Broken record. Football is a weird sport. The win-loss record is the ultimate arbiter of the success (or failure) of a season; bowl eligibility is handed out based on record, coaches are judged, hired and fired based on their records, and above all else, teams' chances at conference championships and postseason glory are based on their record.
And yet as a predictor of future performance—which is to say, a worthwhile stat—the win/loss record is woefully incomplete*. It's not worthless, it's not misleading, but you need so, so much more information about each team in a matchup than their records before you can even begin making comparisons**.
So when pundits started tossing out labels like "worst 5-1 team in the nation" for Iowa, the "worst" part carries a little more heft than if we're talking about, say, the "tallest" in "tallest kid in kindergarten." Yes, the worst record Iowa could have had coming out of this week would be 5-2—indeed, that's what happened, duh—and yes, Iowa is still a virtual lock to go to another bowl game this winter, but when Patrick says Iowa's in "[t]he middle of a poor conference, at best, and sliding," he's not wrong.
*Speaking of woefully incomplete, we'll get to Jake Rudock in a minute.
**And contrasts. There are many factors. Shit, no, we're not doing the Bored High School Student today. SORRY, sorry, I got distracted.
Broken record. Look, I don't know how often you guys feel like reading us saying "Jake Rudock should throw downfield more," but uh... Jake Rudock should throw downfield more. And utilize his strong cast of wide receivers more. And work the middle of the field more. This is nothing new; this has been a concern week after week.
And man, it was rough against Maryland.
Iowa really went the entire first half without completing a single pass to a WR.
— Brendan Stiles (@thebstiles) October 18, 2014
It's not even like Rudock tried to balance his passing attack in the first half, either. He completed his first eight passes (yay!) then went 4-for-12 on some passing that was not particularly daring (not yay!). His 21st pass attempt was a 5-yard completion to Tevaun Smith on 1st and 20 nearly halfway through the third quarter. That was the first time an Iowa wideout touched the ball on offense. All told, Iowa wideouts caught 12 passes for 95 yards on the day. That's less than eight yards per completion to the guys who ostensibly stretch the field. Per target—which is to say per attempt—it's necessarily worse, and this has a horrendous effect on Iowa's success on offense. It won't surprise you to find out the record usually follows suit.
Iowa averaging 6.45 yards/pass att - 5th worst under Ferentz. Only worse were '00, '07, '99, '12. 14-33 combined record in those seasons.
— Jordan Garretson (@jordangarretson) October 19, 2014
I don't know what to tell you. Drew Tate would have killed for the opportunity to work with a receiving corps like Tevaun Smith, Kevonte Martin-Manley and Damond Powell. I'm not sure I'm exaggerating on the "killed" part. Brad Banks was a monster of efficiency in part because he always had someone open. Ricky Stanzi had DJK and Marvin McNutt, sure, but even that tandem—the most productive WR tandem Iowa has ever had, and it's not even close—isn't significantly more talented than Smith and KMM.
It is so, so, so frustrating to watch such a level of talent go to waste. This is a waste.
Broken record. When we talk about Iowa not being put into position to succeed, that can be an awfully nebulous concept—and a lazy fan can use that and "did not succeed" interchangeably. So here's what we mean.
Bad decision #1: Kicking the field goal on 4th down during the comeback. Absolutely the wrong call. Yes, Joey Galloway in the booth praised it on the grounds of "you need points anyway," but one of those scores you need is a touchdown, and you are six yards away. If a field goal were okay Iowa should have kicked it as soon as Duzey made the catch at the 23-yard-line. Nobody kicks a field goal there, obviously, because the reward for a touchdown is that much greater—not only from a points perspective but for what it allows you to do from there. So if you eschew the last shot at a TD fro the 6-yard line, you still need the six points, and sure enough, Iowa was never anywhere near that point with an opportunity to score a touchdown again.
Also, nobody pays Joey Galloway to run an offense. ESPN just pays him to say things fans already know, so they can say, "I really identify with football players so much."
Bad decision #2: Down seven points, still taking the second onside kick. Time was at a premium at that point, which is to say that with a gentle-armed QB, field position was at a premium. It was great that Iowa tried the first onside kick; the Hawkeyes needed it. Trying to convert two in one fourth quarter is folly. The probability of getting one in those situations is about 10%; two in a row is basically lottery ticket territory.
Iowa needed to get the ball back, yes. But the probability of a three-and-out was way higher than that of recovering a second onside kick, and sure enough, Iowa got the stop it needed (in its own territory, unfortunately) and forced a punt.
A deep kick means after that stop, Iowa's getting the ball back probably around its own 40—a little behind where the onside kick would have been recovered (and with all timeouts stripped, but that was happening anyway). Instead, the poor endgame management put Jake Rudock (of all people) in the position of needing to drive 80 yards in 59 seconds just to tie the game.
Now, down only three, you can still kick it deep and put the pressure on Maryland. You're probably only needing about 30 yards in the last minute to get into field goal territory and start working for overtime. The onside kick is back on the table, though, as the reward (getting the ball back near midfield with all your timeouts, which means playing for the win is now on the table) is worth the far more likely risk (ball at your 20, 59 seconds left, no timeouts) as driving into field goal range is significantly more doable in a minute than scoring a TD.
Bad decision #3: The last drive. So, fine, Iowa's down 7 with the ball and 59 seconds left, and 80 yards to drive. Rudock managed to get just 24 of those 80 yards before throwing a 4th down ball two receivers thought was theirs, with predictably disastrous results. Whatever. At best, the ball would have been at midfield with two seconds left anyway.
Rudock threw one ball downfield on the last drive. One. And it was painfully off target. We know he can throw better than that; we just don't know whether he will on any given throw. Hey, there's a quarterback on Iowa's roster who would love to have a chance to use his superior arm talent in a situation that requires superior arm talent, but you can't bring him in dead-cold on the very last drive of the game. And yet Ferentz never thought during this whole barf parade that it might be time to let Beathard get a couple reps.
I don't know if you can put that last fiasco on Ferentz, Greg Davis or Rudock. My guess is the answer is "yes." It's a conservative, light-armed quarterback running a conservative, horizontal offense with a conservative, 20th-century head coach. You can try to untangle those elements, but why?
Broken record. Ferentz's history of late-game botches probably deserves its own post, but at the end of the day, it's just terribly frustrating and disheartening to watch Iowa lose games like this over and over.
Broken record. and over.
Broken record. and over.
Broken record. and over.