There is, quite simply, no joy to be taken in a loss. It doesn't matter if it was by one point or by 50, or to the best team in the land or the worst. All that changes is the scope and degree of the frustration and anger.
Thus, looking back on the Wisconsin game, it's impossible not to be upset. To have been within one score for the entire game (and holding the lead longer than Wisconsin) may be an encouraging sign of competitiveness, but it also means Iowa was perpetually one drive away from taking control.
And lo, did those singular drives go punt, punt, punt, punt. Iowa punted on their first eight possessions, and the only reason the number climbed no higher than 10 is the simple lack of opportunity; Iowa had only five possessions in the second half, as opposed to 10 in the first. Wisconsin and Princess Jasmine finally got on track, and the Badgers simply ran, ran, ran the ball for 10 decisive 4th quarter points. Brutal tactics, those: during the fourth quarter, Tyler Donovan could have used a snap cadence of "Hey Iowa, we are giving the ball to Hill on the count of 3; 1, 2, 3" and the drive still would have ended with six points.
Further complicating matters is the receiving situation; in six weeks, it has gone from Iowa's deepest position to an absolute horror fuck show. Dominque Douglas and Anthony Bowman will not play a snap this year. Trey Stross has been relegated to near non-existence with hamstring troubles, though he may begin to see action this weekend. Andy Brodell's hamstring burst into flames. Simply put, there were four healthy scholarship WR's on Iowa's roster during the last three quarters of the Wisconsin game--all freshmen.
Worse, wunderkind TE Tony Moeaki suffered an arm injury that included a dislocated elbow, broken wrist, and impregnation from a face-hugger. He is out until doctors figure out a way to reconstruct his arm, then he will be day-to-day until the newborn alien explodes from his chest.
In 2004, Iowa started 2-2 and suffered massive attrition to its corps of running backs; the team recovered for one of the most awe-inspiring runs of success in team history. While the 2007 defense is at least as stout as that iteration, five tailbacks are easier to lose than five receivers. If all a team can do is run the ball, a defense can be much more sure of where the ball will be than if the team can only pass. Texas Tech and Purdue give defensive coordinators nightmares. A team with a crippled passing game gives defensive coordinators erections.
Thus, just as soon as there is reason to hope after the Wisconsin loss, there is also cause for concern for the games going forward.
But all hope is not lost! Wisconsin is likely the toughest opponent Iowa will face all season, and even with receivers at the nadir of meaningful experience, the Hawkeyes came tantalizingly close to victory. Indiana comes to town this weekend, and the Hawkeyes are favored by 12. Indeed, as much as we all wanted a victory in Madison to signal a return to normalcy, the simple fact is that great teams will fall there this year. Iowa's actual measure of performance will be against the Hoosiers, a team that is decent but certainly beatable, as Illinois demonstrated earlier. Win, and the ISU loss is a glitch--an ugly, sickening one, but just a glitch nonetheless. Lose, however, and all hell may very well break loose.