Hawks end the 2017 season on a high note, thumping their “rivals” to the west. We chat with @marcmorehouse to discuss the Nebraska win, and what it means for Iowa’s bowl prospects.
I probably should have remembered how godawful the Nebraska defense was before I suggested we buy boots of beer for every Hawkeye touchdown on Black Friday.
By the time the third quarter ended, our table at the Bier Stube was decidedly bleary eyed and boisterous as Iowa kept the hammer down, steamrolling Lil’ Nebby even worse than the year prior.
In this space after the 2016 season finale I remarked on Nebraska fans’ amazing hubris in the face of the reality that they cheer for an objectively bad team:
Nebraska continues to search for an identity and can’t quite figure out why it doesn’t dominate the way it used to. Iowa, on the other hand, has a basic blue collar identity and is just going to keep grinding to remain competitive in the conference and nationally.
I look forward to the day our reluctant rival realizes that is its only path back to greatness as well. It should make for a much more competitive series.
I guess that’s a lesson unlearned, although the firing of Mike Riley is a signal that the Cornhuskers will try once again to find a magic bullet. Honestly, though, I’m not too afraid of what they come up with.
Think about this – did anyone in 1980 fear the second-coming of the mighty Minnesota Gopher juggernaut that capped off that program’s seventh national championship in 1960? I was 10 and already attending Big 10 games in Madison and Iowa City and never heard a peep about the resurrection of the Gopher dynasty.
Yet, here we are – 20 years removed from Nebraska’s last national championship (it should also be noted they only got five of them to Minnesota’s seven) – and the writers and fans in Omaha, Lincoln and parts more wind-blown are sure Scott Frost will lead them back to the promised land.
Until such time as Nebraska realizes it is no better than Iowa, Wisconsin or Northwestern, I have trouble ginning up much concern.
As for Iowa and its workmanlike approach to competitive football, I think 2017 is going to go down as one of the more incongruous seasons in Hawkeye history. If you told me before the game one kickoff that Iowa would retain three of four rivalry trophies, roll Ohio State by 31 points and punk Nebraska in Lincoln 56-14, I’d presume it was one of Kirk Ferentz’s best teams ever.
That clearly is not the case, though.
The biggest issue is the Hawkeye’s offensive inconsistency. Against Iowa State, Ohio State and Nebraska, the O looked like world-beaters with a road-grading running game and just enough big play capability in the passing game to score quick strikes. Against much of the rest of the schedule, though, the offense looked incapable of getting out of its own way. And in the Wisconsin and Purdue games especially, it seemed like no one had any idea how to execute basic blocking.
Hopefully, we can attribute the stop-and-start nature of the offense to breaking in a rookie offensive coordinator, first-year starting quarterback and a bunch of young faces at wide receiver, tight end and offensive line.
What’s interesting to me is that the 2017 season perfectly encapsulates the Kirk Ferentz era at Iowa, for better and for worse. The peaks (ham-blasting the mighty Buckeyes, humiliating the cocky Cornhuskers, ripping out the heart of hopeful Iowa State) were exhilaratingly high. Yet the lows (shooting itself in the foot over-and-over in East Lansing and Evanston, mustering a measly 66 yards against Wisconsin, sending fans home early and angry on senior day against a very mediocre Purdue team) were depressingly low.
Plug in 2002, 2004 and 2015 as the Iowa State, Nebraska and Ohio State games this year and 2000, 2006, 2007 and 2012 as Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan State and Purdue and you will see exactly what I mean.
Thrilling peaks, terrifying valleys, wildly unpredictable – that’s football, under Ferentz.
But hey, at least we know who we are. Iowa is going to work hard and reward its fans with wild rides.
Sitting at home, finishing up Thanksgiving leftovers and waiting to see what your bowl destination is going to be is a lot better than hoping and praying that the next coach you lure in will finally leave you satisfied.
Good luck with that, Lil’ Nebby.
Lew had tons of great stories from his playing days at Iowa, and unfortunately we couldn’t fit them all into a standard 1-hour episode.
But we didn’t want our audience to miss out on his insights and memories, so we’re pleased to present this extended interview segment. Please note that this is a “raw” recording with minimal edits.
