by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
The formula is, was and always will be flawed … and the University of Iowa’s football team finally paid the price for following it.
Play close to the vest on offense, pray for the opposition to make mistakes and place all the burden for success, or survival, on the defense remaining stout throughout and, fingers crossed, the special teams not screwing up.
In layman’s terms, it is called winning ugly … and while it can, and often does, work, eventually, ultimately, it will not.
When that happens, you look like the Hawkeyes did on Saturday: Unwatchable, as losers, completely manhandled by visiting Big Ten rival Purdue, 24-7.
Just a collection of athletes and coaches who, now unmasked from the “just win, baby, it doesn’t matter how you do it” cover, leave you asking one thing: How the hell did they win at all, never mind enough to advance to a No. 2 ranking in the polls?
Make no mistake, Kirk Ferentz’s 23rd edition of the Black and Gold possesses a College Football Playoff worthy defense. The Hawkeyes rank among the nation’s best in just about every measurable on that side of the ball – even after Boilermakers quarterback Aidan O’Connell went off with Iowa first-rate ballhawk Riley Moss sidelined due to injury, passing for 375 yards and accounting for all three of Purdue’s touchdowns.
On the other side? Just the opposite.
Only 10 teams in the country were more pathetic at accumulating yardage before Saturday and no team had been more reliant on opposing ones’ miscues. The Hawkeyes stood at plus-15 in the turnover department before facing the Boilermakers.
A week ago, when ranked third, they were down 14 at home to No. 4 Penn State in the second quarter. Then the Lions lost their starting quarterback for the rest of the game, paving the way for a 23-20 Iowa victory – its sixth of the season against no defeats.
In their biggest win of the season before Penn State, the Hawkeyes traveled to No. 9 Iowa State in early September and posted what seemed to be a convincing 27-17 victory. Only they were outgained 339 yards to 173. How’d they come out on top? Simple, plus-4 in the turnover battle.
They were plus-3 against Penn State.
Against Purdue, they were minus-3 – thanks largely to Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras’ four interceptions, coming on the team’s opening drive and then its final three.
Flawed. Ugly. Worst of all, this loss won’t clear any future debt, either.
It’s not going to cover any charges likely headed fellow Big Ten member/win ugly advocate Michigan State’s way very soon, either.
JUST A THOUGHT
While Louisiana State head coach Ed Orgeron may have doused the “fire him” chants from the Tigers’ faithful for a week with Saturday’s wild 49-42 upset of No. 20 Florida, is it time to start wondering about his counterpart on the opposing sideline for that one? Not for nothing, but Dan Mullen seems to have stagnated with the Gators, following up double-digit-win seasons to start his head coaching tenure in Gainesville with an 8-4 mark last season and a 4-3 one thus far in 2021. His choice to go with Emory Jones as starting quarterback appears to be more about appeasing the most hostile on fan sites – who truly persevered last season through Heisman finalist Kyle Trask starting over their guy Emory -- than going with a superior talent in Anthony Richardson.
While the “exit, stage left” noose has loosened around the neck of Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, it has tightened on the likes of Nebraska’s Scott Frost and Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente – both of whose teams lost on Saturday. Frost, whose Cornhuskers clearly look better despite their results, is staring down the barrel of having a fourth straight losing season at his alma mater after leaving a gig at Central Florida that saw him go 13-0 in his final season. Fuente at least got off to a strong start in Blacksburg, going 19-8 his first two seasons. But he’s just one game over .500 in the three-plus seasons since with no signs of the Hokies escaping the mediocrity they have settled into with him.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN …
Stetson Bennett “sucked” and was the sole reason Georgia wasn’t winning a national championship in (insert year here), that salvation was only possible with the arrival of Southern Cal transfer JT Daniels to take the reins of the Dawgs’ offense?
While Daniels rested on the sideline Saturday, dealing with yet another injury, in top-ranked Georgia’s 30-13 win against No. 11 Kentucky, Bennett merely went 14-for-20 passing for 250 yards and three TDs, posting a 224.5 passer rating in the process – which was even better than his already insane 206.6 passer rating for the season entering the contest.
- LSU running back Tyrian Davis-Price rushed for a school-record 287 yards and three TDs against Florida, which matched the junior’s total for the season in yards heading into the game and surpassed his total for TDs by one. Frankly, his lack of use (11 carries per game heading into Saturday) is yet another indictment of Coach O. He had 36 carries vs. the Gators, more than half of what he had in the previous six games combined.
- Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong was the nation’s leader in total offense entering Saturday, averaging more than 400 yards per game. The red-headed lefty came up a little short against Duke, only posting 398 in a 48-0 blowout.
- Oklahoma State running back Jaylen Warren, in keeping the 12th-ranked Cowboys unbeaten, blistered No. 25 Texas for 193 yards on 33 carries – more than 100 of those yards coming in the fourth quarter as the Pokes rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to win 32-24.
- Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral went all Vince Young on Tennessee, throwing for 231 yards and two scores and running for another 195 yards as the Rebels escaped Knoxville and the Vols’ golf ball-throwing fans with a 31-26 victory.
- Purdue wide receiver David Bell, with Saturday’s 11-catch, 240-yard, 1-TD effort against Iowa, now has 37 catches for 558 and 5 TDs against the Hawkeyes in three games.