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Harty: Assuming Greg Davis comes back, he has to make changes beginning with himself

[ 0 ] November 23, 2012 |

Probably the best thing about the Iowa football team’s 2012 season is that it’s now over.

Some Iowa fans are hoping the same about Greg Davis’ brief run as offensive coordinator based on what’s being expressed on twitter, on Internet message boards and any other place where anger and frustration can be vented.

Iowa’s 13-7 loss to Nebraska on Friday certainly didn’t help Davis’ cause in the eyes of fans. It did finally and mercifully put the season to rest, but the game also ripped open the same scab on offense that’s been bleeding throughout the season.

The Hawkeyes for the most part performed dreadfully under Davis, especially with regard to passing. Fans are upset with the lack of productivity. They’re perplexed by some of the play calling. And they’re wondering how James Vandenberg could go from being a pretty good quarterback who passed for over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior to not even being average as a senior with just seven touchdown passes.

Clock management also was an issue this season and again on this windy and chilly Friday. But it’s been an issue throughout Kirk Ferentz’s 14-year reign as the Iowa head coach, so you can’t blame that on Davis.

Ferentz must be like an old mule with blinders on because he said during his post-game press conference that he wasn’t aware of rumors about Davis possibly not coming back next season until shortly after Friday’s loss.

“Up until about eight minutes ago, I had heard nothing about that and then someone said there was something out there that was floating around in cyberspace or something like that,” Ferentz said. “That’s the first I’ve heard of that.”

That’s hard to believe because the rumors about Davis, who has a one-year contract, have persisted almost since the offense started laying eggs in the season opener against Northern Illinois.

Davis declined to comment on his future when approached after the game by two Iowa beat writers. Ferentz is expected to meet with the media this coming week to put a cap on the season.

It’ll be interesting to see how many questions about Davis’ future Ferentz will tolerate.

Even if Ferentz planned on showing Davis the door, Ferentz never would hint about it to the media.

I just can’t see it happening, though, because that would be Ferentz admitting that he made a huge mistake by hiring Davis away from a forced retirement. It might also suggest that Ferentz is in panic mode, which goes against every fiber in his being.

Ferentz said he’ll review everybody during the offseason, beginning with himself.

And as much as some fans probably don’t want to hear this, it’s only been one season, albeit a disastrous one. You can easily argue that Davis deserves more time to prove that his offense can work.

The more Ferentz was pressed about Iowa’s offensive woes after Friday’s game, the more he turned it into a team thing. That was to be expected because the space under the bus is always empty where Ferentz is concerned.

He wasn’t about to take the bait and single out Davis or Vandenberg or anybody else for criticism.

“There are a lot of things that go into execution and production,” Ferentz said. “I’m not saying we couldn’t do better with the receiver/quarterback part of things. But there are a lot of things that go into being a good offensive football team.”

Ferentz then went on to say there were several games this season in which the offense was in sync and productive under Davis.

Perhaps the best storyline for the season was the four-game stretch in which sophomore walk-on Mark Weisman rushed for 623 yards against Northern Iowa, Central Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota. It’s no coincidence that Iowa won three of the four games.

Unfortunately, for Davis, Weisman couldn’t stay healthy, nor could sophomore running back Damon Bullock, who rushed for 150 yards in the season opener against Northern Illinois.

Vandenberg, on the other hand, not only stayed healthy, he stayed in every game from start to finish, taking every snap on the season. His personal struggle lasted until the very end, with Vandenberg’s final pass as a Hawkeye getting intercepted Friday.

Vandenberg’s one-man show had fans and media members scratching their heads. But remember, it’s Ferentz and not Davis who ultimately decides who plays.

My hunch is that Davis, who served as the offensive coordinator at Texas from 1998-2010, will return next season if he chooses to. Davis wasn’t coaching when Ferentz hired him during the offseason, so it’s unlikely that any better offers would surface, especially after what happened this season.

Assuming he does return, Davis has to do a better of job of playing to Iowa’s strengths rather than forcing the offense to play to his strengths. It just doesn’t make sense having a pro-style quarterback, which is all Iowa has at this point, run a short, horizontal passing attack.

There were countless times this season when Vandenberg would’ve been better off running instead of trying to force a short pass. The problem is that running doesn’t come natural to Vandenberg.

He’s more comfortable standing in the pocket and throwing downfield. We know that after watching Vandenberg perform last season under former offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe.

Now if Davis refuses to change his offense, Iowa had better recruit or develop some playmakers in a hurry or next season likely will be more of the same.

Kevonte-Martin Manley finished his sophomore season with a team-high 52 catches and junior tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz combined to catch 14 passes in the last two games. So there are glimmers of hope on offense.

“This is coach Davis’ first year with us and I feel he’s going to look at the offense and see what we did right and see what we did wrong,” Martin-Manley said. “I think we’re missing some little things and we’re going to get it rolling.”

No disrespect to Martin-Manley, but a lack of playmakers is hardly a little thing. Davis needs more help and he could start by looking in the mirror.

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or pharty@press-citizen.com


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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