BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Even in a stadium less than half full. Even against a team that had only one Big Ten Conference victory since 2010.
Iowa still agonized through a long and frustrating Saturday.
The Hawkeyes had trouble blocking. They had untimely penalties. They had trouble rushing against one of the most generous
defenses in the conference, and those reasons are why a 24-21 loss at Indiana before a Memorial Stadium crowd much smaller than the 40,646 announced requires scrambling just to salvage something positive from a season that continued its downward trend.
“We’re not putting the flag up,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Saturday.
Iowa’s records fell to 2-3 in the conference and 4-5 overall against a team that improved its conference record to 2-3 a season after going 0-8 in 2011.
Now, just to break even in its 12-game regular season schedule, the Hawkeyes must beat two of the next three opponents. That mission starts at home Saturday against Purdue and continues at Michigan, before a Kinnick Stadium visit by Nebraska.
“We need to beat Purdue,” center James Ferentz said.
Saturday’s loss was Iowa’s third conference setback in a row, and the last time that happened was against Northwestern,
Ohio State and Minnesota in 2010.
“We didn’t do our jobs well enough to win,” defensive tackle Steve Bigach said. “Sometimes, you get what you deserve.”
An assortment of significant plays, two in particular, may have left people head-scratching Saturday.
One was on a third-and-goal situation from the Indiana 12-yard line with 10 minutes to play in the third quarter, with the Hawkeyes leading 14-10. Quarterback James Vandenberg threw in the end zone to Jordan Cotton, but the pass was intercepted by cornerback Antonio Marshall.
“That ball’s got to go out of the back of the end zone,” said Vandenberg, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown. “We should have taken (a field goal) there. That’s on me.
“I thought we were going to get a (pass interference) call, in all honesty.”
Another water-cooler decision was on fourth down, less than a yard to go with just more than 5 minutes to play following a possession that started with linebacker Christian Kirksey recovering a fumble.
A third-down pass to Keenan Davis brought the Hawkeyes within a Vandenberg dive of moving the chains. And that’s what they were going to do, until the Davis play was reviewed to determine the proper spot of the ball.
“We felt like if we had tempo, that we could take a shot at it, try and catch them back on their heels,” Ferentz said. “The play got stopped to review. That changed the complexion of it. We were playing for a stop at that point.”
Lightning forced the game to start just more than an hour late. It didn’t take long for Iowa to score, however, as it rode Vandenberg’s hot hand for a 7-0 lead just 7:40 into the contest. His fourth touchdown pass of the season was a 24-yarder that Kevonte Martin-Manley ran in from the 10-yard line.
Iowa’s lead reached 14-0 when Kirksey returned a Nate Sudfeld pass 18 yards to the end zone.
“Great play by Kirksey, not only getting the pick, but converting it into points,” Ferentz said.
The Hawkeyes’ defense continued to play well, holding Indiana’s to Mitch Ewald to a 45-yard field goal on the next possession, and that unit did it again by stopping the Hoosiers’ second-quarter fourth-down attempt eight yards from the end zone.
Micah Hyde got credit for tackling Stephen Houston for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-1, but defensive end Dominic Alvis blew up the play. He forced the speedy Houston to the outside and into the grasp of Hyde.
Indiana ended the first half with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Cam Coffman to Cody Latimer with 47 seconds to play.
It cut Iowa’s lead to 14-10, while opening a wound. Because of the injury-related reconstruction on the Hawkeyes’ offensive line, Indiana put consistent pressure on Vandenberg, forcing him out of the pocket and making it hard for him to see open secondary receivers.
“We had a hard time with those (defensive tackles) last year, and we were more veteran and more sound at the guard position last year when we played them,” Ferentz said. “It was a tough matchup when we played them a year ago, so I thought it might be a little bit of an issue (Saturday) and it certainly proved to be.”
Another issue was Coffman, Indiana’s quarterback who completed 21 of 33 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns. His signature play was when Kofi Hughes beat cornerback Greg Castillo for a 77-yard gain to the 1-yard line. Latimer caught a scoring pass that resulted in a 17-14 lead for the Hoosiers with 7:28 left in the third quarter.
“Age-old issue in football,” Ferentz said. “Third-and-long, and when the quarterback starts running around, the defensive backs have to stay in coverage.”
The Hawkeyes regrouped when Bullock capped an 88-yard drive with a 4-yard run around the right end. All of a sudden, Iowa led 21-17 with 12:17 to play. It took Indiana all of 1:19 to regain the lead when Latimer sprinted behind Iowa’s defense to catch a 31-yard pass in the end zone.
“Football is like the game of life,” Bigach said. “You get what’s coming your way, and you get what you deserve, and (Saturday), we deserved to lose.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football