What would have been worse; getting blown out at home by Northern Illinois or actually showing a semblance of an offense for one half and then looking just like 2012 in the second and losing on a last second field goal?
Yeah, me too. I think what played out in Iowa City on Saturday in Kinnick Stadium was very, very tough to take.
Here are some quick takes with more to come through the night and weekend….
-Jake Rudock looked good in the first half. In the second half, he looked less than good but I might toss a little blame to Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis. Iowa had 3rd and 1 in the fourth quarter and Davis dials up a passing play and Rudock goes to Damon Powell deep down the middle. The throw was there and Powell slowed down a bit, otherwise it was six. Powell had to slow down in the first half when he caught a 49-yard pass from Rudock, otherwise that was six. Rudock also under-threw Jordan Cotton on a flea flicker that went for a lot of yards. There’s 14 hidden points for Iowa that it didn’t get. But dialing up a deep play like that on 3rd and 1 when you have Mark Weisman and a future NFL left tackle? Didn’t make sense to me. Then on Iowa’s last real possession, with the game tied and under 1:40 to play and Iowa in great field position, Iowa calls a pass play on first down, a down and out in the flat and the corner jumped the route. That was the game. I don’t blame Rudock here, I blame Greg Davis. Why do you put your quarterback in that position given the QB has never taken a snap in college before? He made mistakes, doesn’t have a big arm but he shows a lot of poise and has a good grasp of the ‘system’, whatever that is.
-Iowa had over 300 yards in the first half. They ran 47 plays! Iowa scored 24 points in the first half (the offense scored 17 of those points). They ran several different speeds and they went five wide at times and really showed a semblance of actually looking like an FBS offense. Then came the second half and it looked a lot like how things looked for Iowa in November of last year; clueless, hopeless, horizontal and horrific. Iowa did amass 458 yards and ran 80 plays for the game…those are numbers you would have felt better about if Iowa won. Iowa also had a 3rd and 1 where there was a false start on a quarterback sneak, which is also on the ledger.
-OK, now that I have the most predictable post game criticism (play calling) out of the way and will probably look at things somewhat differently after watching the game again tomorrow, let’s move on to the fake punt….yeah, good times. That led to a field goal. Iowa’s three turnovers led to points for NIU. That doesn’t happen to good teams and Iowa is by no means a good team. It’s just frustrating to see another letdown in that phase of the game yet again.
-The further into this item I go, the more frustrated I get because there really were some good things out there today, just things that were very inconsistent. Rudock shows promise (21-37, 256 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs), the running game looked as good as I expected it to look (202 yards, Weisman with 100 and Bullock with 76), the OL was paving the way at times and the offense did show some imagination in the first half and the result was 300 yards. I just didn’t get the feeling watching the game that NIU out-schemed Iowa in the second half. Iowa had some execution miscues and some play calling that just seemed to be playing with fire or being too cute by a half. Whatever the case, thing were humming in the second quarter and Iowa had some rythym. Perhaps the half broke it up and Iowa could never find it again. I don’t know and if I did I’d probably be a coach.
I do know this; the second half looked way too much like what we saw last year, which was the worst offense in the Kirk Ferentz era and one of the worst in the modern era of Iowa football….or at least since 1981, which I can say from the perspective of having followed Iowa football since then.
The defense showed a pulse against a good offense and arguable the best quarterback they are going to face this season and one of three or four best offensive lines they will see this season, at worst. The pass rush showed some promise but only in the form of sending Chris Kirksey on blitzes. Jordan Lomax was abused early, but he has talent and at this stage he is too confident in his athleticism and needs to rely more on his technique.
The team will undoubtedly rebound much easier and faster than will the fans, as the season is still young and Iowa has underclassmen all over the place. Once you allow the pain of the loss to pass, you will remember some of the good things and some of the things that will help you see things look better than one year ago. But still…it’s going to be tough to get there.
I picked Iowa to finish 6-6 and that included a win against NIU in the home opener. It also included a loss at Iowa State and a loss at Purdue. I could see Iowa winning one or both of those games or losing one or both of those games, although Purdue looked atrocious in their loss against Cincinnati today.
All is not lost but I don’t blame you if you feel as though it is. This was the longest offseason for Iowa fans since 1999-2000 from a figurative standpoint and Iowa just lost the season opener on a last second field goal when the offense was showing more than just signs of life in the first half and went into the bag in the second. We’ve seen that movie before and Iowa is now in the midst of a seven game losing streak, it’s longest since the 2000 season, in Year 15 of the Kirk Ferentz era.