Mistakes of All Sizes

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Well, that was brutal. A full 2 days later and I'm still playing the what-ifs game in my head. The loss was really just completely baffling and that was apparent as 70,000 fans stood quietly staring blankly ahead as the final seconds ticked off of Kinnick's scoreboard. It's easy enough to point to where the problems were and why Iowa lost, but how the hell did it happen?

How did every single person in the stands and watching the game on TV know that you HAVE to spike the ball with 12 seconds left and just 1 time out remaining, and yet Ricky Stanzi and the coaches did not?

How have the special teams, which have been a very apparent problem all season and talked about extensively by not only the media but by Coach Ferentz, not improved?

How was Iowa not in punt-safe when they use it probably more than any team in the country and it was the absolute perfect time for Wisconsin to try a fake punt?

I don't know.

Let's recall all the mistakes that cost Iowa the game
Fun, I know. But really if any of these plays would have been executed normally (not even executed well, just not terrible), Iowa would have won. Some were small mistakes that seem almost inconsequential at the time. Some were huge, mind boggling blunders. But the mistakes of all sizes added up to one HUGE point that Iowa hunted all day long, but never found.
  • After scoring a touchdown to take a 6-3 lead, seasoned offensive linemen, Vandervelde and Gettis, let J.J. Watt right by allowing him to basically walk up and block the PAT. This missed point was obviously the same 1 point that Iowa ended up losing by.
  • Rieff's false start on 3rd-and-inches from Wisconsin's 10. It was likely a QB sneak that Stanzi would have picked up giving Iowa 1st-and-goal, and based on the way Iowa moved the ball all day, Iowa would have likely capped off the drive with a TD.
  • The ensuing illegal motion by McNutt as he inadvertently stumbled forward just as the ball was snapped...the play would have resulted in a first down catch at Wisconsin's 5.
  • Two plays later, first bad snap by Andrew Schulze ever in his 4 years as a Hawkeye.
  • Don Shumpert's offsides on a kickoff that Iowa had Wisconsin stopped inside their own 20. Re-kick. Whoops, Wisconsin returns it to the 49 and scores in just 4 plays.
  • The lack of aggression/execution following Greenwood's beautiful interception. Iowa gained just 3 yards in 3 plays and settled for a field goal to only go ahead by 6 (which spelled doom).
  • Fake punt...ugh
  • Clock management...UGUGHGUHHHGHHH!!!

It wasn't all bad
What made the loss all that more painful was the fact that Iowa played really well for the most part proving to be the championship caliber team we all thought they would be. Stanzi had another terrific outing. He completed 67.6% of his passes for 258 yards and 3 TDs and no picks. His stats for the season: 124/182, 1732 yards, and 16 TDs, 2 INTs (which is good for #2 in the nation in pass efficiency rating). He has very clearly done enough this year and put the team in position to win every game. As bad as the clock management was at the end of the game, I think you have to put that on the coaches more than Stanzi. Unfortunately though, he has seemed to have sacrificed his late game heroics to rid himself of the atrocious interceptions and slow starts.

Adam Robinson also put in an excellent showing. He continues to exceed expectations and has been remarkably durable and effective. Against a decent Wisconsin defense, Robinson ran for 115 yards on 23 carries and picked up his 9th rushing touchdown of the year. He also had 4 receptions for 18 yards, though I bet he wishes (and everyone one else does too) that he hadn't caught the last. [Side note: In both losses Robinson was tackled on the final play of the game...he's got to learn to lateral the ball or something. You can't get tackled in those situations.]

One could point to the defense as a problem in this game. Yeah, they gave up 31 points, but really they played pretty well. Clay was held under 100 yards and averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. It's easy to forget that Iowa also had forced Wisconsin into a 3-and-out, the 4th stop of the day, prior to the fake punt. And at that point Wisconsin only had 88 rushing yards and just 273 yards of total offense. From the fake punt on, yes, it was not good. The defense looked completely worn out and it certainly didn't help that the linebacking corps was down to a couple of freshmen who started the year as 4th stringers.

So, what now?
It will be interesting to see how this team responds. As many seniors as there are, it's not hard to imagine Iowa rebounding and playing well from here on out. Does that mean 5 more wins? Maybe not, but I don't see this team falling apart a la 2006.

Remarkably, as bad as it seems right now, there's still a decent shot at making the Rose Bowl if we win out (Wisconsin could very well still lose either at Michigan or to Northwestern). A 10 win season is still in the realm of possibility and I think would be very satisfactory.
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