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Pat Harty: Hawkeyes are spiraling in wrong direction

[ 0 ] November 10, 2012 |

As members of the Purdue football team celebrated on the field at Kinnick Stadium, Micah Hyde sunk to the ground and appeared frozen in shock.

Iowa’s senior cornerback and co-captain stayed motionless for several seconds as the Purdue players rejoiced over their 27-24 victory, which was Purdue’s first Big Ten victory in six tries this season.

The way Saturday’s game ended was stunning with Purdue gaining 37 yards on consecutive plays to set up Paul Griggs’ 46-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.

The way in which this season has unraveled for Iowa is equally as stunning.

Iowa’s Micah Hyde makes a tackle on Boilermaker wide receiver Dolapo Macarthy during the Hawkeyes game against Purdue on Saturday. (Benjamin Roberts / Press-Citizen)

Saturday’s loss was Iowa’s fourth in a row and its first against Purdue at Kinnick Stadium since 1992. It also marked the fourth consecutive game in which the Iowa defense has allowed at least 400 yards and the 10th consecutive game – which is all the games this season – in which Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg has thrown one or fewer touchdown passes.

Purdue finished with 490 yards, including 211 on the ground Saturday.

Hyde did his part by scooping up a fumble and returning it nine yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter. He also led Iowa with 11 tackles.

That’s fine from an individual standpoint, but Hyde’s performance loses some of its flavor with his team spiraling in the wrong direction.

“It’s difficult,” Hyde said. “You try so hard throughout the week and then to come out on Saturday and lose, any loss is big, but four in a row definitely is tough.

“I was just thinking, wow, it happened again.”

Hyde then attributed the loss to mental errors and to missed-tackles. His assessment wasn’t wrong, but rather incomplete because there was so much more to the loss than that.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz blamed it on coaching. And considering the mood right now, Ferentz probably isn’t alone in that assessment with more and more fans seemingly pointing the finger at him and at first-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis as the cause of Iowa’s decline.

“Clearly, we were out-coached and out-played, particularly in the first half,” Ferentz said. “So that’s disappointing.”

Transcript: Kirk Ferentz’s postgame press conference

Ferentz then pointed out two positives, the first being the way his players fought back in the second half after trailing 14-7 at halftime. He also praised his special teams for playing at a level that can be successful in the Big Ten.

“Outside of that, there is not a lot to bring up today,” Ferentz said.

When asked how and why he was out-coached Ferentz minced few words.

“Real simply, they clearly out-played us in the first half and were more ready to play emotionally and were more ready to play cleaner and more fundamentally sound,” Ferentz said. “You can say it’s this, it’s that, lunar moon or whatever, but that’s coaching. And that’s me.”

What’s even more incredible or distrubing is that Iowa lost Saturday despite Purdue being penalized 10 times for 100 yards and despite Purdue losing all three of its fumbles. Iowa, on the other hand, was only penalized twice for 18 yards and had zero turnovers, but still found a way to lose.  

Iowa’s final offensive play of the game was symbolic of the season with Vandenberg completing a 1-yard pass to tight end Zach Derby on 4th-and-3 at the Purdue 35. Derby was covered, but Vandenberg still threw it to him short of the first-down marker.

It’s hard to believe that with a four-game losing streak and with a 2-2 non-conference record that Iowa (4-6) is still mathematically in the running for a bowl game. That says as much about the current bowl structure, which has a six-victory minimum requirement, as it does Iowa’s current woes.

Somehow the Iowa players must convince themselves that they can defeat Michigan next Saturday on the road and then follow that with a victory at home against Nebraska the day after Thanksgiving. They’ll get reassurance from their coaches and maybe even some relatives, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many fans that think Iowa still has a chance to be bowl eligible for the 12th consecutive season under Ferentz.

Kinnick Stadium had the same eerie silence after Saturday’s game as it did after the Central Michigan loss on Sept. 22. Some fans looked perplexed as they headed for the exits.

“I feel like we can still come out in these next couple games and still be strong,” Hyde said. “We’ll watch film tomorrow, flush it and move on.

“I have no doubt we’ll come out and practice hard this week.”

Unfortunately, for Hyde, this goes way beyond practicing hard.

Iowa wasn’t expected to be a juggernaut this season, but it also wasn’t expected to be arguably the worst team in the Big Ten, either.

It’s too bad Iowa and Illinois don’t play this season because that likely would determine which team is the worst in the Big Ten at this point.

It’s startling how fast and how far Iowa has slipped since it provided a glimmer of hope with back-to-back victories over Minnesota and Michigan State to begin Big Ten play.

Ferentz seemed more annoyed than usual with the media after Saturday’s loss. The questions ranged from whether his offense is too predictable and whether execution is solely to blame for all the problems.

Ferentz also was asked if he expected execution to still be a problem after playing 10 games.

“I would counter that and just tell you I thought we played pretty good in our opening game in the Big and I thought we played pretty well the next week, too, against a very good football team,” Ferentz said. “So it’s not like this has just been a dog-crap team.

“If you want to paint that picture, I’m not buying that.”

Fair or not, some fans probably already have bought it.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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