There are so many different things you could point to trying to explain how Iowa lost this game. The 4 first half turnovers. The 3 points score on the first 3 redzone possessions and the 13 total out of 5 (and the redzone play calling that went a long with that). The terrible punt coverage. The 5 straight empty drives after going up 24-7. Just one play short again.
And that has been the story of this senior class. They have been around for 4 of the most mediocre years in the KF era. I doesn’t get much more mediocre than 4-4 in the B1G with 3 easy wins over the 3 teams the finished below the Hawks in the West and 3 excruciating losses (all in their own way) to the 3 teams that finished above. And that is probably the most frustrating spot to be. So much better than the dregs, but definitely not among the leaders.
It goes back to a favorite topic around here…Kirk Ferentz in close games. And this class has not been the beneficiary of those games going their way. This year, Iowa was 2-4 in games decided by 7 or less, last year 3-2, 2012 2-5, and 2011 1-2. So in the 4 years 8-13. The real problem is a lot of those 13 losses have come to teams Iowa has to beat to climb out of mediocrity. Iowa State multiple times, Central Michigan, Indiana, Purdue, Maryland, etc…
It’d be interesting to go through how this class, which started after the great 2009 season, turned out this way…sounds like a future blog post. But there’s no need to call out anything negative for any of the seniors from Friday. For the most part, they put in a good show. Carl Davis had one of his best games. The blocked field goal was awesome (though why didn’t anyone pick it up and try to run with it?). Quinton Alston had 8 tackles, a sack and a PBU. John Lowdermilk had a pick six. Kevonte Martin-Manley had 6 catches and now trails DJK by just 2 for the Iowa record (which you can be sure Kirk Ferentz will get him the ball at least 3 times in the bowl game). Mark Weisman had a decent game with 82 yards. It was a pretty good showing by the seniors…but just not enough.
So it was a disappointing end to a disappointing season.
The Last Chance to Establish a Run Game
50 carries for 142 yards… That’s not getting it done. Weisman and Jordan Canzeri both averaged just 3.4 yards per carry and pretty consistently ran straight into a stacked box for little gain on first and second down. At times it looked like the run game might be effective, but was never consistent enough. Greg Davis did little to help open it up either. The sweep was used just once (and was going to be used in OT, but there was a penalty). It took Iowa a long time before going deep, and really didn’t try to do it often. With practically the same cast this season, the run game never came together to be anything close to it was at times last year. Just frustrating…
Stop Nebraska’s One-Sided Offense
Iowa actually did a decent job shutting down Nebraska’s run game. The Huskers had 161 yards on 31 carries and no rushing TDs. But, of course, Tommy Armstrong, despite his terrible completion percent and 2 interceptions, threw 4 touchdown passes.
Avoid the Big Plays
This is really what doomed Iowa in the end. A punt return for a TD. Two 30+ yard TD passes. Another 35-yard pass that set up the game-tying FG. A 53-yard Ameer Abdullah run (though that didn’t lead to a score, but did flip the field). And a number of 3rd-and-long conversions.
Get That Trophy
At least there’s a bowl game to practice for and hopefully some of the young talent will really start to grow. And there is some talent coming back next year. As solid as Weisman has been, I think Canzeri and Akrum Wadley can make a good duo next year with Jonathan Parker doing his thing. Jake Duzey has been a big playmaker at TE the past few years and one of Jake Rudock’s favorite targets. Tevaun Smith has also some a lot of big play ability. The linebackers are young, the corners will still be around. There will need to be some serious development done along both lines though.
So hopefully development will take place, Iowa will get a decent bowl, and end the year on a good note.