(Note: Mild ranting, minimal editing)
With all apologies to the right honorable gentleman from Wonderland, Iowa didn't give that game away. Hell, it never should have been that close.
- Iowa outgained Northwestern by 17 yards, but was 50 yards behind the Cats until the final drive against a relatively soft NU zone defense.
- Iowa was -4 in turnover margin. Not only did the Hawks give the ball away five times (yes, five fucking times), but three of the five were completely unforced errors, and two turnovers led to Northwestern scores or took sure scores off the board for Iowa.
- Iowa's average starting field position: Their own 24. Northwestern's average starting field position: Their own 38.
- Twice, Northwestern had first and goal and came away with nothing. A strange mix of inopportune penalties and flat-out atrocious kicking led to this much more than anything Iowa did defensively. Aside from the final four-and-out and the Stanzi fumble, Iowa made something of their opportunities.
Add it all up, and this game was closer to 38-17 than it was to 24-22. Sorry, but Northwestern kicked our fat steak-fed asses in this one. I'm not saying the Wildcats are really good (they're not) or, as some of their commenters are saying here, that they're anywhere near "the class of the conference" (they're absolutely not), but they're certainly better than Iowa right now, and they proved that yesterday.
There was a 6 year old kid sitting in the aisle next to our seats throughout the game (he kept obstructing the view of a douchebag Northwestern fan in a Bear Bryant hat, which would cause the douchebag Northwestern fan to yell and scream and curse at the kid...classiest fans in the Big Ten my ass). On first and goal at the 8, with 1:30 to go and down by 5, the kid turned to me and said, "We should run it here." Given our success on the ground and FAIL FAIL EPIC FAIL in obvious passing situations throughout the day, he was probably right. I know Greene was injured (though I didn't know it at the time) and I know we'd be complaining today if we ran twice, then missed two shots at the end zone, but it was so completely obvious to everyone in attendance that a 6 year old who surely hadn't played a down of football in his life knew it.
I'm not pinning most of this loss on the coaching staff (though, Kenny, meet me at camera two: we know the roll-Stanzi-one-way, set-up-tight-end-screen-to-the-opposite-side screen pass worked against Maine, but you can't run that play six times in a game and expect it to work after the second attempt). However, the speculation here and on lesser message boards has been that Parker and KOK were more creative with previous programs, and it's Ferentz whose emphasis on execution over variety and steadfast dedication to boring-as-fuck football is keeping things so bleh. If that truly is the philosophy, there's a problem. We were piss poor in execution yesterday. Northwestern missed a field goal, had another one blocked, imploded near the goal line twice on offense, gave up a deep post to a team that hasn't completed a long pass since last year's Northwestern game, and still clearly executed its gameplan better than we did.
In other news, I can report that Pat Fitzgerald demands all assistant coaches and sideline hangers-on wear bad golf shirts and shitty sunglasses. They were everywhere. Coaches would take the sunglasses off only to calculate the tangent of C.J. Bacher's throws toward the sideline on their wristwatches.
Also, after watching Fitzgerald and his staff, I can report Pat Fitzgerald (a product of Gary Barnett's Northwestern teams) is completely obsessed with beating Iowa in ways non-ISU people simply don't understand. It's really quite something to watch, and - more importantly - it's created yet another Iowa opponent who has a massive edge in motivation (never more evident than the opening series of the second half). When you lose the playcalling battle, the execution battle, and the motivational battle, you simply aren't going to win too many games.