Iowa is playing bad enough to lose to anybody, and Purdue takes advantage. But scoring an interview with Lew Montgomery helps take the sting off the fading Hawkeyes.
Check out the unscripted & unedited Part 2 of our interview with Lew Montgomery. And here’s the video of the Mike Saunders story (play starts at 5:30 in the clip).
Learn more about Lucas, and pick up some Lucas Gear for the holidays.
I can’t recall the last time I walked out of Kinnick Stadium as angry as I was last Saturday.
Other than blocking, catching, tackling, catching punts, kicking punts or covering wide receivers, I guess a few Hawkeye players did things right against Purdue. To find out for sure, I’d have to re-watch that fiasco of failed football, however, and that ain’t happening.
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
After all, it’s a Kirk Ferentz-coached Iowa season, which means any unexpected positive result must be balanced out by at least one head-scratching, ridiculous loss.
Last year we got the thrill of beating Michigan after being uncompetitive against Penn State and losing to an FCS school.
This year we got six glorious days to bask in a historic beat down of long-time nemesis Ohio State, only to be greeted with two weeks in a row of absolutely atrocious, uncompetitive football.
It’s one thing to be uncompetitive against the undefeated Wisconsin Badgers, who have had Iowa’s number for some time now. But it is beyond inexcusable to get punked by a 4-win Purdue team at home, on senior day, even if they are better than past Boilermaker squads.
You knew it was going to be one of “those games” as soon as Iowa’s special teams unit idiotically roughed the Purdue punter after the defense forced a three-and-out, leading directly to Purdue’s first touchdown. The Boilers would briefly relinquish that lead, but the pattern was set. A bevy of boneheaded Hawkeye miscues later sent Hawkeye fans fleeing for the Kinnick exits early.
I suppose one silver lining is Iowa players have continued to play hard and show heart. That they do so while piling one mistake upon another, continuing to make basic errors like misidentifying who to block or who to cover and whether or not to catch a punt is, well . . . I guess it’s better than being stupid AND not trying.
So they’ve got that going for them, anyway.
As for the future of the Ferentz coaching regime – and by regime I mean the presumed fait accompli of a smooth transition from father to son at some point in the near-to-mid-future – I’m not sure that the 2017 November meltdown might not actually be a good thing.
Bear with me for a minute, here.
Let’s say Iowa had managed a very manageable comeback over mediocre Purdue. And then went on to smack around a demoralized Nebraska team in Lincoln. The Hawkeyes would be sitting at 8-4 and heading to a nice bowl, making the abject failure to move the ball in Madison little more than a nasty memory.
Instead, a second week of abject failure should force this staff to take a long, hard look at the current direction of the program, particularly its moribund and molasses-like offense. Counting recent bowl losses, Iowa will now have lost five or more games in seven of its last eight seasons. In addition, it’s likely that six of those eight seasons will see Iowa finish at fourth or lower in a seven team division.
Now, Iowa has finished over .500, gone to quite a few bowls and notched some huge wins over that period as well. And no one can diminish the achievement of finishing a regular season undefeated like the Hawks did in 2015.
But being “pretty good” is not good enough. I’ve never been and never will be a “look at the size of the paycheck” guy. The elder Ferentz has earned his contract through uncanny timing of stellar seasons. But being slightly worse than Bo Pelini certainly doesn’t inspire the confidence to say one family should rule Iowa football in perpetuity.
This is why I actually think this meltdown might be a good thing. It damn well better light a fire under everyone in the football facility hoping to keep that much-lauded “Iowa coaching continuity” thing going.
Because right now the natives are restless and angry. Those are at least active emotions.
The next step is apathy, which leads to empty seats, which leads to dwindling coffers, which apparently is the only thing that gets Gary Barta’s attention.
Iowa fans aren’t particularly fickle. And they will forgive this no-good November if their beloved Hawkeyes legitimately compete for a West Division title in 2018.
But if they don’t……..
Hawks go in to Madison and lay an egg of historical proportions. Josh Jackson tries to beat Bucky by himself, and almost succeeds. We talk Wisconsin with Tom Kakert of the Hawkeye Report, and look ahead to Purdue and a sneak peek at Iowa basketball.
