Most Hawkeye fans I’ve talked to since about 3pm Saturday have been pretty frustrated, disappointed and downright upset with the loss to #10 Wisconsin on Saturday. It’s Monday. It is, in fact, overreaction Monday. And just when you think you’ve figured me out, I’m throwing you a curve ball. I’m not going to be like the rest of you and overreact on the negative side. No, I actually walked out of Kinnick feeling somewhat OK with things. Perhaps I’m fully into the apathy stage of grieving, but I guess I just kind of saw mostly what I expected Saturday. In some areas, it was better than I expected. So I’m overreacting positively. Deal with it.
1. Passing Game Woes
Let’s go ahead and get this one out of the way. the passing game sucked on Saturday. But what, exactly, were you expecting? Sure, it looked like there might be some signs of life (or light?) last week. But we’ve known for a while now that this WR group struggles to get separation and has had issues with drops even when they do find themselves open. Add in the injury to George Kittle (though he did trot out there for a bit, noticeably limping), a very stingy Wisconsin defense and I essentially saw what I expected to see out of the passing game. Not a lot. News flash: we ain’t gonna see much more than that the rest of the way (save the Illinois game, because Illinois is, well, Illinois). All we can hope for at this point is enough of a passing game to keep defenses honest against the run. I actually liked some of the short passing game on early downs to open up the run a little on 1st down. But we aren’t going to see big plays down the field like we saw in the Big Ten Championship the rest of this year. Sorry.
2. O-Line Chemistry
One of the offensive bright spots given my admittedly low expectations was the performance of the offensive line against that nasty Wisconsin front 7. There were some letdowns, but they only gave up 2 sacks and 5 hurries. That’s basically what they were able to do to OSU (more on them later). The run game left much to be desired, but I didn’t see the offensive line as a liability on Saturday, which is what I had expected. I thought we’d hear Cichy and Watt’s names called all day as CJ was beaten to a pulp. If the line can continue to build on that chemistry, keep CJ relatively clean and open a few more holes, I am cautiously optimistic for what this team can do against everyone left on the schedule not named Michigan.
3. Would You Look at That!
Iowa got the ball back with 54 seconds left in the first half following the Corey Clement fumble at the goalline. When they came out for the first play, I think most Hawk fans expected them to run, run, run until there was no clock left. Instead, we got a glimpse of what KF, and honestly most coaches, tries to do at the end of the half. Iowa ran on first down, but was able to pick up a chunk of yardage and all of a sudden we saw the offense go into a hurry up. It wasn’t perfect, but we watched them execute and manage the clock well enough to get a field goal at the end of the half and get the game to 7-6. That’s the aggressiveness Hawkeye fans crave. I think it’s been there, just limited by a lack of executing on that initial first down run to get them in a position to make something happen.
4. Run Defense Here to Stay?
I’ll admit, I walked into Kinnick on Saturday expecting to leave early. I had no doubt in my mind that the offense would struggle, especially throwing the ball, and that Wisconsin would have no problem running all over Iowa. I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw out of Iowa’s rush D. In all honesty, I thought the defense looked pretty good in general. They did a damn fine job containing Wisconsin for much of the game considering the amount of time they were forced to be on the field. The offense couldn’t get anything going and had very few sustained drives. The problem came with big plays at critical times. Namely, 3rd downs. Wisconsin finished 8-17 (47%) vs. Iowa’s 2-13 (15%). And that run defense would’ve looked even better had they not given up a 33 yard scamper on Wisconsin’s final drive following the missed FG with just over 5 minutes to go. Definitely room to improve, but the defense didn’t lose the game for Iowa, it kept them in it (gee, that sounds familiar).
5. 2-Minute Offense Looks Like a Keeper
As brutal of a day as it was for the passing game, I think GD may have found something to build on with that 2-minute offense. CJ seemed pretty comfortable just dumping it off underneath to Akrum Wadley and that’s a guy I’d like to see worked into the passing game. It solves a lot of problems at once. For starters, CJ takes fewer hits on quick passes (I have a PhD in football). More importantly, it gets one of the biggest playmakers the ball in space. And finally, it sets up the defense to create just a little bit of space downfield for some double move type routes with guys that normally wouldn’t be able to. In a similar vein, I really like the little WR quick screen they’ve been working in more with Smith blocking (which he does well) and McCarron getting it on the edge. I’d love to see variations off that where Smith goes for the block then releases. Or maybe you find a way to run that type of play with someone like Wadley who is more dangerous in space. In a season such as this, I’m happy with anything that looks like could give me a glimmer of hope.
