Hawkeyes A Few Plays Away from 9-3

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?

  • c s

    This, was painful to see. GD was/is notorious for calling plays like this. I hope that trend does not continue…

    – (I am almost laughing at that right now, remembering how many passing attempts short of the first down marker we saw last year). 

  • bwsmoney



    • JW

      Um ok.

  • John Harvey

    9-3 is about what I picked the Hawks to be last year. Guilty. But that pick was with Brandon Scherff healthy for the whole year and the Hawks running the ball effectively behind a superior O-line. Drew Tate got by without a running game in 2004, but that year’s fabulous defense kept giving him the ball over and over again, plus Tate was escapable and pass blocking was very good. Given the 2012 team’s makeup, Scherff’s loss was catastrophic. And the catastrophe was magnified by a group of WRs that underachieved, leaving a non-escapable JVB nothing to do at times but be a deer in the headlights. Call me a kool-aid drinker, but I have real hopes for this year assuming our depth doesn’t get exposed.

  • jeffbuck

    Close games are about the same as turnover ratios. Over time, you pretty much break even. During Stanzi’s junior season (and the last several games of his soph season), we very nearly won all the close ones. Last year and the year before, not so lucky. Jon’s 9-3 simply assumes we pretty much win them all. It happens, but…. Given the almost total waste of VDB last year, and the injury orgy in the Penn State game, I’m a little surprised we managed to win 4. Still can’t quite figure out why you bring Davis in for VDB’s last season. Why not play it out and start w/ the new regimen this year w/ a new QB? Speaking of which, Ruddock does not fit the Davis system. We recruited him when we were still playing the old way.

  • westsidebill

    The part most people ignore is that Iowa was 4-8 in one of the worst years for football in the B1G in a LONG time. The other part most forget – but Jon reminds us of periodically – is that Iowa is WAAAYYYY under .500 since 2005 in close games under Ferentz.

    So I guess if “just being close” is OK, then people should be happy most of the time – close losses to Western Michigan, a very potential close loss to Northern Illinois this year, and growing gaps between Iowa and Wisky, Michigan, OSU, Northwestern, Nebraska, etc. Yup, some people don’t realize how quickly .500 and below seasons can occur unless significant philosophies shown by the current head man (with the lifetime contract) are modified to match today’s college game.

  • BobbyD57

    I have been making this exact case for at least six months. I am not happy with 4-8, but I’m darned proud to claim the 10-2 2002 & 2004 seasons and the 11-2 2009 season, even though all three included plenty of close games that went the other way.

    As jeffbuck notes, the best way to win close games is not to let them stay close.