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The Morning After: Somehow, Someway

They can’t keep getting away with it...or can they?

Iowa v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

At some point, you run out of things to say about this Iowa football team.

They make zero sense. They put together a pretty great half of football in the first half. 12 first downs to Nebraska’s 3. +2 in turnover margin so finally some turnover luck (they also recovered 2 fumbles of their own, so fumble luck too). 200 yards of offense, when they average 246 for a game. 4.5 yards a carry. That 24.5 or whatever you got for the over/under? Going to go over. Easily.

Not so fast, my friend!

Despite all that dominance, they had just 10 first half points. That’s after 4 trips inside the Husker 10. There were still 30 minutes to play after that pretty solid first half (special teams aside) and Iowa managed just 57 yards in the second half, with 22 of it coming on Leshon Williams’s run to set up the winning field goal. 2 first downs in the half, with 1 on that Williams run. It was the good, maybe a little hope that they’re competent in the first half, followed by middle school football. Misplaced passes. Linemen stepping on the quarterback’s foot at the 1. Getting sliced and diced by a Purdy on 3rd and long a few too many times.

No way they can do this again.

But then they do it again.

This is, by some margin, the most resilient Iowa team I’ve seen. Kirk Ferentz has had resilient teams before but nothing quite like this. 2015’s resilience was born from a string of iffy (or worse) seasons. They were tired of losing. But it’s a different resilience than “most of the best players on the team are out for the year.” And you look at that roster and they were 3-deep at running back (they went through a lot of that depth, but they still had a home run hitter at that position every week), had good personnel at wide receiver and tight end, and a quarterback that is still kicking around the NFL, to say nothing of a sturdy defense and good special teams. 2004 was the former gold standard on this, but the injury situation was clustered at running back. They had an excellent quarterback, good receivers, an all-world defense, and good special teams.

Their injuries were minimal by comparison. Injuries this year are wide spread, and to the best talent available. There’s no way other teams are able to overcome the loss of QB1. And the top two tight ends, plus injuries elsewhere on the tight end depth chart. I’m not sure where you’d rank Diante Vines at wide receiver going into the season, but he was probably WR1 or 2. Now he’s injured. His injury pushed Kaleb Brown up into the rotation and maybe even to WR1. He’s also hurt. Then Logan Jones has been mostly out the last 4 weeks. Beau Stephens is out. Gennings Dunker was hurt Friday. Noah Shannon never played (still mad). TJ Hall has been hurt most of the year. Cooper DeJean, one of the most dynamic players of the Ferentz era, is gone for the year. Oh, and Drew Stevens now has the yips. Anything else? Oh - Brian Ferentz and that whole situation, of course. Now really - ANYTHING ELSE?

Most teams are folding in that scenario. They barely get to bowl eligibility, if they make it at all. Kirk Ferentz and his staff have managed to wring not just a winning season, or a bowl trip, or a bit of pride in playing so goddamn hard every week out of this. They won 10 games and their damn division this year. Kirk Ferentz should be Coach of the Year in the Big Ten, and it shouldn’t be close. Kirk has weaved some pretty incredible seasons together for Iowa. He can lay claim to having several Mona Lisa seasons. This season makes the list.

Other notes:


- I haven’t mentioned Marshall Meeder yet. Who is this guy? Oh, he’s just the walk-on kicker that got the job because Aaron Blom got the lifetime ban for gambling. WOW. This was a ballsy damn call by Kirk, switching from Stevens to Meeder. Literally unknown, to the point Gary Dolphin had to introduce himself to Meeder in the post-game show. “We haven’t formally met, but I’m Gary Dolphin...”

Oh here’s the kick, in case you somehow missed it. Ballsy AF, but also what a hold from Tory Taylor:

This tweet is also fun.

- Unfortunately for Stevens, he turned into Roy McAvoy in Tin Cup. Chili dipper, except that ain’t no chili dipper.

There’s also this on Stevens:

Brian? How about you shut up and stay in your lane, yeah? That’s LeVar’s lane, not yours. Phil and LeVar could’ve easily yelled at you and players under your purview all year. It would’ve been justified given what we’ve seen this year. They carry your ass every week. But you don’t see them screaming at your players, now do you?

After Stevens shanked the opening kickoff of the second half, you could see his confidence was about as low as it could get. Dobber was WAY down. The first guy over to check on him and offer advice was Tory Taylor, who could see it happening in real time. Brian - take notes, pal.

- The final 1:22 of the game was absolutely out-of-this-world drunk. Like we had to get an IV. We had a home town clock “malfunction” that ended up burning Nebraska in the end. A terrible Iowa interception. A Nebraska hold on the return. Nebraska having to burn their last timeout to avoid a delay of game. A terrible Nebraska interception. Williams’s long run. Then a walk-off by a walk-on. Did I miss anything?

- Nothing screams 2023 Iowa like the above paragraph.

- Kirk was salty postgame. He’s still on the Cooper DeJean overturn.

- We have to talk Iowa defense again. Yes, Chubba Purdy hit some 3rd and long plays that irritatingly kept drives alive. He did this 4 or 5 times. He hit a long touchdown pass where Iowa was in man, safeties had underneath, and Jaylen Lloyd ran right past Deshaun Lee.

But this defense - /fans self. Here are the points allowed on the season: 14, 13, 10, 31, 16, 14, 6, 12, 7, 0, 13, 10. Michigan State had the second-highest total allowed, and they scored a defensive touchdown to get to 16. HOLY SHIT. Please pay Phil and the defensive staff more.

- If you paid attention to my comments over the years, you know I watch Nebraska a lot. That’s usually an accident - they just happen to be on in windows I’ve been able to watch since kids came along.

I haven’t watch much of them this year outside the season opener against Minnesota, today, and then scattered portions of random games like Purdue and Wisconsin. Of course the turnovers were a problem all year - they put the ball on the ground 31 times this year, which is an unheard of number - but the other dumb errors seemed to be eradicated.

Until today! Nebraska of old was back, right on time! Purdy literally dropped the ball multiple times. Just out of nowhere, dropped it. The pass that was intercepted by Ethan Hurkett. On the poor Deacon Hill interception - Deac energy was in short supply today - they get dinged for a blatant hold. There was a late hit on Kaden Wetjen for absolutely no reason on the sideline. Constant self-inflicted wounds for them, yet again.

They were 5-3 going into November, needing just 1 win to get to bowl eligible for the first time since 2016. NOPE. And since Shawn Eichorst’s infamous “I had to evaluate where Iowa was” comment after the 2014 game, Nebraska’s played an even 100 games. They’ve won 43 of those games. Meanwhile, Iowa is 81-32 in the same timeframe.

One last link. You know what? Skip going into the veins - let’s go adrenaline shot, right into the heart, Pulp Fiction-style.

- We’re on to Indianapolis!!!!!