IOWA CITY, Ia. Two things seem inevitable in the coming weeks.
First, the Iowa football team will take a few more lumps. Second, fans will fume and speculate about coach Kirk Ferentz’s future.
My advice: Take a sedative before kickoff, and take a long-term approach when it comes to a man who deserves a little more patience.
That doesn’t mean the Hawkeyes (4-2) won’t go to a bowl game this season, but with the cushy part of their schedule in the past, potential mismatches loom.
Saturday’s 26-14 loss to Michigan State spoiled the bye week mood, and an Oct. 19 trip to Ohio State could be overwhelming.
Up next is a home date with Northwestern, which is always exasperating. And then, you’ve got Wisconsin.
Heck, even Purdue is a possible problem.
“We’ll lick our wounds a little bit and see what we can do to improve,” Ferentz said, “and try to play our best football here in the next four games.”
Sometimes, improvement is tricky.
You can achieve a higher level of performance, and not see a spike in the win column.
There’s no doubt Iowa made strides the last six weeks, but there’s still a lot of ground to gain.
The defense boasts a stingy front seven, but the secondary has a bad habit of getting torched.
The Hawkeyes have not allowed a rushing touchdown this season, but have recorded just six sacks.
“I think the defensive line has definitely improved,” defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. “And the linebackers have definitely improved their position.
“If we can just get the secondary up to par, we’ll be all right.”
Offensively, the Hawkeyes remain thin. No Mark Weisman. No Kevonte Martin-Manley. No chance.
Both are expected to return from injuries next week, but even when Weisman and Martin-Manley are healthy, Iowa ranks 10th in the Big Ten with 29.7 points per game.
“I think we have played more up tempo,” offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. “It’s something we’ll continue to do, but we’re not going to become just a team that runs to the line and tries to snap it. Each ball game will be a little bit different about how we approach it.”
Then, there’s the special teams, which — except for a couple nifty punt return scores by Martin-Manley against Western Michigan — tend to be infuriating.
Add it up, and you have a fragile group of Hawkeyes entering a bumpy Big Ten stretch.
“Everybody wants to predict the future .<TH>.<TH>. fans media, everybody,” Ferentz said. “But there is no way to predict the future.”
There’s no point in making comparisons to the past, either.
It’s unlikely Iowa repeats the six-game slide of 2012. The 2013 Hawkeyes have a quarterback (Jake Rudock) who is becoming more comfortable in Davis’ system, and a trio of senior linebackers determined to avoid another collapse.
“I think all of us feel this is a better football team,” Ferentz said. “We’re a more capable team, right now. But every year is a new adventure; every game is a new adventure.”
You may have to wait a year, however, for the real fun to begin.
The offense features nine underclassmen who are starting (if you count both Weisman and Damon Bullock), and the defensive line is just starting to mature.
Ferentz’s hiring led to a revival in the early 2000s, and he endured a lull in 2006 and ’07.
We won’t know if he can pull off a third turnaround until 2014.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football