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Morning After: Indianapolis Part III

The Hawkeyes are the final Big Ten West champions ever.

Illinois v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

For about 55 minutes, Iowa-Illinois felt like one of “those” games, those games where every swing play in a close game goes against you and you leave with a loss.

Iowa forced a safety on Illinois’s first possession. John Paddock flicked the ball up in the air in a scramble situation right as it looked like Iowa would fall on the ball for 6, and of course the ball landed right in front of an Illinois lineman for the safety.

Drew Stephens badly missed a 53-yard field goal, while Illinois made 1 of their 2 long field goals.

Iowa dropped an easy interception - Cooper DeJean holds on to that throw - and that drive ended into an Illinois touchdown.

Bad penalties. An offsides to extend an Illinois drive. The Gennings Dunker clean out on a blind side block (BHGP HQ thought he was lucky to not get tossed from the game; he launched into the defender. Then Kirk Ferentz burned a timeout to scream at the officials for a bit so Iowa had a single timeout for the last 21+ minutes of the game). The absurd Quinn Schulte roughing the passer that had Kinnick on tilt for awhile.

Just not your day, when that sort of hit from Schulte draws a roughing flag.

Iowa had an extra point blocked to go up 16-13, so a field goal would’ve won the game for the Illini late.

Fortunately “that” game didn’t fully materialize. Iowa emerged with the win, somehow, and with it the last Big Ten West title before we go to the too big, too clunky, Big 16 or whatever number we end up with in the next round of realignment.

And you know what? It’s awesome.

This Iowa team overcame injuries galore - I lost track of all of the injuries weeks ago. They saw a rotating cast on the offensive line, lost their top two tight ends and went WAY deep on the depth chart at that position, lost their starting quarterback, and never had any stability in the running back room. The injuries then started to seep into the defense with the mid-week DeJean sucker punch - what an absolute bummer; I’ll have more to say on DeJean in the coming weeks - and other assorted defensive back injuries.

They won the division with Kirk having a governor on the offense, unwilling to adjust it because god forbid the offense actually contribute to winning. They won with a defense that was in the same league as the last two defenses Iowa’s trotted out. They won with an exceptional special teams unit.

It’s a great coaching job by Ferentz and his staff, even with Kirk acting as an impediment to the offense. I tweeted earlier this week that it’s in the top 3 or 4 coaching jobs of his tenure. That might be a bit of an exaggeration - the West is putrid and the schedule was poor overall - but maybe it wasn’t that far off the mark. Kirk and his staff kept the ship afloat amidst a huge number of injuries, a disaster of a loss at Penn State, the Minnesota robbery, and the (correct) decision on the dismissal of a coach that wouldn’t have happened at the end of the year were the previous athletic director still employed.

Congratulations to Kirk, the players, and the staff. Perhaps they’ll be sacrificed in the Big Ten Championship Game. They will at the very least be huge underdogs. But I really don’t care. For the last time with this divisional setup, Iowa’s that representative. Indy Part III. GET SOME, HAWKS!

  • On Kirk - he entered lofty territory with Saturday’s win.
  • It’s been said ad nauseum about Brian - decent line coach. He was good in the one-time supporting actor role as run game coordinator. He stunk as the offensive coordinator. He was uniquely bad at it, so let’s not get caught up in this and revise the last few years. The right move was made. That said, I’m happy for him to get one last send off in Kinnick Stadium.

Also, I’m glad Kirk said this postgame. I understand he was trying to straddle the line between parent and coworker, but he came off as clunky and robotic at the press conference following Brian’s dismissal. This was a nice touch.

  • Kaleb Brown is good at football. He was there the whole time.
  • Kaleb Johnson is also good at football. His game-winning touchdown was one of those “shot out of a cannon” touchdowns. When that dude hits a crease, forget it. He looks healthy again.
  • The offense looks better with Tyler Elsbury at center. Logan Jones had a good year overall but the whole thing looks better with Elsbury at center.
  • Iowa won the west with just 118 points scored through 8 league games, and 203 points scored overall.
  • Illinois nearly pulled off the old Pat Fitzgerald Northwestern game plan. They nearly nickel and dimed Iowa to death. John Paddock was in sync on the short passing game in the second and third quarters and it was almost enough.