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Behind the numbers: Iowa 34, Indiana 6

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Not surprisingly, there was a notable disparity in success rate on early downs

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen via Imagn Content Services, LLC

After Indiana’s season-opening road loss to then-No. 18 and now-No. 10 Iowa, Crimson Quarry went through the play-by-play data from the Hawkeyes’ 34-6 win, courtesy of ESPN, to take a closer look at what happened and why.

Here are our behind-the-number takeaways from Indiana’s Week 1 loss.

Success rate

Success rate is defined as a team gaining 50 percent of the yards needed for a first down on first down, 70 percent on second down and 100 percent on third and fourth downs. Plays in which a penalty was committed before the snap weren’t counted as part of this analysis.

While Indiana’s offense matched Iowa in terms of its success rate on third down (33 percent) and fourth down (each team converted its lone fourth-down attempt), the Hawkeyes were much more effective at staying on schedule on first and second down.

Here are the success rates of each team by down:

IOWA

  • 1st down: 42.9%
  • 2nd down: 40.9%
  • 3rd down: 33.3%
  • 4th down: 100%
  • Total: 41.3%

INDIANA

  • 1st down: 25.0%
  • 2nd down: 23.8%
  • 3rd down: 33.3%
  • 4th down: 100%
  • Total: 28.1%

The Hoosiers moved the chains just 11 times in the game and they only did so four times on first or second down, whereas 13 of the Hawkeyes’ 18 first downs were on their early downs.

On a pivotal sequence at the end of the first quarter, Indiana’s defense had forced a punt for the second time in as many possessions – after the Hoosiers had spotted Iowa a 14-0 lead in the opening 135 seconds – but Indiana’s offense, pinned deep in its own territory, had a 3-and-out after a drive that netted negative-three yards.

Indiana punter James Evans’ punt went out of bounds at Indiana’s 48-yard line, which set up an eight-play scoring drive for Iowa in which its first two plays went for 16 and 10 yards, respectively. The Hawkeyes later converted on a 4th-and-2 at Indiana’s 14-yard line and Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras ran it in two plays later, putting Iowa ahead 21-3.

This was one prime example of the disparity between the two teams’ success rates on first and second down. (Evans’ punt was also representative of the difference in starting field position between the two sides. Iowa’s averaging starting position was its 32-yard line, compared to Indiana’s average starting point of 26.5 yards from its own end zone.)

Big-play rate

Iowa had almost twice as many plays from scrimmage that went for at least 10 yards compared to Indiana. The Hawkeyes held an 11-to-six advantage.

Once stat that really highlights the disparity between the two offenses is that Iowa’s 10-plus-yard play percentage on second down (pretty explanatory – the percent of second-down plays that went for at least 10 yards) was almost as high as Indiana’s success rate on second down.

Iowa gained at least 10 yards on 18 percent of its 22 second-down snaps, while Indiana managed at least 70 percent of the yards needed for a first down on second down 23 percent of the time.

Five of Indiana’s six plays that resulted in gains of at least 10 yards came through the air, with wide receiver Ty Fryfogle moving the chains of receptions of 33 and 32 yards.

Iowa gained at least 10 yards on 17.5 percent of its offensive snaps, compared to 9.4 percent for Indiana.

How was the debut of the Stephen Carr era?

Carr, a transfer from USC who reunited with his former position coach Deland McCullough in Bloomington, is a former five-star recruit who was ranked No. 20 nationally in the 247Sports Composite rankings for the 2017 recruiting class. That makes him arguably the most talented player – based on high school recruiting rankings – to ever play for the Hoosiers during the recruiting rankings era.

He wasn’t alone in this regard, but his performance on Saturday against Iowa left much to be desired. Indiana’s starting running back finished with 57 yards on 19 carries and he was especially bottled up by Iowa’s defense on early downs. He managed just 2.3 yards per carry on first down and two yards per attempt on second down, with 18 yards on nine attempts.

In his 15 carries that came on first or second down, Carr didn’t manage a single first down or touchdown.

However, Carr showed promise in short-yardage situations on third down. On his four third-down carries, Indiana faced an average of 1.75 yards to gain for a first down and he picked up a first down each time, while averaging 6.3 yards per carry on his four third-down attempts.

His longest run of the day went for 14 yards on 3rd-and-1 and he had a five-yard run on another carry when Indiana faced the same down and distance. He also had first-down runs of three yards on 3rd-and-2 and 3rd-and-3.

Carr may have run into some of the same challenges that Stevie Scott III did before him; if Indiana’s offensive line is overwhelmed and if Michael Penix Jr. isn’t playing up to his preseason All-Big Ten billing, then early-down success may be hard to come by.

Let’s take a closer look at Indiana’s run defense

This next statement will be one that’s intended to provide context, not excuses or rationalizations on behalf of the Hoosiers.

Set aside Tyler Goodson’s 56-yard scamper for a touchdown on the fourth play from scrimmage and Indiana’s defense actually fared alright against the Hawkeyes.

Now, when you’re Indiana and you’re opening your season with your highest preseason ranking since 1969 and doing so against a conference foe whose AD is persona non grata for much of the Hoosiers’ fan base, you can’t spot your opponent a 7-0 lead in the opening 90 seconds.

With all that said, Goodson averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on 10 first-down attempts. His other five carries on second down – in the non-touchdown division – went for just six total yards. His three carries on third down totaled four yards and none of them picked up a first down.

But he did run for 56 yards until the end zone stopped him and that play did give Iowa a 7-0 lead. And on his other 18 carries, which went for a combined 43 yards, Indiana’s defense did an admirable job.

Goodson’s backup, Ivory Kelly-Martin, averaged 5.5 yards per carry, but like Goodson, he benefitted from one long run. Half of his 44 rushing yards came on one carry – a play that ended with Raheem Layne II forcing a fumble, which was recovered by Josh Sanguinetti when the game was all but over.

Look, I watched enough peak Adrian Peterson, when his NFL carry log in a game might look like 3, 1, 6, -2, 4, 7, 2, 73, so it’s not realistic, nor feasible, nor insightful to say, “If you just remove the big plays, Indiana’s defense can still be pretty good!”

But in the aftermath of the Hoosiers’ deflating season-opening loss, a closer look at the play-by-play stats might not hurt, either, in order to take proper stock of Indiana’s 2021 roster and its strengths and weaknesses.