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Pat Harty: Kirk Ferentz should have gone for it on fourth down

[ 0 ] November 3, 2012 |

Bloomington, Ind. – Three years ago, I defended Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz when he chose not to try to score near midfield against Ohio State late in the fourth quarter.

The Big Ten title was on the line back then and it seemed too risky for Ferentz to gamble, especially with the game tied and with James Vandenberg making his first career start as a redshirt freshman quarterback.

Vandenberg is now a fifth-year senior and the Indiana defense he faced during Saturday’s 24-21 loss at Memorial Stadium was nothing like the Ohio State defense he faced on the road in 2009.

The circumstances surrounding both games were also different. You could argue that Iowa’s season was on the line Saturday. The stadium was also nearly half empty, caused partly by a one-hour weather delay and by Indiana’s lack of success in football.

That’s why Ferentz should’ve thrown caution to the wind in the fourth quarter and gone for it on fourth-down and less than a yard at his own 28-yard line. He appeared to be leaning in that direction until the previous play was reviewed.

“We felt like if we had tempo we could have taken a shot at it right there and try to catch them on their heels a little bit,” Ferentz said. “But the play got stopped to review and that kind of changed the complexion a little.

“We were playing for a stop at that point.”

Report Card: Grade the Hawkeyes on Saturday’s game

In other words, Ferentz was hoping that an Iowa defense that had been shredded in its previous two games and for much of Saturday’s game would make a 3-and-out stand.

But instead Indiana burned more than four minutes off the clock and that essentially put the game away.

Ferentz chose to save his two timeouts for Iowa’s final drive, but there were only 18 seconds remaining when the Hawkeyes went back on offense.

The Iowa offense is a lot of things, but quick-striking and explosive aren’t among them. Vandenberg completed a 24-yard pass to Kevonte Martin-Manley, but it was too little and too late.

Indiana held on for its second consecutive Big Ten victory while Iowa lost its third Big Ten game in a row for the first time since the 2010 season.

This current Iowa team, though, is more similar to 2007 squad, especially on offense. Iowa was hard to watch on offense in 2007 and is just as hard to watch this season.

The 2007 season also marks the last time that Iowa failed to play in a bowl game. That team met the bowl requirement by finishing 6-6 overall, but it didn’t deserve a bowl invitation.

Iowa (4-5) appears headed down the same path this season, although, winning six games might be too much to ask. Iowa has to win two of its final three regular-season games against Purdue, Michigan and Nebraska just to qualify for a bowl game.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Saturday’s loss was Iowa’s inability to run against the worst rushing defense in the Big Ten. Indiana entered the game allowing 222.5 rushing yards per game, and yet the Hawkeyes only managed 96 yards on 30 attempts.

“We’ve got no one to blame but ourselves,” said Iowa senior James Ferentz. “We didn’t play disciplined.

“You can call it demoralizing. You can call it whatever you. It comes down to discipline and we weren’t disciplined.

There were lots of times Saturday when it looked as if the Indiana defenders knew exactly what play Iowa was running. That says more about being predictable on offense than being undisciplined.

The post-game chatter was more of the same with the Iowa players blaming it on a lack of execution more than anything else.

“It just comes down to execution and we’ve got to execute better with three (games) left,” Vandenberg said.

No disrespect to Vandenberg, but to say that it just comes down to execution is wrong. This Iowa team is suffering more from a lack of talent than a lack of execution and discipline.

Now the question is how much more suffering lies ahead for Iowa?

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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