A strange and awful game

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Let me start off with the couple of positive things, but the rest of this post is going to be a long, long stream of negative. Mark Weisman was in beast mode for the second week in a row. He had 217 yards on 27 carries and 3 TDs. He made the right reads, broke tackles, and even showed a little speed on some of his longer carries. I'm not sure if he'll still be the starter when Bullock is back, but he's at least shown that he deserves to be a big part of this offense.

A lot of credit too, should go to the offensive line and Brad Rogers. They were creating big holes for Weisman and kept Vandenberg upright. If there was one aspect of the game that looked like B1G vs. MAC, it was Iowa's O-line against CMU's front 7. It was domination.

The offense did respond in the 4th quarter when it needed to, to first take the lead, then "seal the game" with a long Mike Meyer FG into the wind and a Weisman TD respectively. And, the defense once again made good second half adjustments. They were completely shutting down CMU until the closing minutes of the game.

A couple of others: Meyer set the Iowa record for consecutive PATs. So, congrats there. And John Wienke has become a pooch punting machine. He should have had 2 downed inside the 1.

NEGATIVE TIME

Yes, the end of the game was crazy and awful. The onside kick sequence was one of the strangest things I have ever witnessed in a football game. I don't think anyone really knew what was going on. I didn't. The refs didn't manage it well. CMU couldn't figure out how to have a holder on an onside kick. And, worst of all, Iowa didn't know what was going on either and just watched the ball roll right into the arms of Central Michigan.

But, BUT, this game was lost well before the final 50 seconds. This game never should have come down to a last-second field goal. This game was lost in the second quarter.

The identity thing again

When you think Iowa Football under Kirk Ferentz, you think conservatism; risk aversion; zone blocking; bend-but-don't-break; traditional/pro offense; etc... And while some of those things are still embedded in the program, others are wavering and the results have been disastrous.

For this game, it all started with a 4th-and-4 from CMU's 37 at the beginning of the second quarter. Old Kirk Ferentz would have punted this ball in a heartbeat and the way John Wienke has been pooch punting, CMU probably takes over inside its 10. But new, crazy KF decided to go for it. And, yes, it should have been a TD to Kevonte Martin-Manley had Vandenberg not locked on Keenan Davis pre-snap. But the point is, it was a very un-Iowa like decision and it didn't work out. So CMU takes over on downs, drives down and scores a TD to go up 17-14.

Let me also point out that during that failed drive, Iowa decided to go no-huddle, shotgun, 3-wide, and then tried to run a freaking zone-read with Weisman and Vandenberg, two players who absolutely should never try to run a zone-read. And what the hell are we doing this shotgun crap, when pounding the ball right up the gut with Weisman and play-action are working very, very well. Anyway.

Now here's where it starts getting even worse. Iowa gets the ball back, has a couple of crushing runs by Weisman, then Greg Davis decides to turn his back on a running back that had just picked up 36 yards on 3 carries, and passes 3 straight times, completing 1 on third down for -1 yards. And punt and queue another CMU drive this time for a FG.

Iowa gets the ball back with little time left in the half. After a penalty, Iowa is sitting 1st-and-16 from its own 11 with under 2:00. If that doesn't spell a Ferentz run-the-ball-and-run-out-the-clock, then I don't know what does. Greg Davis has said though, multiple times, that if Iowa has the ball and there is time left on the clock, they are going to try to score.

This was the third time in three weeks that Iowa tried to press its luck with little time left in the half. And all three have been bad. Against ISU, Vandenberg threw a pick and luckily, the Cyclones missed a FG at the end of the half. Against UNI, they tried to move the ball at the end of the half and fumbled...but luckily recovered it and the time ran out. Against CMU, Iowa was not so luckily.

So 1st-and-16. Iowa tries 3 passes and completes just 1 for 7 yards. They only take 30 second of the clock, and after a short punt by Connor Kornbrath, CMU is set up with good field position and plenty of time. After a stupid/questionable personal foul on B.J. Lowery, CMU added another FG and Iowa went into half down 2 scores instead of 1 (23-14).

So, normal Ferentz conservatism maybe means 2 fewer CMU scores in the second quarter. Iowa may have actually led at half and cruised in the second half.

And, a big reason Iowa's offense stalled in the second quarter and didn't put up a point was based on the play calling. Instead of sticking the course by pounding the ball with Weisman and using the play-action pass (which was working really, really well and worked really, really well in the second half when Iowa went back to it), Iowa spread it out and tried to out-fineness the Chippewas.

Now, I'm not saying conservatism is the answer. Making the right decision for the situation is the answer. Aggressiveness was the right call on 4th-and-1 from the 33, which Weisman took for 6. But KF and the Hawkeyes just don't look comfortable pushing the action. And everything that the program has been built on is based on KF's philosophies. Just because we have new coordinators that have more aggressive personalities, doesn't mean we should change the identity of the program. It just isn't melding together into a cohesive game plan. It isn't working.

So, ugh. Just ugh.

Other problems

Giving up 32 points isn't ever good, especially to a MAC team with a not-so-great offense. And while the defense played well for most of the second half, they need to start making adjustments earlier in the game. For the third straight week, the opponent scored on their opening drive. CMU actually score 5 times in the first half. That's unacceptable.

Obviously the penalties were a big problem. They led to at least 6 of CMU's 32 points. I don't ever remember a game where Iowa got so many major penalties. A lot of them looked like relation. After the opening kick, I made a bad joke that the Chippewas sure looked "chippy" after there was some additional shoving going on...and noted that their coach is from Michigan State. Still, dirty or not, Iowa's got to be more disciplined. Maybe this whole "bullies of the B1G" isn't such a great idea when the guys in the stripes are calling a tight game.

Okay. This is degrading quickly. Here's a list of other crap:

  • Greg Davis has turned James Vandenberg into Jake Christensen.
  • Iowa still can't get any pressure what-so-ever on the QB without blitzing at least 2 extra rushers.
  • The loudest the stadium got was when the refs called a penalty on CMU after about 50 on Iowa. Fans in my section weren't even standing on third downs late in the game. This is not a good sign.
  • The balance in the offense was there with 215 yards rushing and passing. But, Iowa only ran the ball 27 times...which was kind of low for this type of game. Iowa could have probably run it 40 times if it didn't go all stupid in the second quarter.

So anyway. We're now looking at a really tough road to get to 6 wins and a bowl game. I think it's possible and that this team will improve. But there is still a lot of work to be done.

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