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Harty: Don’t write off Hawkeyes just yet

[ 0 ] September 1, 2013 |

Whether you believe in Kirk Ferentz or not at this stage, you can’t bury his current team.

Of course, you can as a fan, but it wouldn’t be fair, at least not yet.

Saturday’s 30-27 loss to Northern Illinois lowered Iowa’s record to 12-18 over the past 30 games dating back to late in the 2010 season.

But the current team is responsible for only one of those losses, albeit to a team from the Mid-American Conference and at Kinnick Stadium, but also to a team that many expect to be the cream of the MAC crop for the second year in a row.

The current Iowa team also inspired confidence with its performance on offense in the first half Saturday.

And it was fun to watch for a change.

But that doesn’t matter nearly as much without a victory.

Each Iowa team is different, though.

Each has its own personality and chemistry that builds throughout a season. That’s why no team regardless of the sport should be labeled after just one game.

It’d be the same if Iowa had hung on to win Saturday.

You can make assumptions, but how many of you thought Iowa was headed for a 4-8 season after it defeated Northern Illinois in the 2012 season opener? And how many thought that Northern Illinois would win its next 12 games and play in the Orange Bowl after losing to Iowa last season?

I’m not suggesting that Iowa will bounce back from Saturday’s loss to have a winning season. That would have been a monumental challenge even with a victory over Northern Illinois.

But win the next three games, which would include a rare victory over Iowa State in Ames, and what is becoming a rare victory over a directional school from Michigan, and the wounds from Saturday would start to heal.

“We’ve still got a lot of games to play,” said junior defensive tackle Carl Davis. “We could have a great season.”

I said coming into the season that Iowa had to win at least three of its four non-conference games to have a realistic chance of finishing 6-6 in the regular season. There still is the opportunity to do that, but the road to respectability travels through Ames, a place where some pretty good Iowa football teams have succumbed to the environment.

Not this Iowa team, though.

The current Iowa team has its one and only chance to prevail in Ames still waiting.

It also has the luxury of playing what should be a nice tune-up game against Missouri State this Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. Anything less than a convincing victory over Missouri State would be considered another sign of weakness.

Iowa fans should know better than to read anything in to Iowa State losing to Northern Iowa on Saturday in Ames because the Cyclones have been exposed before, only to bounce back to defeat the Hawkeyes.

One of my biggest concerns with Iowa’s performance Saturday was the inability to pressure the quarterback, a problem that lingered throughout last season. Neither team had a sack during Saturday’s game, which means Iowa has only 13 sacks in its last 13 games dating back to the start of last season.

That has to change for this team to be much of a threat against a tough schedule.

Damond Powell’s role as a receiver also has to change. He was in on just three plays Saturday, the first resulting in a 49-yard catch. I don’t care if he’s still learning the system and struggles to block, Powell is too explosive to leave on the bench. He should get at least five touches in each of the remaining games.

Another concern is that at least three or four Big Ten teams will struggle this season just because somebody has to occupy the bottom spots. It’ll likely come down to Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue fighting to avoid that role based on potential.

Sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock was so close to having a storybook ending in his first start, but one pass that he wishes he could have back ruined the occasion. Rudock’s interception late in the fourth quarter came on a play in which he nearly threw an interception two times before that.

He was asked Saturday if he knew he was in trouble right away after throwing the pass.

“About midway through the (pass),” Rudock said. “He made a good jump on it. They were playing man-to-man and he jumped on it.”

In other words, Northern Illinois defensive back Jimmie Ward made a play with the game on the line.

The Hawkeyes likely will be in this situation again. Rarely do they blow out an opponent or vice versa under Ferentz.

Now it’s just a matter of letting this team prove itself as being good, bad or average. One game isn’t enough to do that.

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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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