The Iowa coach hashes out blowout wins and frustrating losses.
LINCOLN, Neb. — If you’re an Iowa football fan wondering how the Hawkeyes can look so good at times and so poor at others, the players can sympathize.
“We win as a team. We lose as a team. We came out and we executed (Friday) and fortunately enough we get one more chance in a bowl game.”
That bowl game, which will be revealed next Sunday, will be the final chapter of a head-scratching 2017 season for Iowa. The Hawkeyes finished the regular season 7-5, but only 4-5 in Big Ten Conference play.
There were historic wins and epic losses. And that was just in November.
Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz was asked to account for Iowa’s 2-2 record this month, which began with a whipping of then-No. 3 Ohio State and ended with the most points the Hawkeyes have ever put up against the rival Cornhuskers. In between was a staggering 66-yard performance in a lopsided loss at Wisconsin and a flat performance in a home finale setback to up-and-coming Purdue.
Ferentz started by saying he’d rather wait till the end of the year to evaluate all that’s happened. But November was a puzzle all its own, so Ferentz gamely tried to sort things out, his answer as circuitous as his team’s previous four games.
“We certainly got off to a good start (55-24 over the Buckeyes, check). And then the second week, in my mind at least, as it stands currently, played the best team in the league (the Badgers are 11-0) in their stadium in a tough environment, and they were playing about as good as I’ve seen them play, so that was a bad beating (38-14, with no Iowa offensive points, check). Last week we didn’t perform as well as the team we played (Purdue) and they’re a team to me that’s been trending upward, especially on defense, and we weren’t up to that challenge (a 24-15 Boilermakers win that wasn’t as close as that score indicates, check),’’ Ferentz said.
“No one was feeling good last weekend and the guys went back to work and did something about it (the 56-14 Black Friday thrashing of Nebraska, which fired coach Mike Riley on Saturday, check). We’re 2-2 on the month. Not what you want necessarily but the way we trended upward, I’m certainly happy about that.”
So many checks, so little balance.
The biggest positive for the Hawkeyes in their final month was that the running attack, so vital to this team’s fortunes, appeared to resurface. Iowa failed to out-rush a single Big Ten opponent in September and October. No wonder the team lost three of those five games, the only two wins coming in home matchups with the worst team in the league (Illinois) and a Minnesota squad that hasn’t found an identity yet under first-year coach P.J. Fleck.
Iowa broke loose for 244 yards on the ground against the Buckeyes. The Badgers stopped the Hawkeyes in their tracks the next week (25 yards on 26 carries). But Iowa outrushed the Boilermakers 82-65 and then sliced up the Huskers with 313 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. That was not only the best performance of the season, but the fifth-highest rushing total in Ferentz’s 19 seasons as head coach.
So that’s a sliver of hope for a Hawkeye team that has seemed to be living on the margins throughout an up-and-down season. The Blue Angels haven’t experienced as many changes in altitude as this team this fall.
“Ending the regular season on a positive note, taking a trophy back to Iowa City, it’s going to give us some momentum going into bowl prep,” a smiling Gervase said after a well-earned victory.
The Hawkeye quarterback says his offensive line took a toll on Cornhuskers
The goal of that bowl-game preparation is to end a seven-year winless streak in postseason contests. Iowa’s defense, which has been solid most of the year, won’t be the unknown quantity.
It will be the Hawkeye offense. Which one will show up — the one that dismantled Ohio State and Nebraska, or the one that bogged down against Wisconsin and Purdue?
That’s the question for December.
Hawkeye senior defensive tackle Nathan Bazata, a Nebraska native, was just happy to end a topsy-turvy November with the answer he wanted to the challenge he had posed to his team heading into Friday’s game.
“Are we going to get up and compete?” Bazata wondered. “Or are we just going to roll over?”
The Hawkeyes rolled over Nebraska all right. What happens next seems to be anyone’s guess.
Iowa Hawkeyes sports reporters Chad Leistikow and Mark Emmert break down the Hawkeyes' 56-14 win over Nebraska from Lincoln. Bryon Houlgrave/The Register
Iowa players enjoy a 56-14 rout of Nebraska. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz discusses the play of Geno Stone, Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Matt Hankins in Friday’s 56-14 win at Nebraska. Chad Leistikow/The Register
Iowa RB Akrum Wadley racked up 159 yards and 3 TDs in the 56-14 win. Chad Leistikow/The Register
Iowa’s center James Daniels discusses the Hawkeyes' second-half domination of Nebraska. Chad Leistikow/The Register
The Iowa tight end doesn’t think he should have been penalized but says he’ll remember streaking down the sideline for a long time Mark Emmert/HawkCentral
The Hawkeye safety says ‘we never took our foot off the gas’ Mark Emmert/HawkCentral
Iowa DT Nathan Bazata discusses the 56-14 win over his home-state Huskers. Chad Leistikow/The Register
- Breaking down Iowa's 56-14 rout of Nebraska
- Hawkeyes celebrate with Heroes Trophy in Lincoln
- Kirk Ferentz happy about his true freshmen
- Akrum Wadley on the ‘fun’ against Nebraska
- James Daniels: ‘It was like a snowball’ against Nebraska
- Noah Fant describes a big touchdown and a celebration
- Jake Gervase on Iowa’s dominant second half
- Nathan Bazata returns home, enjoys himself