Hawkeye offense endures a season of third-quarter thuds
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Don't ask Jake Rudock about halftime strategizing.
As the Iowa football team continues to stumble through the third quarter, week after week, it's sort of become a sore subject for the junior quarterback.
"Every single team that I'm aware of in the country adjusts at halftime," Rudock said. "We adjust for what they have been doing … and they adjust for what we may start to do.
"That's kind of the nature of the game."
Rudock was defending his coaches, but whatever tinkering they're doing, it isn't working.
The Hawkeyes enter Saturday's 11 a.m. showdown at Illinois having scored just 31 third-quarter points this season, adding an unsightly statistic to a sometimes unwatchable offense.
"When they adapt, we have to adapt right back," running back Mark Weisman said. "That's just how football works. A lot of changes going on."
Iowa (6-3 overall, 3-2 in the Big Ten) tends to start quickly, outscoring opponents 94-38 in the opening 15 minutes.
Things seem to flip in the second quarter, with the Hawkeyes trailing their rivals 92-54. It's another example of their bipolar nature.
"There's no way to predict anything," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "It's a 60‑minute game. Adjustments get made … and you have to adapt or adjust to whatever your opponent might be doing.
"But it still gets down to playing the full game."
So what's happening during intermission that sends Iowa into an offensive tailspin?
The Hawkeyes have taken 136 snaps in the third quarter and gained a total of 738 yards (compared to 900 yards in the first quarter), scoring three touchdowns on 30 possessions (although some of those carried into the fourth quarter).
Is this a matter of coaching or execution?
"I always think it's execution," Rudock said. "You should be able to run any play a coach calls. And if you execute well, you have a chance to have a good play.
"It comes down to players doing the right thing."
Last week was an especially abysmal post-halftime performance.
Iowa took eight third-quarter snaps against Minnesota, netting a total of 8 yards — after marching 76 yards for a touchdown on the game's first series.
How does an offense go from stellar to stalling?
"This isn't a video game," Ferentz said. "It's not a deal where you just plug plays in or plug things in.
"Anything involved in people, just look around the country — college, pro or high school — it's really hard to predict what's going to happen any week."
Last week marked the fifth time in nine games the Hawkeyes failed to score during the third period.
Another lull against the Illini could erase any hopes Iowa holds of challenging for the Big Ten's West Division title.
It should be noted: Illinois has been outscored 86-53 in the third quarter this season.
"Teams ebb and flow," Ferentz said of the Hawkeyes' general inconsistencies. "What are you going to do? We'll just go back to work and try to get ready for this ballgame."
Weather.com forecast: Partly cloudy with a chance of snow. High of 32 degrees. Wind SSW at 5-10 mph.
Staffer Danny Lawhon will put you in the know from before kickoff to after the postgame handshake. Join the fun in the Hawk Central app and at HawkCentral.com.