Iowa City, Ia. — Iowa football has become a broken record – missed tackles, sputtering offense, and water cooler coaching decisions are among the factors that have turned this once-strong program into something else in recent weeks.
Throw in the ensuing losses, and it’s the same thing, different week.
Saturday’s 27-24 defeat against a Purdue outfit that brought an 0-5 conference record and hot-seat coach to Kinnick Stadium may have been the most headscratching for the struggling Hawkeyes.
Ten weeks into the season, they’re still searching to right their fundamental wrongs. For that reason, it’s come down to this:
Upset Michigan at the Big House on Saturday, and then upset Nebraska at Kinnick on Nov. 23 to become one of the 70 teams eligible for a bowl game. Slip once – and it’s home for the holiday.
“That’s what it’s come down to,” said cornerback Micah Hyde, one of the few Hawkeyes who played mostly well.
There was a questionable Iowa fourth-and-three call with 52 seconds to play, a game-winning 46-yard field goal by Paul Griggs with zeros on the clock, and Hawkeye Kevonte Martin-Manley dropped a touchdown pass.
That Iowa negativism and a lot more resulted in a fourth conference loss in a row, the Hawkeyes’ longest Big Ten Conference drought since it went 0-8 back when Ferentz started in 1999.
“It’s not like this has just been a dog crap team,” Ferentz said, who lost against a team that had lost six straight at Kinnick. “We played good football against Minnesota. We played very good football against Michigan State in tough circumstances.”
It has been different, however, against Penn State, Northwestern, Indiana and now 4-6, 1-5 Purdue as the Hawkeyes’ records fell to 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the conference.
“It was tough after the first loss, Hyde said. “Now it’s four in a row.”
Iowa lost despite recovering Purdue’s three fumbles. The Hawkeyes lost because they were out-gained 490-264. They lost because they averaged just 3.9 yards a play against a team that came into the game having been outscored 106-40 during the first halves of their conference games. They lost because they couldn’t tackle.
“We just didn’t come out ready to play,” said Iowa receiver Jordan Cotton.
Iowa trailed 14-7 at halftime, 24-14 with 1 ½ minutes left in the third quarter, but still had an opportunity to end its losing streak after Mike Meyer’s 24-yard field goal provided a 24-all score with 3:32 to play.
The Hawkeyes drove from their 1-yard line to a fourth-and-3 situation from the Purdue 35 with just less than a minute to play. Instead of giving Meyer an opportunity to improve on his glossy 16-of-19 season place-kicking accuracy from what would have been from 52 yards, Iowa called a James Vandenberg pass.
It went to tight end Zach Derby – -two yards shy of the first down.
“We were out there pretty good, so I felt like that was a better percentage,” Ferentz said of a potential try against an 18 mile-an-hour wind. “I guess we could have gone for the field goal. It didn’t really occur to me at that point, but we could have taken a shot at it.”
Purdue got the ball at its 34-yard line, and quickly ran the other way.
“We were playing for victory, not a tie,” Boilermakers coach Danny Hope said.
Quarterback Robert Marve scrambled 17 yards, then hustled the ball to the Iowa 29-yard line with a 20-yard completion to Antavian Edison with 5 seconds to play. Paul Griggs then won it with his fourth field goal of the season.
“It’s not like we didn’t have opportunities,” said Vandenberg, who completed 19 of 36 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown.
The biggest blown opportunity was when the Hawkeyes had a first down at the Purdue 6-yard line with just more than 4 minutes to play, trailing 24-21. On second down, Vandenberg threw incomplete to Kevonte Martin-Manley in the front corner of the end zone.
“I’ll put that one on me, the dropped pass,” Manley said. “I dropped a touchdown pass. It was completely my fault.”
Those kinds of plays overshadowed Hyde returning a fumble nine yards for a touchdown, and punter Connor Kornbrath having a solid day.
“Clearly were were outcoached and outplayed, particularly in the first half,” Ferentz said. “They were more ready to play emotionally, more ready to play cleaner, more fundamentally sound.
“You can say it’s this, it’s that – lunar moon – whatever, but that’s coaching, and that’s me. Coaching starts with me.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football