After clawing their way back to the top of the Big Ten West, the Iowa Hawkeyes quite literally fumbled it away at the finish line. Four times to be exact.
All they had to do was defeat the three-win Nebraska Cornhuskers at home, and they’re back in Indy. But the Hawkeyes got blitzed, allowed their opponent to jump out to a 17-0 lead, and drop a game in the series for the first time since 2014.
The 24-17 loss sunk Iowa to 7-5, despite boasting a defense that allowed the fifth fewest yards per game in the country. An all time great college football defense gone to waste.
Who’s to blame for this mess? No offense, but let’s go back to the offense.
Iowa finished the season 130th in yards per game, which might be good if there weren’t 131 teams in the FBS. Congrats on outscoring the New Mexico Lobos.
The coordinator of this unit? Head coach Kirk Ferentz’s son Brian.
His offense hasn’t completely halted the Hawks’ winning prospects this season. Winning efforts included averaging 2.1 yards per play against Wisconsin, and scoring just 13 points against Minnesota. And according to Kirk Ferentz, that’s good enough — he even said so last Tuesday.
“It still gets down to players doing things they’re able to do,” Ferentz said. “You have to be realistic about who you have, what their experience levels are, things like that. Ultimately it’s about finding a way to win. We’ve been able to do that the last four weeks.”
So winning is the barometer of success… or is it? After Iowa’s loss a reporter rightfully asked coach Ferentz if there’s been any growth on that side of the ball over the course of the season.
“I think so, yeah. The stat I pick would be the turnovers, number one. Turnovers and the big play.”
Allow me to share with you something Ferentz said earlier in the week in regards to the turnover battle:
“Bill Russell said the most important stat is winning and losing. The next most important one in my opinion is turnovers and takeaways.”
Play things safe, don’t lose the game, and hope your defense can make the big play. That doesn’t win football games in 2022, or at least it shouldn’t.
Iowa hasn’t put average numbers offensively since Brian Ferentz took over in 2017. The last time the offense was indeed just average? 2015.
But it’s not the coach’s fault, it’s the players, right?
Iowa’s offensive line got smoked. Allowing a Spencer Petras strip sack in the first quarter that left him the sideline, arm in a sling. Alex Padilla came in and suffered similar consequences, when the entire right side of the line blocked the invisible man.
The result: Two Hawkeye turnovers, a cardinal sin in Kirk Ferentz’s book of principles. But he thought they didn’t play all that bad.
“I didn’t think the line did a bad job, quite frankly.” Ferentz said postgame.
They say the first stage of grief is denial, so is utter delusion. What frustrated Hawkeye fans are witnessing is a leader who refuses to hold any individual person accountable. The concept of ‘we’ is taken way too literally.
The defense stood tall, week after week. Didn’t point fingers, didn’t bat an eye. Kirk Ferentz can’t see that the Hawkeyes are winning in spite of the offense’s performance.
All they had to do was not drive Phil Parker’s black and gold Lamborghini off the side of the highway.
Kirk Ferentz is either fooling us, or is simply oblivious to the fact his son is dragging down the entire program.
He refuses to acknowledge the shortcomings of his offensive coordinator, his players, or himself quite frankly. Yet it is his players that have to answer for it week after week.
Speaking of those players, I’ll say it again: Iowa has Big Ten talent. Tight end Sam LaPorta is going to be an NFL player. His backup, Luke Lachey, might be one day too. Freshman running back Kaleb Johnson has a chance to be an all Big-Ten player in a year or two.
Brian Ferentz has not done a satisfactory job of positioning said talent in a place to succeed.
It’s not morbidly difficult to recruit offensive talent in this conference. Ask Jim Harbaugh, who’s transformed Michigan into a Big Ten-champion offensive powerhouse.
Iowa needs a culture shock — a complete reboot in what makes a ‘winning’ formula.
In my opinion, that means getting out of the family business, and more into the business of scoring points on Saturdays. That begins with firing or demoting Brian Ferentz, regardless of who he reports to.