb Bak 6-3 302 R-Jr.  Columbia Heights, Minn. (Concordia Academy), 77 - Foster Bush 6-5 303 R-So.  Menasha, Wis. (Menasha HS)
Right Tackle 65 - Josh Campion 6-5 326 R-So.  Fergus Falls, Minn. (Fork Union Military Academy), 79 - Jonah Pirsig  6-9 308 R-Fr. Blue Earth, Minn. (Blue Earth Area HS)
Quarterback 7 - Mitch Leidner   6-4 233 R-Fr.  Lakeville, Minn. (Lakeville South HS), 9 - Philip Nelson 6-2 215 So. Mankato, Minn. (Mankato West HS), 5 - Chris Streveler  6-2 209 Fr.  Crystal Lake, Ill. (Marian Central Catholic HS)
Tailback 35 - Rodrick Williams Jr.  5-11 235 So. Lewisville, Texas (Lewisville HS) OR 27 - David Cobb 5-11 225 Jr. Killeen, Texas (Ellison HS), 20 - Donnell Kirkwood 5-10 233 R-Jr. Delray Beach, Fla. (Atlantic)
H-Back/Fullback 30 - Mike Henry 6-1 231 R-Sr.  Mahtomedi, Minn. (Mahtomedi HS) OR 88 - Maxx Williams 6-4 254 R-Fr. Waconia, Minn. (Waconia HS)
Y Receiver 83 - Drew Goodger  6-5 265 So.  Shawnee Mission, Kan. (Northwest HS), 85 - Lincoln Plsek  6-4 265 So.  Waco, Texas (Reicher HS)
Z Receiver 14 - Isaac Fruechte  6-3 204 R-Jr. Caledonia, Minn. (Rochester CTC), 1 - KJ Maye 5-10 197 So. Mobile, Ala. (Murphy HS) OR 84 - Victor Keise 6-1 188 R-Sr. Coral Springs, Fla. (North Broward Prep)
H Receiver 18 - Derrick Engel   6-2 187 R-Sr.  Chaska, Minn. (Winona State), 17 - Logan Hutton  6-1 181 R-Jr.  La Marque, Texas (La Marque HS)
X Receiver 4 - Donovahn Jones 6-3 190 Fr. Stockbridge, Ga. (Dutchtown HS), 82 - Drew Wolitarsky 6-3 208 Fr. Santa Clarita, Calif. (Canyon County HS)

DEFENSE for Minnesota risk/reward unit much like Northern Illinois. They are capable of getting the sack and tackle for loss. Iowa may get the hurry, often the Golden Gophers pull off the negative play. RE Theiren Cockren leads unit with 3 sacks.

End 98 - Michael Amaefula 6-2 244 Jr. Arlington, Texas (Bowie HS), 95 - Hank Ekpe 6-5 251 Fr. Lewisville, Texas (Lewisville HS)
Tackle 46 - Cameron Botticelli 6-5 290 R-Jr. Milwaukee, Wis. (Marquette University HS), 92 - Roland Johnson  6-1 286 Sr.  Camden, S.C. (Butler CC)
Nose 99 - Ra’Shede Hageman 6-6 311 R-Sr. Minneapolis, Minn. (Washburn HS), 97 - Scott Ekpe 6-4 281 So. Lewisville, Texas (Lewisville HS)
End 55 - Theiren Cockran 6-6 238 R-So. Homestead, Fla. (Homestead HS), 91 - Alex Keith  6-3 237 So. Columbia, Mo. (Hickman HS)
Strongside Linebacker 57 - Aaron Hill 6-2 231 R-Sr. St. Charles, Mo. (Lutheran HS), 56 - Nick Rallis 5-11 227 R-Fr. Edina, Minn. (Edina HS)
Middle Linebacker 5 - Damien Wilson 6-2 254 Jr. Gloster, Miss. (Jones County CC), 50 - Jack Lynn  6-3 234 R-Fr. Lake Zurich, Ill. (Lake Zurich HS)
Weakside Linebacker 26 - De’Vondre Campbell  6-5 225 R-So. Fort Myers, Fla. (Hutchinson CC), 9 - James Manuel  6-2 225 Sr. Indianapolis, Ind. (Warren Central HS)
Cornerback 31 - Eric Murray 6-0 194 So. Milwaukee, Wis. (Riverside University HS), 3 - Martez Shabazz 5-11 172 Sr. DeSoto, Texas (Trinity Valley CC)
Strong Safety 21 - Brock Vereen 6-0 202 Sr. Valencia, Calif. (Valencia HS),11 - Antonio Johnson  6-0 207 So.  Cleveland, Ohio (Shaker Heights HS)
Free Safety 2 - Cedric Thompson 5-10 211 Jr. Calipatria, Calif. (Calipatria HS), 7 - Damarius Travis 6-2 208 So.  Pensacola, Fla. (Pensacola HS)
Cornerback 13 - Derrick Wells 6-0 206 Jr. Lehigh Acres, Fla. (Lehigh HS), 22 - Jeremy Baltazar 6-0 197 Sr. Corona, Calif. (Blinn College)

