The 2012 Iowa football season will not likely be remembered for much other than the team went 4-8 and missed bowl eligibility for the first time since 2000. However, that team was a few plays away from being 9-3. They were also a few plays way from being 2-10.
Iowa v NIU: Iowa won this game 18-17 on a late touchdown by Damon Bullock. It was a gutsy call on third and and long, handing the ball off to Bullock on 3rd and 9 and he scampered in for the 23 yard score. Iowa was down 17-12 at that point, which was under three minutes to play in the game. That was one of their four wins which could have easily been a loss.
Iowa State at Iowa: Iowa lost this game 9-6. It was the first time they lost a game where their opponent scored less than 10 points in a long, long, long time. Like going back to 1980 when they lost 5-3 against Arizona. It was a brutal game offensively as neither team’s defense turned out to be all that great. This is a game Iowa could have won.
Central Michigan at Iowa: One of the worst losses of the Ferentz era, Iowa allowed CMU to score nine points in the last 45 seconds, including the recovery of an onside kick late to set up a game winning 47-yard field goal. Iowa should have won this game, but certainly didn’t deserve to.
Iowa at Michigan State: The Hawkeyes won 19-16 in 2OT. The only offense that looked as bad as Iowa’s from the Big Ten last year might have been Michigan State’s, however the Spartans had a really good defense to go along with it. That fact made this is a pretty solid win for Iowa, but it obviously could have gone the other way, too.
Iowa at Indiana: Iowa lost 24-21 after leading 14-0 midway through the first quarter as well as taking the lead in the fourth quarter of the game.
Purdue at Iowa: The Boilermakers hit a 46-yard field goal as time expired to beat Iowa 27-24. With just over 25 seconds remaining and the game tied at 21, Iowa completed a one-yard pass to Zach Derby on 4th down. The problem was it was a 4th and 3 situation (I am almost laughing at that right now, remembering how many passing attempts short of the first down marker we saw last year). Purdue took over on downs with just :21 seconds to play and the ball at their own 34…which of course was enough time to see one-legged Robert Marve run for 17 yards on first down, call timeout with :10 seconds to play, then complete a 20 yard pass, call timeout with :03 seconds to play, and kick the game winner.
Iowa at Nebraska: Having been burned by an aggressive 4th and 1 decision the week before, Kirk Ferentz opted to punt the ball on 4th and 13 at the Nebraska 30 yard with just under four minutes to play in the 4th quarter and Iowa leading 7-3…because yeah, there weren’t any plays designed to gain more than 13 yards last year. OK, I am being facetious, but then again they completed their first 20+ yard pass to CJF in this, the final game of the season and he only had two such targets all year. Iowa lost this game 13-7. Oh by the way; Iowa’s punt sailed into the endzone for a touchback for a net gain of 11 yards of field position.
That’s a total of seven games decided by six points or less. Iowa was 2-5 in those games. Had they gone 7-0 in those games, they would have finished the season with a record of 9-3. If they would have gone 4-3 in those games, they would have been 6-6 and in a bowl game getting 15 more practices in December. In either of those instances, the outlook heading into this season would be a bit different. Had Iowa gone 9-3, the outlook would a lot different.
But they went 4-8 last year with the worst offense of the Ferentz era and one of the most painful Iowa offenses to watch of any season in my lifetime of watching the Hawkeyes, which dates back to 1981.
While that is not a positive thing to recall, I still circle back around to this notion I shared at the end of last year…the Hawkeyes could have won every one of those losses I listed above while having the worst offense of the last 30 years of Iowa football and a defense that simply will not be remembered.
Should we be more optimistic heading into this year? Perhaps, but then again that schedule might have been the most manageable for Iowa in the last 30 years, too. This year’s slate is much tougher but it gets Charmin soft again in 2014.
This one will definitely come down to whether or not your glass is half full or half empty. I am a lifelong card carrying member of the half full club, but even I am struggling to buy what this collection of numbers can point to. In the end, as Kirk Ferentz would say (and has), this team got what it deserved.
What say you?