Let’s get the obvious out of the way from the get-go: Iowa’s 14-10 loss to Northwestern yesterday evening has officially killed any chance of the 2018 campaign being a season worth remembering for the Hawkeyes.
I rarely attend games in person, but I had longstanding plans to attend this one with some out of town friends. It was one of the colder games I’ve been to at Kinnick Stadium. So cold, in fact, that an elderly couple sitting in my row left the game before halftime, while the score was still 0-0, and proclaimed “We’ll get ‘em next year,” as they squeezed past me toward the exit.
Yes, it was very cold and I can’t blame them for leaving. But if you’re looking for Big Ten West Division titles and Big Ten Championships as an Iowa football fan, be prepared to get ‘em next year for as long as Kirk Ferentz is commander-in-chief.
Whether we like it or not, this is Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa football program in its purest form.
Yesterday’s game made three straight losses in the 2018 season and three straight losses to the Wildcats for the Hawkeyes. Many people will once again want to (at least partially) blame the referees for this loss, but that’s silly. I’m placing all the blame for this loss on Captain Kirk, Brian Ferentz, and Nate Stanley. Sure, the quarterback nearly threw for almost 300 yards, but what does he have to show for it? One touchdown and a field goal. Not to mention the complete disappearance of Noah Fant, whose stat line maybe will remain confusing for an eternity.
The frustrations about this team seem to be more intense this year than for other under-performing Iowa teams in the past, and for me personally, I’m more frustrated because of the talent that is spread across myriad nooks and crannies of this team on both sides of the ball. A sure-fire future star NFL tight end getting one reception for zero yards is mind boggling to me. Hearing A.J. Epenesa’s name called once by the Kinnick announcer should be at least quadrupled. Nate Stanley continuing to overthrow receivers, choose a check-down over wide open receivers downfield is aggravating. Seeing lifeless offensive play-calling on just about every down is par for the Iowa football course, but yesterday felt especially bad. Not one aspect of the offense ever clicked, despite the opportunities that were handed to Nate Stanley and the coaches. The run game wasn’t really there, and the pass game was successful, but besides the touchdown, it was never humming. And the two didn’t ebb and flow off each other, either.
But instead, the last two Iowa drives, both of which ended up in fumbles, were perfect visualizations of this Iowa football team as a whole: they started out promising with guarded hope before getting quickly ripped away in the most agonizing way possible. I tweeted awhile ago that Iowa football controlling its own destiny toward winning the Big Ten West scared the shit out of me, and the team hasn’t won a game since. The opportunities to at least win another division title were looking very likely, until in the blink of an eye, it was gone. Just like that.
So where do we go from here?
Are we ready to call it quits on the Brian Ferentz experiment after two years of primarily offensive malaise? I’d certainly be ok with it, but I also don’t have anyone in mind as the next person up. I’m sure top commenter StoopsMyAss would welcome some guy named Greg Davis back to Iowa City with open arms. (Editor’s note: nah)
Maybe I feel this about every gut-wrenching Iowa loss, but something about this team’s difficulties feel different this go-around. As the years go by, more and more former players are popping up on social media after losses and controversies with varying critiques of the program. The team has now lost three games in a row. Brian Ferentz is considered the heir apparent to take over the team when his dad retires, but can barely succeed as offensive coordinator. Are we nearly ready to call it quits on this program until the Ferentz family is a thing of the past? I’d be lying if the thought hadn’t crossed my mind.
It’s ok to want more from a team like Iowa, and I’m not going to apologize for that. It does me no good to play ‘what if’ so I won’t, but it’s clear to me that something’s gotta give for this team before the end of the year if there’s any hope of making this anything but a total disaster. Given what we’ve seen the last two weeks in particular, a 6-6 record is looking like just as much of a possibility as 8-4. But hey, apparently that’s enough to keep everybody happy. Just check the language in Kirk’s contract.
Personally, I’ll be over here in my own little corner, waiting for something to change, all the while knowing exactly what to expect weekly in the meantime. Because, like Jordan Hansen wrote last week in this same column, I’m an Iowa fan. This is what we get.
This is what you signed up for, whether your knew it or not.