It was Bill, sitting next to me in a chilly but raucous Camp Randall full of beer-fueled and neck-bearded Badger fans, who pointed out the weird parallel.
Like a similarly cold November night seven years ago in Minneapolis, it was only the guy wearing #15 in black and gold who appeared to have any clue about how to play football or bothered to show up for a big road game.
For those that don’t remember, that was the night DJK returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown and added a receiving touchdown in a dispiriting 27-24 loss to a 2-9 Minnesota team where no one else really did much of anything.
This past Saturday it was Josh Jackson, also sporting 15, who continued his amazing November by snagging two pick-sixes and forcing a fumble on his way to a second consecutive Big 10 Defensive Player of the Week award.
Normally, this would be cause for great celebration. But considering the rest of the team played like 21 of the worst players in the conference on the same night, it’s kind of hard to get real excited.
Like in 2010, Iowa was coming off a very emotional game against Ohio State.
But unlike 2010, Iowa hadn’t just lost a heartbreaker to a perennial tormenter. Instead, it had rolled what many believe is one of the most talented teams in the country, setting up the exciting prospect of a late autumn surge into relevancy and the rankings.
Psssssssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhh. That’s the sound of the black and gold balloon deflating.
I’m not sure why it’s the Iowa fan’s lot in life, but apparently we are destined to not have nice things. Perhaps it is considered untoward or putting on airs in Iowa City to build on a good thing and make it great. Perhaps Iowa football is simply allergic to success. Whatever it is, it sucks.
It’s also maddeningly repetitive.
Earlier this season Iowa followed up a 45-16 dismantling of Illinois with its worst (until Madison) outing of the season in a putrid overtime loss to Northwestern. Last year, after blitzkrieging Iowa State 42-3, the Hawks stumbled and bumbled to a loss against FCS foe North Dakota State. Remember hammering the Wildcats 48-7 in 2014 and then immediately following that up with a 51-14 drubbing at the hands of Minnesota?
The only thing Iowa is consistent at is wild swings of inconsistency.
Of course there will be the usual dissections and disgruntlement of the Hawkeye coaches’ game plan for the Badger game. Some will say the offense should have passed more. Or ran to the outside. Or had better play calling in general.
I say poppycock.
Sitting in row 42 at about the 30, it was painfully, embarrassingly obvious that Iowa’s offensive linemen had zero answers for Wisconsin’s attacking 3-4 defense. If linemen weren’t missing assignments altogether out of confusion and blocking no one, they were either whiffing on blocks or getting blasted three yards into the backfield. Nile Kinnick throwing to Marv Cook and Danan Hughes behind last Saturday’s offensive line would have looked terrible.
Until Iowa figures out how to deal with the Badger 3-4 defense, it’s hard to imagine them winning a West Division title over the scarlet and white menace. This needs to be a major focus of the off-season strategy sessions.
Things were a bit better, at least for much of the first half, on the other side of the ball. Wisconsin’s horrible quarterback (seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen a legitimate Top 10 team with a worse signal caller in recent memory) tried very, very hard to give the game away to Iowa.
I knew the Hawkeye goose was cooked when Jackson forced a fumble inside Badger territory, giving Iowa its first decent field position (by the way, at some point someone should really tell Iowa punt returners that you are allowed to CATCH THE BALL IN THE AIR) and the offense went three-and-out in about 30 seconds.
When you look up at the scoreboard and you are losing 10-7 despite having three takeaways to zero, you know it’s not going to be your day. Predictably, with the offense in morass mode, the D wilted in the fourth quarter in the face of the Badgers’ devastating rushing attack.
So as we find ourselves asking too often lately, where does Iowa go from here?
Personally, given Iowa’s sizeable budget, outstanding training and practice facilities, rabid fan base and robust institutional support, an 8-4 season should really be the floor for Hawkeye football. The good news is if Iowa wins its remaining two games, in which it is favored, it will have finished 12-0, 8-4 and 8-4 in its last three regular seasons. That is definitely within the realm of acceptability.
The offense is young and a work-in-progress with a new coordinator, new quarterback, two freshmen tackles and a bunch of young guys at tight end and receiver. We can and should expect them to grow and improve.
