Digital Rewind: No ifs, ands or butt punts -- Iowa's year a bleak one

Danny Lawhon
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I should have known better.

After Drew Ott picked up the ball and ran into the end zone Friday on a play that should have long been remembered as the "butt punt," I ventured onto the ledge.

Game over, I thought. Iowa had dominated Nebraska all afternoon at Kinnick Stadium, and despite a quartet of turnovers, they held a 24-7 advantage at home.

The Hawkeyes then blocked a field goal. Even in this underwhelming season, such a lead and momentum swing should have been enough to salvage treading water in 2014 with an 8-4 record to match a turnaround campaign in 2013.

Instead, after a lightning-quick collapse and some fourth-quarter and overtime see-sawing, Iowa had all of its Black Friday gear snatched from its shopping cart with a 37-34 loss that stung just as much as you'd expect.

Bleak Friday is more like it — an unfortunately appropriate end to what can't be described as anything but a lost year.

"Well, this game sums up the season nicely," said chatter El Sid. "Missed opportunities."

Oh, the opportunities.

It happened ages ago in game terms, but two red-zone giveaways by normally possession-reliable quarterback Jake Rudock ended up being more costly as time wore on.

The impressions of the junior quarterback soured as the game deepened for ABC analyst Matt Millen, who spoke glowingly of the starter in the first quarter but was increasingly critical late.

"The ball should be thrown a bit quicker," Millen said plainly of Rudock's delivery and vision in the second half, saying he noticed that more after watching Iowa play live as opposed to on game tape. After Nebraska had surged to a fourth-quarter lead, Millen added that Nebraska was stacking the line of scrimmage to make Rudock make plays.

"Nebraska is saying, 'OK, Rudock, you beat us. We don't think you can,'" he explained.

Such an evaluation brought forth the frustrations Iowa fans have had all year with the starter.

"In top sports, one reads and reacts," said HeneryHawk. "Rudock appears to read, and read, and read, then react (and the play has gone by)."

Fans groaned inside Kinnick Stadium when Rudock missed Kevonte Martin-Manley on a fourth-quarter seam route. The junior did indeed lead a go-ahead drive in the final two minutes of regulation, but Iowa's defense couldn't make a touchdown toss to Jordan Canzeri stand.

Then, in overtime, Millen questioned a goal-to-go play call that had running back Mark Weisman moving to the edge instead of between the tackles, a theme that had chatters flummoxed from halftime on.

"You don't want a sideways Weisman," Millen said. "You want a downhill Weisman."

"Don't run Weisman outside …" added commenter CF. "How long has he been playing? Don't we know that doesn't work?"

The Hawkeyes closed with a downhill spiral to the season, with three losses in the final four games. All offseason, the talk was about a friendly schedule, especially in the Big Ten Conference. Home games against Wisconsin and Nebraska were seen as beneficial, and the divisional crossover opponents did not include either Michigan State or Ohio State.

Yet Iowa took a potential 10-win schedule with a cast of returning characters and turned it into a one-game drop-off from 2013 that included three home defeats, a loss to Big 12 Conference cellar-dweller Iowa State and no wins against FBS teams with winning records.

Fans maybe should have known better, but there's little doubting the Hawkeyes should have done better.

"I can't think of many positions that were above average this year?" questioned Dave2901. "Terribly coached team in every phase."

ESPECIALLY AWFUL: Fundamental special-teams play was almost nonexistent for both teams on Friday. Of note:

-- Nebraska returned one punt for a touchdown and was a tackle by Iowa's Dillon Kidd away from taking one back earlier in the second half.

-- The Cornhuskers had a field goal blocked from inside 35 yards, and then failed to advance the ball after recovering it before it moved beyond the line of scrimmage. "All those officials were waiting for a move to be done … that's poor by (Andy) Janovich, who could have advanced the ball."

-- Iowa's Jonathan Parker let a kickoff bounce in front of him, a la a punt, after Nebraska had taken the lead.

THE BUTT PUNT: Those gaffes don't even include the punt that went off a Nebraska lineman's backside and caromed dozens of feet into the air. Drew Ott picked up the minus-31-yard punt and returned it 12 yards to establish the 24-7 advantage that ought to have sealed momentum in Iowa's favor.

Here's an idea of just how poor the moment was:

Friday's game had almost a whole conference season's worth of ups and downs. You missed a true whirlwind of a chat experience. Check it out here, and come back for the bowl game, whenever it may be.