Iowa City, Ia. — Analyze it however you want, but the bottom line is that Iowa’s offense hasn’t skipped a statistical beat during the transition from one coordinator to another.
The rushing game has improved, and the passing is a completion or two from matching last season’s Insight Bowl team despite James Vandenberg’s touchdown pass decline.
Now, take the plays used during the Hawkeyes’ 3-2 start under the Greg Davis system. Add Damon Bullock, a more aggressive no-huddle approach, fewer dropped passes — and possibly even another flea-flicker play.
The result equals what the Hawkeyes’ new offensive architect hopes to see during the remaining seven regular-season games, starting at 11 a.m. on Oct. 13 at Michigan State (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten Conference).
“We have several things, obviously, that we haven’t done that we’ve been working on,” Davis said Tuesday.
The razzle-dazzle play that started with a Mark Weisman handoff and ended with James Vandenberg passing 47 yards for a touchdown to an open Jordan Cotton last Saturday against Minnesota could be a sign of things to come, Davis said.
“There’s other plays like that that we’ll continue to use,” he said. “Same thing with no-huddle. I think over the last part of the season, it will be a bigger part of what we’re doing as we continue to go into the strength of the schedule.
“The kids have no problem with it, the execution of it. So I think that’s something else that we’ll continue to do more of.”
Iowa averages 161 rushing yards per game, about 23 yards better than last season — Ken O’Keefe’s last as coordinator. The Hawkeyes average 200 passing yards, which is 34 yards fewer than last year.
Iowa’s record is the same after Davis’ first five games as it was under O’Keefe in his 12th and final season in 2011.
“It’s been a very smooth transition,” Vandenberg said last week. “Once we got past the terminology (Davis) brought in, most everything’s gone pretty well. We’ve improved from game to game.”
From a personnel standpoint, Davis said it will get even better.
He said tailback Damon Bullock, who hasn’t played since suffering a concussion against Northern Iowa three games ago, is healthy and could join 515-yard rusher Weisman in the game at the same time.
“I’m not as worried about carries as things we can do to affect the defense,” Davis said. “If we can put what appears to be a base formation … with Mark being the fullback and Damon being the tailback, and then the next play … perhaps with Damon is a wide receiver … you give them both opportunities.”
Davis said the Hawkeyes still are missing communicative procedures, though, such as quarterback hand signals to receivers and others responsible for pass routes or pass protection.
“They’ve been worked on in practice,” Davis said, “and usually, what happens when the guys get to the sideline and you get them on the headset is:
“‘Coach, I can’t believe that; I mean, I understand.’”
“They’re things we’ve got to get cleaned up; there’s no doubt about it.”
Another cleanup area is touchdown passes. Vandenberg had 10 of the 25 he threw last season through five games. This season, he has just two.
“It’s a big deal, because I think we’re all a little bit surprised,” Davis said. “It’s not a big deal in terms of what we are looking at or what he’s looking at.
“You’d like him to be better, sure, but at the same time, you’re not going to try to force the issue. They’re going to come within the normal flow, and we’ve had several situations where guys have been close to getting it in, they don’t get it in.
“We’ve had opportunities, so we’ll just continue to work on it.”
Offensive Comparisons, with averages by game:
KEN O’KEEFE’S LAST SEASON AT IOWA: 2011
Total offense: 372.5
Key performers: Marcus Coker, James Vandenberg, Marvin McNutt
GREG DAVIS’ FIRST SEASON AT IOWA: 2012
Total offense: 361.0
Key performers: Mark Weisman, James Vandenberg
GREG DAVIS’ FIRST SEASON AT TEXAS: 1998
Total offense: 467.6
Key performers: Ricky Williams, Major Applewhite
UP NEXT FOR IOWA
WHO: Iowa (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten) at Michigan State (3-2, 0-1)
WHEN: 11 a.m., Oct. 13
WHERE: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.
LIVE CHAT ON WEDNESDAY
The Register’s Randy Peterson will answer questions from fans during a live chat at HawkCentral.com, beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football