I fully expect this team to win out, hopefully put an end to a brutal bowl losing streak, and then come into 2018 as a legitimate contender for the West Division title. Anything short of that – especially if accompanied by another embarrassing outing against the bullying Badger – and one really has to wonder if a long-term Ferentzian dynasty is in the best interest of this program.
Reember this one, because you’ll be talking about it for years. Iowa dazzled, dominated, and ultimately overwhelmed the hapless Buckeyes from “The” Ohio State, The superlatives pile on like Jackson INTs and Stanley TDS to TEs: Biggest lost in Urban Meyer’s career, most points scored against OSU, biggest OSU loss since 1994, only the 4th Iowa win in (most) living memory.
Saturday’s out-of-the-blue triumph – nay, demolition – of the mighty Ohio State Buckeyes seems like a surreal fever dream.
Now I know how the Munchkins felt when Dorothy dropped that house on the green hag from the East. Or the Ewoks after some helpful Jedi blasted dastardly Stormtroopers off of Endor.
The Buckeyes are the big, bad bully of the Big 10, even though we called our Hawks that for a few years in the early 2000s. I’m talking from a historical and national perspective here.
Pick your metaphor: Death Star, the Borg, the New York Yankees. Ohio State is the stronger, better looking guy your ex-girlfriend dates. The Buckeyes are the rich yuppie jerk from every 80s romantic comedy. Ohio State is the freaking Cobra Kai dojo and Urban Meyer is its smirking sensei.
And our boys just crane-kicked their candy asses back to Columbus.
As a fan, is there anything sweeter, anything more fulfilling, than finally seeing your team get its licks in on a longtime tormentor? Sure, this game lacked the heart-stopping thrill of last season’s walk off winning kick over Michigan. And the Hawks didn’t clinch a Big 10 championship before its fans stormed the field like in 2004 against Wisconsin. But in terms of sheer, unbridled joy and surprise, I’m not sure last Saturday doesn’t take the cake. I can’t remember walking out of Kinnick with a bigger smile on my face in some time.
Ironically, this is the same week of the season as last year’s absolute mauling at the hands of Penn State.
I wrote this that depressing week:
Keep believing, and someday you will earn respect and be on top.
The Hawkeyes may be effectively out-of-the-running for a Big 10 championship this year, but they were certainly on top of the college football world mountain Saturday night. Josh Jackson’s acrobatic interception was the SportsCenter #1 play of the day. The amazing hospital wave garnered positive air time and headlines yet again. The state of Iowa was roundly recognized as being the place Blue Blood title hopes go to die.
I’d call that respect, earned.
And now Iowa turns back to a longtime, familiar foe in Wisconsin. Once again, the Hawkeyes are in the role of spoiler, which fortunately for them, is a position in which it excels.
I think the Hawkeyes and Badgers are quite comparable from an athleticism and skill level standpoint. Wisconsin might have a slight edge at running back (this is no swipe at Akrum Wadley, the Badger kid is just that dynamic). But I think Nate Stanley is going to make Badger fans livid that ex-coach Gary Anderson didn’t recruit him and Paul Chryst came in too late to flip him.
I also believe it’s fair to say Iowa will be the biggest, fastest, strongest team the Badgers have played this season. Northwestern is their best win (at home no less) and while they are solidly above average, they aren’t quite as talented across-the-board as Iowa. I feel like these factors, and the fact the home team inexplicably seems to struggle in this series, give the Hawks an edge.
Another potential factor is this year, Iowa is in the role Wisconsin was in 2010. That is, they are the road dog who can play loose. The Badgers have an undefeated season and potential College Football Playoff appearance in the balance. Maybe this year they’ll be the team playing not to lose, which we know all-too-well is the kiss of death.
Whatever the outcome in Madison, this is already a season to remember. The thrilling come-from-behind victory in Ames, the oh-so-close battle against Penn State and the inexplicable dismantling of a high-powered, highly ranked Ohio State will live in the memory banks for a long time.
It’s not every week the eyes of the entire college football world are focused on Iowa City. Let’s remember to enjoy it while we can.