IOWA CITY, Ia. — And that’s a wrap.
Nebraska is going to the Big Ten Conference football championship game, opposite Wisconsin. Iowa coaches and players will sit home and wonder what hit them during the program’s worst football season since 2000.
The Hawkeyes have a lot to think about after Friday’s 13-7 loss against the 17th-ranked Cornhuskers before a non-sellout crowd of 69,805 that included at least 12,000 Nebraska fans at Kinnick Stadium.
“This isn’t want we practiced for all season, for sure, but it’s college football,” said cornerback Micah Hyde, one of the seniors playing his final Kinnick Stadium game Friday. “It’s a very unpredictable game that we play.”
Iowa starts next season with a six-game losing streak, the longest one-season drought since it lost eight in a row in 1999.
The Hawkeyes’ 4-8 record was the program’s worst since 3-9 in 2000. It was the 12th eight-loss season since Iowa started playing at least nine games in 1894.
Their 2-6 conference record was the worst since 2006, and the negative list could extend further.
“It was a frustrating game, that’s just how it goes,” said quarterback James Vandenberg, whose 11 completions on a day the wind gusted to 30 miles an hour was his fewest as a starter since completing 11 against Minnesota in 2009.
The defense did its part against a 10-2 team averaging 37.5 points in its previous 11 games. Hyde and Louis Trinca-Pasat recovered fumbles. The Hawkeyes’ offense, however, did not turn them into points.
“We got our turnovers, that’s all you can ask for,” said Hyde, part of a defense that held Nebraska to its fewest points of the season. “You can’t put it on the offense – there’s times we could have stopped them on defense.”
Tailback Mark Weisman did his part, rushing 29 times for 91 yards. Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz continued hot, catching six passes for 56 yards; he has 14 catches the past two games.
The rest of the offense . . .
Not so much after Vandenberg’s 1-yard dash into the end zone gave Iowa a 7-3 lead with 28 seconds left in the first half.
“Everyone was having fun,” Fiedorowicz said. “We were doing a great job mixing up pass and run. We were getting something like five yards a pop, and were jelling on that drive.
“I couldn’t tell you exactly what happened the rest of the game, but we have to score more than seven points.”
Here’s what happened the rest of the game – at least on offense. That unit gained just 70 yards during the final two quarters.
“I don’t know if we played our best, but we did what we had to do,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “We got it done.”
Iowa didn’t, and there are multiple areas to examine. Friday, the Hawkeyes had a fourth-and-three situation from its 49-yard line with just more that 6 minutes to play and trailing by a touchdown.
The wind was at their back, but instead of attempting a fourth-down conversion, John Wienke punted into the end zone.
“There’s still a lot of time left,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The idea there is to get the ball down inside the 20, let them punt into the wind.
“If you get inside four minutes – I think we’re looking at a whole different world there.”
A lack of offense was the main problem Friday and throughout the first season since 2007 that Iowa won’t go to a bowl game. The Hawkeyes averaged 310.4 yards, the their lowest season average since 2000.
It came in Greg Davis’ first season as offensive coordinator, leading to the question about whether he returns in 2013.
Davis politely declined an interview after the game, citing Iowa football protocol that prohibits assistant coaches from talking to reporters.
“Up until about eight minutes ago, I heard nothing about that, 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.
“I’m comfortable with everything right now. With that being said, I need to take some time and look at everything, starting with my own performance, going right down to the bottom.”