SPECIAL TEAMS for Minnesota is best in the return game, as Marcus Jones has tacken a 98 yarder to the house already this season on a kickoff, as well he has scored on a punt return. Kicking is good, as well, though place kicking isn't always consist.

Placekicker 36 - Chris Hawthorne   6-6 200 Sr. Raleigh, N.C. (NC State), 33 - Andrew Harte 6-0 180 Fr. Downers Grove, Ill. (Montini Catholic HS) OR 28 - Ryan Santoso 6-5 260 Fr. Pace, Fla. (Pace HS)
Punter 37 - Peter Mortell 6-2 195 R-So. Green Bay, Wis. (Notre Dame Academy), 94 - Christian Eldred 6-3 185 Jr. Melbourne, Australia (Monash University) OR 41 - Dan Orseske 6-3 205 R.-Sr Chicago, Ill. (Brother Rice HS) OR 28 - Ryan Santoso 6-5 260 Fr. Pace, Fla. (Pace HS)
Placeholder 37 - Peter Mortell 6-2 195 R-So. Green Bay, Wis. (Notre Dame Academy)
Long Snapper 48 - Jake Filkins   6-2 240 Sr.  Prescott, Wis. (Prescott),;96 - Dave Ramlet 6-2 238 R-Jr. Appleton, Wis. (Xavier HS) OR 40 - Jared Hartman 6-3 229 R-So. Falcon Heights, Minn. (Cretin-Derham Hall HS)
Kick Returner 15 - Marcus Jones  5-8 166 Jr.  Wake Forest, N.C. (Wake Forest-Rolesville),11 - Antonio Johnson        6-0      207     So.    Cleveland, Ohio (Shaker Heights, Ohio)
Punt Returner 15 - Marcus Jones  5-8 166 Jr.  Wake Forest, N.C. (Wake Forest-Rolesville), 1 - KJ Maye 5-10 197 So. Mobile, Ala. (Murphy)

Student-Athlete Status for Sept. 28 game vs. Iowa
30 - Mike Henry, Questionable 
47 - Alex Bisch, Out
29 - Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Out for the season

The Hawkeyes have overcome back to back two game losing streaks with wins over both Iowa State and Western Michigan this season. The Hawkeyes have lost two in a row at TCF Bank Stadium, so can Iowa pull off the Trifecta?

Quarterback 15 Jack Rudock, the sophomore makes his first Big Ten start on the road. He is a pre-med game manager for the Iowa offense. He did well at Iowa State and has shown poise in the pocket as he as played, grown over the four non-conference games. He faced a windy game at Iowa State and he may in Minneapolis, as well. Rain is expected pre-game. Rudock has four touchdowns via run and he has thrown five touchdowns, three interceptions. Redshirt freshman 16 C.J. Beathard took first snaps in 59-3 win over Western Michigan last weekend.

Running Backs 45 Mark Weisman, the junior leads the country in carries, second among B1G backs in rushing, but offensive coordinator Greg Davis has been rotating Iowa's RBs, often every two carries. Junior 5 Damon Bullock may see a little more work in the passing game at RB, than Weisman? He also is running better, after 4 games. Sophomore 33 Jordan Canzeri is good change of pace back. True frosh 29 LeShun Daniels, Jr. hasn't played on the road so far. Another power back, like former Iowa back Shonn Greene. Iowa is deeper at RB than last year.

Tight Ends Iowa can and likely will play all five TEs in some phase of the game. This is the deepest TE corp in Iowa history and junior 82 Ray Hamilton is a player to watch. Senior 86 C.J. Fiedorowicz is the #1 TE and scored a TD in the red zone in Iowa's season opener. Redshirt freshman 46 George Kittle may be another weapon, who executed an outstanding 46 yarder on a wheel route in the OOC. Sophomore 87 Jake Duzey has experience, while sophomore 80 Henry Krieger-Cottle is the fifth TE. Henry scored a 16 yard TD at Michigan as a freshman. This is the corp in Iowa's passing game that will determine how competitive the Hawkeyes are in the Legends race.

