The Takeaway: Iowa State

Sure, Iowa just lost to Iowa State, 44-41. But how much do we really know? What was really important about losing to the Cyclones? What does it all mean, Basil? The Takeaway has the answer.

FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU: Yeah, this was a frustrating loss. That's putting it kindly. As soon as Michael Meyer lined up for that field goal in the third overtime, every single Iowa fan knew how this game was going to end, and it wasn't going to be Iowa winning with those 41 points. Iowa hadn't actually stopped Steele Jantz in long enough that conceding a 4th and 1 was tantamount to rolling over and accepting defeat, and sure enough, that's what Iowa State sealed five snaps later. 

How bad was the decision to kick the field goal on 4th and 1? Consider this: Marcus Coker had rushed the ball 35 times on Saturday. He gained positive yardage on 32 of those rushes. Meanwhile, Iowa hadn't forced a punt since the opening minutes of the second quarter, and ISU had gained at least 25 yards on its last five drives/OT possessions, which had resulted in four touchdowns and one missed field goal after a 71-yard drive. Steele Jantz was in Full Heisman Mode at that point, and Iowa wasn't seriously keeping him out of the end zone without a major Cyclone error, a rarity in the game. But no, Ferentz went for the field goal...

...which is still more than you can say for his regulation endgame strategy, which entailed being given one shot at winning the game without the other team having a mandate to touch the ball with any meaningful time left. Iowa had the ball at its own 20 with 1:12 on the clock and two timeouts, something Ferentz didn't deem worthy of attempting to get points out of. He might have recognized that type of situation from Illinois 2008, when Iowa tied the score with under three minutes to play, only to see Juice effing Williams drive the Illini 51 yards from its own 20 for a game-winning field goal with 24 seconds left. He also might have recognized it from Ohio State 2009, when Iowa had the ball at its own 32 with 52 seconds left and one timeout in a tie game with the 11th-ranked team in the nation. Ferentz sat on the ball there too... and promptly lost in overtime.

I guess what I'm trying to say is if Kirk Ferentz taught a class in game theory, his A students would drive 20 miles an hour at all times, live in padded rooms, and be simpering virgins.

Special teams are special: Iowa State averaged 32 yards per kick return. Iowa's punt team also allowed a 21-yard return by Josh Lenz, For a team that's built to play close games, Iowa doesn't exactly take care of the details very well anymore, does it?

James Morris is not a star: Quick, name something good about James Morris that actually happened on the field. There's his interception return against Tennessee Tech, and...? It's great that he started games as a true freshman when forced into action, and it's great that his family has such close ties to the football team (seriously, both of those things are great), but no matter how much the coaching staff likes this guy, his hype hasn't matched his on-field performance yet. Christian Kirksey was by far the most productive linebacker on Saturday, while Morris quietly notched seven tackles--none for a loss.

Morris wasn't the worst defender on the Hawkeyes by any stretch -- Micah Hyde and Collin Sleeper were both ghastly in run support, and Greg Castillo was so victimized by Steele Jantz that he may have cause to press charges -- but Morris is supposed to be the leader of this defense, and that wasn't evident at any point on Saturday. So rather than call for something ridiculous like Morris' benching, because that's not smart, I'd rather just see us regard him for what he is: a true sophomore linebacker who should be a redshirt freshman, and who still isn't big or assertive enough to warrant an unusual amount of attention. He's got a lot of time to live up to the hype, but he hasn't done so yet, and we shouldn't kid ourselves and think otherwise just because the coaches and announcers have nice things to say about him.

In fact, screw all of this defense: This is a problem without a solution, because I don't know what Kirk Ferentz is supposed to do in the middle of the season about a flat lack of talent on the defense, but this is probably Iowa's worst defense since the Dark Ages of 1999 and 2000. Mike Daniels and Broderick Binns are woefully inconsistent, and they're also the best two defensive linemen on the entire team. Shaun Prater is the only member of the secondary who performs his current position at a high level. That leaves the linebackers, and there's only so much any of them can do. It's probably safe to assume that this year, Iowa's breaking its streak of 40+ games without a double-digit loss, and it's probably safe to assume that's going to happen multiple times.

Perhaps the defensive effort will be better once Jordan Bernstine returns from goddamn strep throat (which, let's be honest, is just about the best reason for him missing the ISU game that we could have asked for, given the alternatives), which at the very least probably gets Collin Sleeper off the field. We all remember the turnaround the Iowa defense undertook when Bob Sanders stepped into the starting lineup, and while Jordan Bernstine sure isn't Bob Sanders, he also sure isn't Collin Sleeper either, and that's good news for a defense that doesn't love bad news.

POLITICS ALERT* (SORT OF): There's a book by The Onion called Our Dumb Century, a supposed archive of the "newspaper"'s most important editions throughout history. You should buy it. This is not a paid endorsement. Anyway, in an article "from" 1980, the Onion asks which presidential candidate's message will resonate better with voters. Jimmy Carter's is "Let's talk better mileage." Ronald Reagan's is "KILL THE BASTARDS."

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a "let's talk better mileage" coach in a "KILL THE BASTARDS" rivalry. These losses to ISU are going to happen as long as he's the coach, and they're going to happen fairly often. I don't think that's anywhere near a good reason to question Kirk Ferentz's future with the program or anything on that level, because he's been fantastic for the program as a whole. It's just, Ferentz isn't perfect, and one of his most glaring imperfections just so happens to be a philosophical weakness toward our in-state rivals, which means there aren't going to be many years where Iowa takes the Cy-Hawk Trophy (whatever it ends up being) out of Ames as long as Ferentz is around. How important that fact is up to each of you, not us.

 

 

*It should go without saying by now, but in case you're new: BHGP is not the place for political talk. Nobody here cares what your political affiliation is. We're Hawkeye fans, not political operatives. If you use the comments on a sports blog to advance your own political agenda, you will be banned without a second thought, and nobody will feel sorry for you, because you are pretty much the worst.

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