In 2010, Iowa lost a non-conference game that took the bloom off of the rose of a top 15 season, then dropped a mid-October game to Wisconsin that put them on the ropes. The team responded with a thrashing of Michigan State, surprising both for its completeness and viciousness. It then nearly dropped a game to Indiana, lost a road game to Northwestern, and dropped a home contest against Ohio State before failing to show up for a road trip to Minnesota. There was a Halloween week flash of brilliance, and then nothing.
When Iowa destroyed Northwestern last week in front of the same Halloween Kinnick Stadium crowd, we noticed the parallels.
This is 2010 Michigan State all over again, right down to the Herky costume.— Patrick Vint (@HS_BHGP) November 1, 2014
The parallels continued Saturday, when Iowa scored a touchdown on its first series of the day, then went gently into that good night. Minnesota scored the next 51 points, including 35 uncontested first half points. A last-minute garbage score was the only thing standing between Kirk Ferentz and his worst loss since 1999; as it is, today's margin of defeat ties 2004 Arizona State for the worst Iowa loss of this millennium. Iowa gave up 50 points for the first time during Ferentz's 15 years at the helm.
This was no mirage; the Hawkeyes were dominated in every phase of the game. The offense generated just 205 yards, with 81 coming in the final touchdown drive. The Hawkeyes committed three first-half turnovers and had a punt blocked. Quarterback Jake Rudock completed 10 of 19 passes for just 89 yards before being pulled in the fourth quarter (Beathard's 3/7, 32-yard performance wasn't much better). Mark Weisman, who had destroyed Minnesota in the last two seasons, ran 14 times for 21 yards. Iowa ran only 56 plays, racked up just 3.7 yards per play, and had nine offensive series with five or fewer plays.
The Iowa defense allowed 291 yards on the ground and stood idly by as Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner completed 10 of 13 pass attempts for 138 yards and four touchdowns. Desmond King was directly targeted by Leidner and failed to respond, getting picked apart. Leidner also led the Gophers with 77 rushing yards, but David Cobb (74 yards, 1 TD) and K.J. Maye (66 yards, 1 TD) were also crucial. All three players were held out of most of the second half, because this game was over by the second quarter.
There are times in college football where everything will go wrong. If you're lucky, it happens once a decade. More often, it happens once every year or two. It had not happened on this level at Iowa since the 2012 Michigan game, but where that game felt like a team devoid of talent and experience laid low by injury, Saturday's debacle was an obvious lack of concentration and effort from a relatively healthy team capable of far more, a second consecutive road game full of mistakes and lethargy from a team too experienced to fall victim to mood swings. Something is happening internally. What it is is anyone's guess.
As it is, it's hard to find a scenario under which Iowa could win the division title after Saturday. The Hawkeyes are now a game behind Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska, and would need to run the table and have Minnesota lose twice to have a chance. Today was effectively an elimination game in the Big Ten race, and Iowa never left the gate.