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Iowa’s Week Three victory over Western Michigan saw the Hawkeyes’ running game finally awaken from its multi-year slumber, racking up 254 yards and three touchdowns. While the game was closer during the first half than Hawkeye fans would have liked, in the second half Iowa scored more points than in either of its first two games (27), holding the Broncos to 35 yards of total offense and made several big plays on special teams. As Iowa prepares for this week’s marquee matchup against Penn State, it does so after playing its most complete game of the season.

However, Iowa’s passing game remains a serious question mark. On Saturday, the Hawkeyes had just 133 passing yards against an opponent that allowed an average of 286.5 per game. Starting quarterback Cade McNamara passed for just 103 yards and completed less than 50% of his passes for the third time in his career. Meanwhile, Iowa’s pass protection, which had been solid through the first two games, suffered several major breakdowns, allowing McNamara to be sacked four times and pressured on several other occasions. Unfortunately, Iowa’s struggles against Western Michigan are not out of character for the team this season, as the Hawkeyes rank in the bottom three of the Big Ten in completion percentage (53.4%), yards per attempt (5, 9) and passer rating (111.91). ).

Iowa is no stranger to inefficient passing games after spending the last three years trying to fit Spencer Petras’ square peg into the round hole of Brian Ferentz’s offense. While the arrival of McNamara and transfer pass catchers Erick All, Seth Anderson and Kaleb Brown were supposed to solve these problems, Iowa’s offense still hasn’t figured out how to make the passing game work. Some of these issues can be attributed to early season nerves (did anyone see Alabama throw for 107 yards on Saturday against a USF team that went 1-11 last season?) and chemistry issues caused by ​due to the influx of new transfers and the significant absence of McNamara. time in the low season. However, between the start of the Big Ten season and the injury to Iowa’s top receiver Luke Lachey, Iowa’s margin for error in the passing game will narrow significantly in the coming weeks, raising questions about whether poor Iowa’s passing attack is about to get better. even worse.

Cade McNamara’s tenure as Iowa’s starting quarterback has been mixed so far. On the one hand, the Hawkeyes are 3-0 with Cade running the offense, are averaging 11 more points per game than last season (28.3, up from 17.7) and have nearly as many touchdown passes in three games ( four) like Spencer Petras did in all of 2022 (five). On the other hand, McNamara has been an extremely inefficient passer thus far with a surprising penchant for turning the ball over. Through three games, McNamara’s passing stats are no different than what one might have expected to see from Spencer Petras had he used his year of COVID eligibility to return to the team this fall.

Iowa Quarterback Comparison

Player Passing yards per game Yards per attempt Yards of air per attempt Touchdown passes per game Completion percentage Passer Rating
Player Passing yards per game Yards per attempt Yards of air per attempt Touchdown passes per game Completion percentage Passer Rating
Cade McNamara (2023) 139 5.9 5.1 1.33 53.50% 113
Spencer Petras (Career Averages) 148.54 6.1 5.7 0.685 56.70% 114.7

Three games is an absurdly small sample size, so fans shouldn’t hit the panic button just yet. Still, the strange thing about McNamara’s game (particularly the last two games) has been how different he looked from what he showed during his 21 games with the Michigan Wolverines. As Michigan’s starting quarterback, McNamara was what one might call a “Game Director+”: someone who could skillfully run a powerful, efficient offense without having to take on all the playmaking, but who could step up to the plate to make big plays when the situation called for it. for it. Michigan McNamara was precise in the short to intermediate passing game, but he had a deep ball that opponents had to respect. He was extremely turnover-averse, handled pressure in the pocket well, and made the right decision with the ball more often than not. The Cade McNamara Iowa has seen so far hasn’t been the same player. McNamara has three interceptions in as many games in 2023 despite throwing just six all season while leading Michigan to the 2021 Big Ten Championship, and his game against the Broncos marked just the second game with multiple interceptions of his career. , and the other was against the future. national champion Georgia in the 2021 Orange Bowl.

Against Western Michigan, McNamara seemed to be forcing the issue at times. His first interception (at minute 2:08 in the video below) came on a reckless attempt to force the ball to Nico Ragaini despite the receiver having three defenders in the box.

On McNamara’s second pick (at the 2:37 mark in the video above), he was late in his read and missed a window to hit Seth Anderson on a deep throw, but opted to throw the ball late into double coverage anyway, which predictably resulted in an interception and an aneurysm for Brian Ferentz.

To make matters worse, McNamara appeared to have option receivers closer to the line of scrimmage on both plays, as was also the case on a handful of his incomplete passes against the Broncos in which he attempted to throw downfield.

On the one hand, McNamara deserves credit for playing more aggressively than Hawkeye quarterbacks in recent years and for not opting for the path of least resistance. Iowa has had plenty of gunslinging quarterbacks like Drew Tate and Ricky Stanzi who have occasionally put the ball in danger, but whose upside and big playmaking ability easily made up for occasional turnovers or poor throws. McNamara is also still adjusting to playing without the competent offensive coaching and four- or five-star talent he enjoyed at Michigan. Given that Cade is new to Iowa’s offense, he missed time during the offseason and is still dealing with an injury that is hindering his mobility, it is not unreasonable to expect major improvements as the season progresses. Whether McNamara wants to play as a playmaker or as a gunman, better chemistry with his receivers and blockers should make him more successful in either approach.

On the other hand, it’s worth wondering if McNamara is doing himself a disservice by trying to shoulder too much of a burden for Iowa’s offense. In an interview last offseason, McNamara expressed some frustration with the “director of defense” designation. game” and described why his transfer to Iowa was the perfect opportunity to shed the label that had been placed on both him and Iowa QBs in the past.

“I don’t want to be labeled a game manager anymore and I understand the offense Iowa has had in the past. But they have made it very clear that we do not intend to stay like this. “We are very aware that we need to change to get back to being a Big Ten Championship contender, and for me, that was a very intriguing opportunity because, not only are they looking to change, but I am looking to change the perception of my own game as well.” .

It was hard not to think about that quote while watching McNamara try in vain to revive a moribund Iowa passing game by trying to make big plays that weren’t there instead of taking advantage of what the defense was giving him. Whether McNamara is forcing the issue to try to reinvent the public’s perception of Iowa’s offense, his own game or both, Iowa’s passing game will continue to struggle unless it can rediscover some of the tendencies that made it so efficient in Michigan. Cade’s assessment was spot on; Iowa doesn’t need a quarterback who can only manage games, and critics who have labeled him as such have dramatically underestimated his talent and capabilities. However, McNamara can’t reverse nearly 25 years of bad Iowa offenses with a single swing of his right arm, and it doesn’t help anyone who tries. Whether the Hawkeyes can establish a consistent passing game this season may depend on whether McNamara can strike the right balance between the efficient, precise game manager he was at Michigan and the gunslinger his early games at Iowa suggest he wants to be. If McNamara is successful, Iowa’s offense could finally turn the corner fans have been waiting for. Otherwise, inconsistent performances like those Iowa fans saw over the past two weeks (and honestly, over the past two seasons) may continue to be the norm.

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#Iowas #Cade #McNamara #Game #manager #gunslinger

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