Editor’s note: What we witnessed on Saturday night was perhaps one of the most disappointing performances we’ve ever seen from the Iowa Hawkeyes. It left many of us speechless. Others found words, but frankly, the performance spoke for itself. As such, we left some space to clear the air. Re-hashing Saturday is going to be painful and will not be done is as much detail as in a typical week. But we will do it.
Being honest - I was at a kids get together with some of my 4-year-old’s friends. One of the kids moved to Houston but was back in town for a long weekend, so we got together for old time’s sake. That meant I missed most of the first half of Iowa’s embarrassing 31-0 loss to Penn State, Iowa’s first shutout loss since Illinois in 2000, as a result. Missing the first half was the best football experience of my day. Blissful ignorance. I turned the game on for a few brief moments while waiting for carry out then settled in at half expecting the worst.
The best overall outcome of my evening? Well, it’s Great American Beer Festival week here in beautiful Denver, Colorado and all of the big, hard-to-get breweries that have some sort of distribution hit the shelves at local bottle shops - Russian River, The Alchemist, Lawson’s, et al. So I dove in once I got home. I have the exact right amount of beer in my house right now. My wife, 37 week pregnant, disagrees, but she can join the fun again in a few days.
(My first beers of the night were at the get-together for kids, two cans of Dale’s Pale Ale. This decidedly not hard to get beer is nothing special - it was a fun beer once upon a time, but it exemplifies Oskar Blues in its current state; kind of boring, was “cool” 20 years ago because they decided to can their beers as opposed to putting them in bombers, then got lapped as Oskar Blues was bought, then bought again. An appropriate beer for what was unfolding in State College.)
The next best part of my evening was scrolling Twitter. I dropped into the game right as the Hawks fell down 10-0 at half. Anyone in the militant faction of the Kirk Ferentz Party should probably look away and read about my next beer. What a disaster zone. Honestly, calling the Iowa offense a disaster zone is an insult to disaster zones. Predictably, Twitter was in a total lather over Iowa’s offense.
Penn State: 64 plays— Tony Roe (@tonysroe) September 24, 2023
Iowa: 63 yards
Oh, there was also this:
Total plays on Saturday night: Penn State 97, Iowa 33.— Max Olson (@max_olson) September 24, 2023
Over the past 5 seasons, no other FBS team has been out-snapped by 60+ plays, according to @TruMediaSports.
The CBS halftime crew completely dumped on Iowa’s offense and Kirk Ferentz and honestly, it’s deserved. No Power 5 team should ever be ranked 120th or below in total offense. Ever.— HawknolongerfromNorwalk (@hawkfromnorwalk) September 24, 2023
Penn State would, of course, finish with more plays from scrimmage than Iowa would total yards (97 plays to 76 yards). Iowa would also finish with as many first downs as turnovers (4). The crap weather did not level the playing field and the crap weather did not serve Iowa’s style of play as the offensive line was overrun time and time again by Penn State’s front seven. What is going on up front? I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again - Iowa’s reputation as this dominant run team, they’ll beat you up with the line - that’s SO overrated. And the pass protection, seemingly assured through 2 games, has reverted to last year’s form.
(My third beer, right at the start of the second half, was Extra Extra Dino Bits, a collaboration between Greeley, Colorado’s Weldwerks Brewing Company and Toppling Goliath Brewing Company. A play on the dinosaur theme of TG’s Sue lines and Weldwerk’s amazing Extra Extra Juicy Bits line, this delightful hazy IPA features the appropriate about of oomph from a hazy IPA, coming in at a robust 9.0 percent ABV. Appropriate juice, appropriate burn, appropriate everything. Loved this beer. I imagine it will hit the shelves in Iowa soon, if it hasn’t already.)
There will certainly be a portion of the fan base that points to Iowa’s missed opportunities in the first half and that it colored the remainder of the game. A fumble in Penn State’s red zone that Iowa somehow didn’t recover. A Penn State punt hitting an Iowa blocker and bouncing right into the hands of a Penn State gunner. An Iowa punt bouncing off of the Penn State returner and right into the hands of a Penn State player. These plays all happened and Penn State is pretty incredible through 4 games in their turnover variance. Could these plays have flipped things? I want to say maybe, but if you are in this camp, stop what you are doing right now, touch grass, and enjoy the early days of fall. This most definitely did not flip a football game in which, again, one team ran more plays than the opponent accumulated in total yards.
Of course, Kirk Ferentz is not changing a single thing. Why would he?
Kirk Ferentz on a question about the offense: “We’re not going to create a new playbook, is that what you’re suggesting? I’m not a wholesale believer in changing just because you had a bad game. It was not a good game tonight. I think we made progress in three weeks. Tonight was…— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) September 24, 2023
We knew he’d say something along these lines. Bad night, nothing to see here, “I think we made progress in three weeks,” if you’re suggesting we should change the playbook now you’re a goddamn psychopath and I should have you committed. But there’s everything to see here. This was a prime time slot in the college football weekend. And Iowa mustered their lowest yardage total since Wisconsin in 2017. This ridiculous offense is now stretching back to 2021 in terms of longevity, and really it’s longer than that. This wasn’t just a bad night. Kirk’s offense, run by his son, has not eclipsed 400 yards in a single game since Maryland in 2021, which is almost two full calendar years ago.
(I thought my final beer of the night would be from Trillium Brewing Company, a beer called Vicinity. A Boston staple, Trillium is at the vanguard of hazy IPAs. Vicinity hit every single spot as I drank it. Trillium’s beers are borderline works of art. I should have had a second, frankly. Unlike Iowa football, it deserved my full attention.)
My night ended watching some Pac-12 after dark. USC-Arizona State. The game was fun as Arizona State traded field goals for USC touchdowns. It was close going into the fourth quarter before USC hit another gear. The very end of the first half featured a commercial for one of those Gordon Ramsay shows. Kitchen Nightmares, I think (I was pouring my actual final beer as the commercial aired, a Cryo Fresh Hop Juicy Bits from Weldwerks that was what my friend Greg calls a “cool down” beer; hard to cool down when it’s delicious and 6.7 percent. I want more!) At one point, a cameraman openly gagged as Ramsay tipped a pan of raw chicken that is a salmonella breeding ground. In the next clip, Ramsay shouted, “This place is a death trap!” at the clueless doofus of a restaurant owner.
Yes it is, Mr. Ramsay. Yes it is.