6. Here We Go Again
I’ve said it a number of times, and yet here I am again. I’m not going to blame the loss on officials, it wasn’t on them and they didn’t do anything to cost Iowa much of anything. But man, zero penalties called on Wisconsin? Really? I had a view much worse than the officials and spotted PLENTY of penalties they could’ve called. Sure enough, upon DVR review, they should’ve been called. Like, oh I don’t know, a false start when you have a pair of guys on the right side of the line move half a second ahead of the rest of the offense on nearly every single play. Maybe a hold at the point of attack (I get it happens on every play and don’t want it called all the time, but when it’s at the point of attack and is the reason a play is made or not, call it). It was a lot of little things, in my opinion, that didn’t cost Iowa the game, but didn’t help them in a game where they needed all the help they could get. Oh, and there is no way in hell there was enough video evidence to overturn that Fant TD catch. NO. WAY. IN. HELL. It was close and if they had called it no good on the field, I’d have no qualms with them keeping it that way. But they didn’t. You can’t change it there.
7. KF Apologist Time
Kirk took a lot of heat Saturday and into Sunday based on a question he was asked in the post game presser. Specifically, the following:
For starters, the question is worded poorly. I think the answer you get from KF is partially due to some confusion about the scenario in question. But let’s enter a world for a moment, where Kirk knew exactly the scenario in question and the response was well-worded. The man is still not wrong. You can banter all you want about the good a FG does you in that scenario, but we saw what happens in the worst case. We saw the FG missed, which is the same outcome as if they had gone for it on 4th down and not gotten it. Statistically speaking, there was very little chance Iowa picks up that first down and goes on to score. Oh and if they do, then they need the 2-point conversion to be good for any of it to matter. Very little chance (I’ll let HAWKEYES run the numbers on it if you want to be more exact). Now suppose the FG had been good, like any reasonable person would have expected. Then you’re down 14-9, same amount of time on the clock (OK, maybe 5 seconds less), roughly the same field position assuming a fairly common kickoff.
Best case from there, Iowa doesn’t give up a 33-yard run to Clement and they get the ball down 14-9 with a couple minutes left. Worst case, Wiscy scores a TD and the game is over. Somewhere in the middle is the result we got. Iowa down 17-9 (this is still our hypothetical world where you make that FG) with a couple minutes to go and the Fant TD catch, which I SWEAR TO ALL THINGS HOLY SHOULD HAVE COUNTED, puts you down 2.
There are a million different scenarios you can throw out and second guess. The bottom line is this: we saw the worst case scenario play out and it still nearly worked. If you want to call KF for not going for it in that situation, go for it, but I’m not wasting my time listening to you. After Sunday, there is plenty more to complain about with Kirk and company.
Oh, you thought you were getting out of here without any mention of that? You thought being a KF apologist, I was just going to ignore the biggest loss of the weekend? No. Not a chance in hell. There are some things I will give the staff the benefit of the doubt on (like, you know, coaching, where the staff has about a million more years of experience and knowledge than me), but when it comes to recruiting, I can’t do it.
I am officially opening up my recruitment!— EB5™ (@eno_benjamin5) October 23, 2016
Thank you & God Bless pic.twitter.com/Q3qILK12ni
Sunday night, we learned that 4-star running back and all-world recruiter in the class of 2017 Eno Benjamin was officially re-opening his recruitment. It was only a matter of minutes before we learned that it wasn’t exactly Eno walking away from his commitment from the Iowa staff telling him thanks, but no thanks. ARE YOU F(*$%^ING KIDDING ME?!?! This kid opened up the flood gates to Texas. He nearly single-handedly delivered you Chevin Calloway (more to come...), Matt Hankins, Gavin Holmes, Peyton Mansell and Beau Corrales. He almost got you in on guys like Kobe Boyce. And you’re going to pull his offer because he wanted to take a free weekend to Tempe? Gimme a break.
You want to second-guess the staff about decisions, don’t waste your time talking to me about FG vs. going for it on 4th and 5. There is a world of second-guessing and discussion to be had about this policy on official visits for committed players. Iowa City could be a dumpster fire.
I gotta cleanse the pallet. At least this didn’t happen to Iowa Saturday:
ICYMI: No. 2 Ohio State went down on this wild @PennStateFball play. https://t.co/NM9sqAAqFT— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 23, 2016
Also, Leonard Fournette is good at football.
Well Fournette did this tonight https://t.co/jnOFQzXtgl— Football Is Life (@FootbaIl_Tweets) October 23, 2016
And oh yeah, ICYMI, I suppose the Cubs won....
DID YOU KNOW: Not one single human being has ever watched the Cubs in the World Series, on television; 1947 was first year the WS was on TV— Jon Miller (@HawkeyeNation) October 23, 2016
Here are some things that didn't exist the last time the Cubs went to the World Series.— ESPN (@espn) October 23, 2016
It's been awhile. pic.twitter.com/4xQgljtLa8
I hope to God your week is better than the weekend was.