IOWA CITY, Iowa — Ready. Set. Go.
The Iowa offense isn’t wasting time this season, growing more comfortable in the no-huddle, up-tempo approach offensive coordinator Greg Davis introduced a year ago.
“We ran more of it this spring, we worked more on it in camp and I think we’re all getting used to it,” receiver Jordan Cotton said. “It’s now a part of what we do.”
What Iowa is attempting to do isn’t necessarily designed to be basketball on grass. The Hawkeyes’ no-huddle is designed to push the tempo at times and back off on occasions, varying tempos from series to series and even play to play to challenge defenses in another way.
Iowa ran 80 plays last weekend in its 30-27 loss to Northern Illinois, the most snaps the Hawkeyes had taken in a game since running 82 plays in an 18-17 win over the Huskies to open the 2012 season.
The Hawkeyes went on to average 66.1 plays per game last season, and Coach Kirk Ferentz expects Iowa’s use of a hurry-up approach on offense to continue to vary on a weekly basis.
“I thought for the most part we operated well on Saturday,” he said. “Communication for the most part was pretty good. It was fairly effective, but we still want more points.”
The Hawkeyes have been working on getting snaps off on a regular basis in less than 15 seconds, and Ferentz said Iowa found itself not working at the pace it wanted at times against the Huskies.
“There were a couple of times when the officials kind of slowed us down a bit when we would have liked to have gone quicker,” Ferentz said.
That up-tempo approach, which has gained such widespread use that it is now being criticized by some coaches nationally because of the difficulties some teams have inserting defensive substitutes into the game, is now a comfortable part of the Hawkeye offense.
Quarterback Jake Rudock prefers an aggressive tempo, viewing it as a way to put additional pressure on the defense.
“It’s just one more way for an offense to be in control, and from my perspective, that’s a good thing,” Rudock said. “We’re not here to make things easy for a defense.”
Rudock has been pleased with the Hawkeyes’ ability to adapt to different paces in the course of a game.
“That is something that guys have to adjust to as a goes on, quicker, slower, quicker, and it’s all about managing a game,” Rudock said. “I feel like we’ve got a group that can handle that and has the intelligence to deal with that as things progress.”
Offensive guard Jordan Walsh said Iowa players have embraced the idea of a rapid-fire offense.
“All of the players have bought into it,” Walsh said. “It’s something Coach Davis has been pushing. It’s been a lot different for most of us, but it’s still about making plays. It is something that creates more issues for the defense than anything.”
Hawkeye linebacker James Morris has found himself on the other end of the no-huddle, quick-fire approach.
Northern Illinois ran 83 plays against Iowa last week, and Morris believes an effective defense can operate against both huddled offenses and no-huddle attacks.
“If you are conditioned well enough, it shouldn’t be a problem,” Morris said. “When you look at our offense, sometimes in the no-huddle they go quick and sometimes they will still go 30 seconds before the snap. You deal with it.”
Ferentz said defensive substitutions do become a challenge against a no-huddle team, requiring quick communication and efficiency.
He said coaches have to effectively anticipate what is coming and, for example, have a nickel or dime group ready to go in a game.
“But if the situation doesn’t develop, you have to be ready to pull them back,” Ferentz said. “You just have to be ahead of the curve.”
Ferentz has been pleased with the way his players have embraced the no-huddle mentality. Among the reasons Iowa used it so much last spring was to test the abilities of Iowa’s starting quarterback candidates.
“What we choose to do with it now, how much or how little of it we do, remains to be seen, but it is something our guys are executing a little more proficiently,” Ferentz said. “It still all comes down to execution. If we think we can use it to our advantage, we will try to.”