Receivers The question at WR, who emerges as a consistent option, after leading receiver, junior 11 Kevonte Martin-Manley (20 catches, 1 TD)? Sophomore 17 Jacob Hillyer has caught TDs in back to back games. JUCO transfer, junior 22 Damond Powell has a TD on 3 explosive receptions. But, will he be asked to do much on the road in the Big Ten opener as a newbie? Sophomore 4 Tevaun Smith is experienced and was targeted in the passing game at ISU with success. Seniors 8 Don Shumpert and 23 Jordan Cotton may be players to locate. Rudock, as mentioned, is a game manager and has the Iowa offense ahead of senior James Vandenberg, who lead Iowa in every snap in 2012.

Offensive line for Iowa has experience with six players in the mix. Player to watch is sophomore center 63 Austin Blythe, who appears to be leading this offense well, though Iowa beat writer Marc Morehouse suggests the OLine is behind the one lead by departed center James Ferentz. Junior LT 68 Brandon Scherff is the next best Iowa lineman, while senior RT 70 Brett Van Sloten is the captain.

Iowa will like be 55-45 run-pass this season, but Iowa wants to be a balanced attack and they showed in the season opener that they will air it out in third and short.  How will OC Davis call this Big Ten opener. He is 1-0 on the road in Big Ten road openers. He has a better roster in 2013.

The Iowa defense is the heart of the team lead by a trio of senior linebackers. The defensive line is improved from 2012. They are getting some pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but few sacks. Iowa likes to stay in base 4-3 defense, but they will rotate some players in situations under second year DC Phil Parker, who has handled secondary 14 of 15 years he had been a coach under head coach Kirk Ferentz.

Linebackers MLB 44 James Morris and OLB 20 Christian Kirksey are the captains of the defense and special teams. WLB 31 Anthony Hitchens (1 sack) leads Iowa in tackles. These three seniors are playing well. Morris had an interception at ISU and Kirksey has a nose for the football, with a fumble return for a TD in season opener. Junior MLB 52 Quinton Alston has played as a situational rusher. Iowa has a true frosh 6 Reggie Spearman, who is an amazing 17 year old. Junior WLB 55 Marcus Collins is active on special teams.

Defensive Line has been strong against the run vs. running quarterbacks and running backs in 2013. Zero touchdowns on the ground thus far this season. Senior RE 79 Dominic Alvis is the senior leader and tackler in DLine. Iowa rotates three defensive tackles in juniors 71 Carl Davis, 90 Louie Trinca-Pasat and sophomore 97 Darian Cooper (1 sack). Sophomore LE 95 Drew Ott is a kid out of Nebraska, who was going to be redshirted in 2012, but had it pulled and became a contributor his final five games as a true frosh. Junior DE 98 Mike Hardy will rotate in. It should be a physical game in the trenches.

Secondary is lead by seniors CB 19 B.J. Lowery and FS 5 Tanner Miller, who lead Iowa in interceptions. Lowery had two Pick-6 against Western Michigan last week. Junior SS 37 John Lowdermilk's papa played at Ohio State and he likes run support, as all of Iowa's secondary have shown. CB 14 Desmond King is a true freshman out of Detroit and has one fumble recovery in three starts. Iowa can play some others in the secondary, if need, but Lowery and Miller lead unit.

Iowa has solid special teams lead by three seniors. PK 96 Mike Meyer could be among the best in B1G and nation as a placekicker. LS 61 Casey Kreiter is very solid. Kick returner and gunner 23 Jordan Cotton was one of the best in the Big Ten last year and is getting better each week under new special teams/RB coach Chris White, a former Vikings assistant. Punt returner 11 Martin-Manley is leading Big Ten and had back to back punt returners to the house last week.  Sophomore punter 98 Connor Kornbath is a solid net punter with Iowa's punt unit and good inside 20. This is an area both teams will look to be successful in.

Our Pick: Iowa 38, Minnesota 21

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is dean of the Big Ten. Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, now in third season with Golden Gophers (1-1 vs. Ferentz at UM) is well liked and offers interesting chess game in this one.

Iowa is vulnerable in a tight game. It's a rivalry game, so anything is possible.

Battle of Floyd of Rosedale should be a good one in Minneapolis this year in Big Ten Opener. 

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