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A Message to Hawkeye Nation

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Our pets’ heads aren’t falling off.

NCAA Football: North Dakota State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Keys to the Game in Review is getting scrapped this week. Iowa didn’t do anything I wanted them to do. There’s my review of the Keys to the Game.

I’ve felt a lot of negative energy and seen some poor comments on social media since the end of Iowa’s Week 3 loss to North Dakota State. I know you’re disappointed. I know. Try to take a lesson from former Hawk Pat Angerer.

I’ll admit, I was pleasantly surprised when the sun did, indeed, rise on Sunday morning. Saturday’s loss hurt. There’s no doubt about that. But life goes on.

I had high expectations for the 2016 Hawkeyes. It was reminiscent of 2010, a year in which there was also talk of a possible 12-0 season. Then, the Arizona game happened. Iowa found themselves down 27-7 at the half thanks to a Ricky Stanzi pick-six, a blocked punt, and a kickoff returned for a touchdown. Despite battling back to eventually tie the game in the 4th quarter, the Hawks fell 34-27 to the Wildcats. It was a sloppy game, and it proved to be an indicator of what was to come for the remainder of that season. A Wisconsin fake punt and disappointing losses to Minnesota, Northwestern, and Ohio State later caused the Hawks to finish 7-5.

I remember walking back to my dorm that night in disbelief. It poured rain the entire way. I didn’t care. I was devastated.

If you are reading this, you are likely an Iowa fan. You might have grown up rooting for Iowa. You might have acquired your fandom over the years. If you’re like me, you probably put all of your energy into watching the game, commenting on the game, reading about the game—basically everything short of actually participating in the game. Sometimes, I wonder why. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we root for a team that seems to have no chance of ever winning the National Championship? Why do we support a squad that continually delivers a mediocre product on the field, and in the rare instances when that product is actually good, they manage to lose in devastating fashion?

I don’t really know the answers to those questions, but I do know that if you are going to claim to love a team, that love needs to be unconditional. You don’t love Iowa because they are good (obviously…). You love Iowa because it was passed down to you by your father, or your father’s father, or whoever really. You love Iowa because you believe that mental toughness and hard work can outweigh talent and metrics. You love what Iowa stands for. They try to be a tough, smart, physical football team.

On Saturday, they weren’t tough. They weren’t smart. They weren’t physical.

Have you ever had a day when you wake up and don’t quite feel 100 percent? When it seems like everything that you do goes wrong? When, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t catch a break?

The same happens to football teams. Sometimes you step onto the field and you don’t deliver the performance that you are capable of delivering. It could be due to a lack of focus or a lack of energy, or it could just be that the forces of the universe don’t want it to be.

Those days occur because you’re a human being. You make mistakes. It happens. That’s life, and that’s football.

So let’s not criticize the kids on the Iowa football team. After all, it was their dream that likely came to an end on Saturday, not yours. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, and the 2016 Iowa football team is very obviously not perfect. That word is still solely reserved for the 2015 Hawkeyes.

Iowa has suffered embarrassing non-conference losses before and managed to bounce back. Do we ever talk about the 44-7 thumping that Arizona State put on the Hawkeyes in 2004? No, we talk about how Iowa grabbed a piece of the B1G Championship that year and brought us moments like this:

Then there were the 2002 Hawkeyes that blew a 24-7 halftime lead against rival Iowa State. Do we talk about that? Or do we talk about this?

We don’t yet know what Saturday’s loss means for this Iowa football team. It might serve as a wake-up call that helps them regain their focus heading into B1G play. They may run the table. Probably not, but maybe.

They may somehow manage to win the B1G West and then defeat Ohio State/Michigan/Michigan State in the B1G Championship Game. Probably not, but maybe.

When it comes time for the Playoff Committee to pick the final four, Iowa might sit at 12-1, the champions of the B1G Conference with wins over Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and OSU/UM/MSU, all of which could be ranked opponents when Iowa plays them this season. Probably not, but maybe.

The point is that we don’t know anything for sure, so let’s not go attacking players we love and a coach we admire just because they lost a football game. I’m not interested in hearing about the current value of Kirk Ferentz’s buyout or how many times Iowa shot themselves in the foot on Saturday. The national pundits will take care of that.

Instead, let’s give them the same support that we were a week ago. They still deserve it, and they’re probably going to need it. I hope that the players on the Iowa football team use this experience to rally around each other. I hope they realize that they can either let it define them, let it destroy them, or let it strengthen them. Their dreams, and their season, depend on it.