IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis has found in his 39 years of coaching that teams make the biggest improvements between weeks one and two during the football season. Many coaches over the years talk about the Week 1 to Week 2 improvement, but can the improved results really be measured this week for Iowa?
After losing the opener to Northern Illinois by a narrow 30-27 margin, the Hawkeyes look to rebound in week two against Missouri State on Saturday. Iowa has never lost to a FCS program in the modern era. All five losses were pre-1939, before the FCS criteria was established.
The Missouri State Bears (0-1) will square off against a Big Ten Conference opponent for the first time in the 102-season history of the program Saturday when they meet the Iowa Hawkeyes (0-1).
Both programs lost eight games in 2012, with Iowa in FBS and MSU in FCS. Both programs have lost seven straight dating back to last season. So, a streak will end for the second straight week for Iowa or Iowa's opponent.
Missouri State have played FBS opponents is the past, but usually a Big 12 opponent, or a Tulsa or Arkansas State. It has been 23 years, since the Bears got their lone FBS win. Iowa typically takes care of business vs. FCS opponents, but did receive a scare in the 2009 season opener, vs. Northern Iowa.
For Iowa: "it's positive to have a game under our belt," Davis said. "We got to see ourselves against a different opponent, while we also got to see Missouri State on film in their opener and see the guys that are actually playing."
The Hawkeye offense will be going up against a different look defensively from what Northern Illinois employed last week. Missouri State sets up in a 3-4, which is an unusual look on normal down and distances for college defenses. Wisconsin and Ohio State are using 3-4 base defenses in 2013.
"Everybody has a 3-4 as part of their nickel or dime package, so it creates a little mental gymnastics, but our kids have had a really good week," Davis said. "It also prepares us for later in the season when other teams do it."
Missouri State, who lost 23-17 to Northwestern State in its opener, share the NCAA Division I FCS lead in red-zone defense after limiting the Demons to one score in three red-zone possessions. Finishing red-zone drives with touchdowns has been a point of emphasis for Davis and the Hawkeyes.
"Scoring touchdowns in the red zone is something that we talked about at the very beginning of camp," said Davis. "Part of the reason their defense does a good job in the red zone is that they're a 3-4 team. They have a lot of guys dropping in coverage, the fill gets reduced... you really have to be able to run the ball down there against that style of play. We had two different sessions in today's practice in the red zone, so hopefully we'll be able to finish our drives."
Last week, Iowa scored touchdowns on 2-of-3 red-zone trips, while kicking a field goal on its other possession inside the 20.
One positive vs. Northern Illinois was senior TE C.J. Fiedorowicz' 11 yard touchdown reception from first-year stating quarterback, sophomore Jake Rudock. The TE corp is Iowa's strongest group of receivers, so the Hawkeyes are looking for production from that unit in 2013. Could we see more offense from the TE group in Week 2?
Davis went into last week's opener looking for the offense to take at least 80 snaps. The team reached that number (43 rushes and 37 passes) and had opportunities for more offensive plays, but three turnovers cost Iowa additional reps and ultimately nine points for the Huskies.
"I did like the pace of play," said Davis. "We want to be a team that is balanced. Last week, we had over 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing. There were a lot of positives from last week's game from that stand point, but obviously you can't turn the ball over."
Iowa's thorn vs. Northern Illinois was three turnovers (1 fumble, 2 interceptions). The most costly turnover was Rudock's final interception that ended Iowa's hopeful go ahead drive to break a 27-27 tie in the fourth quarter. It fueled NIU to a game winning field goal on their final drive of the game.
Iowa looks to make for a bittersweet Homecoming for the Missouri State head coach on Saturday.
The Bears’ first trip of the 2013 season will be a familiar one for eighth-year head coach Terry Allen, whose father, Robert, played for the Hawkeyes in the late 1930’s before serving as UI’s head men’s swimming coach for 16 years. Allen grew up in Iowa City, before heading off to college at the University of Northern Iowa.
Since moving to Division I status in 1982 as a FCS program, Missouri State is 1-28 all-time against FBS programs; the Bears’ sole FBS win in that time frame came at UNLV (31-24) in 1990. Iowa has taken care of business in the past vs. FCS opponents, since 1982.
Eight FCS programs beat FBS programs in Week 1, including Allen's alma mater, Northern Iowa, who beat Iowa's Week 3 opponent, Iowa State in Ames, with a 28-20 win. Iowa State has a bye week in preparation to hosting Iowa in Week 3. It should be an interesting eight days.
Three Bears earned preseason All-MVC recognition, as Caleb Schaffitzel (Jr., S, Fair Grove, Mo.) and Dorian Buford (Sr., WR, Florissant, Mo.) picked up first-team honors, while Anthony Grady (Sr., DE, Texarkana, Ark.) was an honorable mention selection. Schaffitzel currently ranks third among active NCAA FCS players in career interception return yardage (216).
MSU brings a seven-game losing streak against teams from the state of Iowa into Saturday’s game, with its last win coming at home vs. UNI (24-21) on Oct. 8, 2005; the Bears have not won a game on Iowa soil since defeating the Panthers (also by a 24-21 score) in Cedar Falls on Oct. 3, 1998.
Over the last three seasons, MSU is 0-14 when scoring 20 points or less; the Bears are 5-4 when topping the 20-point barrier over the same span.
Bears’ quarterback Kierra Harris (Jr., Texarkana, Ark.) scored both MSU touchdowns vs. Northwestern State and ranks 16th nationally in scoring as a result.
The Hawkeyes and Bears will kickoff at 11:01 a.m. (CT) inside Kinnick Stadium on the Big Ten Network.
Iowa should win vs. Missouri State. Our Pick: Iowa 39, Missouri State 10, as the next real test for Iowa will be next Saturday at Iowa State (0-1) in Ames.