We’ve all heard our share of those good old sports clichés teams use in attempt to keep things in perspective following adversity. At 5-3 and scheduled to come out of the bye Saturday evening at Penn State, some Iowa fans, players, and coaches may use the “four-game season” adage in regards to final third of the 2016 campaign — one geared at earning a trip to a halfway respectable bowl game. That phrase is reminiscent of the “Big Ten Playoffs” Carl Davis and company spoke of during the home stretch of the 2014 season, Iowa’s most recent disappointing campaign.
In case you’ve deleted that from memory, the former defensive tackle and his team went into their five-game stretch to end the season after the second bye week (remember that weird five-bye-two-bye-five schedule?) with a 5-2 record and games against the best the Big Ten West had to offer —Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. Sorry, Purdue.
Sadly, but not shockingly, the Hawkeyes went 2-3 in that stretch with losses to David Cobb, K.J. Maye, Melvin Gordon, and Ameer Abdu—er, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.
Why bring this up? Why subject you to bad memories as a Hawkeye fan in a season filled with them?
Perspective is one answer. We could be talking about a team lacking an abundance of talent or a team lacking a quarterback with leadership skills. Instead, we’re talking a team with at least one reliable player at each position group — save for maybe wide receiver, depending where you fall on the Riley McCarron trust spectrum.
Sean Welsh and Jaleel Johnson man each line. Josey Jewell is key to the linebackers. A combo of Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels, Desmond King and C.J. Beathard. George Kittle and, well, Desmond may not play safety, but he’s still a defensive back, damnit.
We saw what Beathard could do when given a shred of help in the passing game through most of last year and earlier this season. And even missing Matt VandeBerg’s reliable play, Kittle being unable to repeat his lightning-in-a-bottle magic of 2015, and a hit or miss offensive line, he’s still the best passer in the Big Ten, according to Pro Football Focus.
When combined, the above factors yield all we want as a fan base — a possibility of finishing the season strong.
Granted, some thought that was the case after Davis offered that rallying cry at a similar point in 2014, and those “Playoffs” can be summed up with the memory of a fan barging into the coach’s box to yell at Greg Davis during the Wisconsin game.
The reasons for hope Iowa gave us that season were unproven. We hadn’t seen Greg Davis alter his game plan to minimize the effect Jake Rudock’s slow release had on the passing game or an option on the ground not named Mark Weisman. We watched an inexperienced linebacking corps falter week after week and knew King was good, but not this good.
Hell, we watched a punt return unit average a league-worst 5.13 yards per try. We got THAT’S FOOTBALL!
While it’s hard to see this season turning into that kind of disaster, there’s a counterargument to be made for this sting being worse if the four-game season doesn’t go as planned. After all, 2014’s expectations were far lower than those of a campaign built on a 12-2 record and reinforced by a massive double down from the athletic department.
This year’s expectations of a return trip to Indianapolis are already out the window barring a ton of help, so you may already think the season’s a failure, perhaps even to the degree of 2014. Perhaps you think it’s too early to judge, as the Hawkeyes could win out and finish the year as a 10-win team.
Either way, here’s to hoping the misery that’s come with watching this team so far doesn’t grow larger in the coming weeks, and the only cliché we need in four weeks has something to do finishing the job.
Iowa RB Akrum Wadley on the bye week. "I slept a lot. Partied a little bit." Can we petition the NCAA so he never graduates?— LukeMeredith (@LukeMeredithAP) November 1, 2016
No word if Wadley’s partying was as great as the time he and Jonathan Parker invited the entire UI Class of 2017 to his house to rage.
I love him so much.
This post is already too long, so we’ll wrap up with a reminder regarding Hawkeye wrestling media day today. The plan, for now, is to have a Thursday morning wrap-up similar to what Ben does every week for Kirk pressers. After that, we’ll have previews of the weight classes with the new guys and weight classes with returning grapplers, as well as other #content leading up to the season. Anything in particular you guys want to see wrestling-wise?