Digital Rewind: Criticism for Hawkeyes from all sides
Rod Gilmore's reaction said it all.
The ESPN analyst simply couldn't believe what he was seeing Friday when Iowa's Jonathan Parker threw a forward pass on a kickoff return while falling out of bounds during the TaxSlayer Bowl.
"WHAT?!" he exclaimed immediately, before the ball even hit the ground.
The mind-numbing second-quarter play pinned Iowa inside its own 3-yard line, and it was icing on the cake of a horrendous first 18 minutes that had the Hawkeyes facing a four-touchdown deficit to Tennessee.
If something could have gone wrong for Iowa against the Volunteers in Jacksonville, Fla., it did, and a 45-28 final margin of victory does nothing to indicate just how lopsided the contest was and how incensed Hawk Central live chatters were at the state of the Iowa football program.
"There was also the expectation that Iowa had a shot to have a big year," said Gilmore in the second half with the Hawkeyes down 42-7. "They didn't play some of the big boys (in the Big Ten Conference). They didn't have Ohio State. They didn't have Michigan State. They didn't have Michigan on their schedule. So going into the season, a lot of people thought, 'Hey, there's a sleeper.'"
Instead, dreams of 10 wins and a possible conference championship game berth fizzled to a somewhat nightmarish 7-6, total uncertainty at the quarterback spot and voluminous calls for change.
Even when the game was within reach at 14-0, Gilmore was relentless in his disapproval of the two-quarterback system coach Kirk Ferentz decided to employ.
"I'm not a fan," Gilmore asserted as Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard swapped possessions early on. "You have to let your quarterback get into a rhythm, one series and then alternating never lets you get into a flow."
A drive later and the score 21-0, play-by-play man Mark Jones gave an ominous assessment.
"Looks like Iowa needs a bigger boat right now," said Jones, referencing the famous quote from the movie "Jaws."
On came Beathard, who misfired on a simple swing pass in the flat.
"Let's try alternating coaches," quipped user zabelfan.
Meanwhile, Gilmore resumed his critique.
"Look, Kirk Ferentz has been doing this stuff a long time, and he's got his reasons for doing these things. I just don't think you help your team when you're exchanging the quarterback every series, particularly when you're down 21-0," he said. "I think you need a leader. You need somebody to rally behind that will get the troops going, as opposed to looking to the sideline — 'Who's running the show now?'"
Rudock finished a paltry 2-for-8 for 32 yards. Beathard was 13-for-23 for 145 yards with a pair of late touchdown passes that factored little in the outcome, and he also threw an interception and fumbled a snap.
The Iowa woes extended far beyond the offense, however. The defense missed at least half-a-dozen tackles on Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd in the first half. Just as many live viewers in the chat later joked that the hardest hit put on by a Hawkeye player Friday was on their own coach.
Indeed, Desmond King flattened Ferentz on the Vols' first drive of the game and left a noticeable cut above the coach's right eye.
Insult was added to injury for the defense on the opening drive of the second half, when three Hawkeyes collided in mid-air to prevent them all from an easy shot at an interception.
It was that kind of afternoon for Iowa, which has a soul-searching offseason in store.
"Kirk Ferentz told us in our meetings (Thursday), Rod, 'None of us are in denial right here. The sky isn't falling. We're trying to build something.' But that's a tough sell to the Hawkeye fans watching today," explained Jones, "albeit there's some truth to what he says."
The truth is this: Fans are fed up. A record number of comments — more than 1,450 and scores more than weren't consumable even for an Internet audience — and chatters displayed a venom that contained more than anger. The mood was a clear intolerance that leaves a lot of healing to be done before the fall.
"Hawkeye football has died by a thousand cuts for years now," said chatter GeoIII. "This year, you can hear the blood loss."