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Hawks’ struggles continue

[ 0 ] November 12, 2012 |

Iowa is 4-6, the Hawkeyes have lost four straight games, and Iowa closes the season at No. 23 Michigan and against No. 16 Nebraska.

“Nobody is going to throw us a life raft or anything like that,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Its hard to find someone outside of the football complex that thinks Iowa will win the final two games and be bowl-eligible.

In fact, it might be a hard sell inside football complex, too.

“Look at the first half, even parts of the second … I don’t know what it was,” senior defensive tackle Steve Bigach said. “Everybody feels the same way. When you invest in something, put everything you’ve got into it and you lose, its gut-wrenching.

“We’ve got to play better, we’ve got to do better, and we’ve got to stop talking and just do it.”

The Hawkeyes have fallen apart. They rank among the worst teams in the country on both sides of the ball.

And they are losing despite leading the Big Ten in turnovers (plus-11).

“It’s tough,” sophomore receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. “Everyone is down. No one is talking. It’s an atmosphere you don’t want to be a part of.”

While the loss to Central Michigan was a warning sign, things were looking up after Iowa beat Minnesota and Michigan State to open Big Ten play.

“It’s not like this has just been a dog crap team,” Ferentz said. “You don’t want to paint that picture, I’m not buying that.”

There are breakdowns all over the place for these Hawkeyes. But a few stand out.

1. No running. The running game has gone away. Iowa averaged 154.7 yards per game on the ground over the first six games. They’ve averaged 63.8 since.

“Our plan was the same as it always is, really,” junior guard Connor Boffeli said. “We want to be physical up front and establish the run.”

Left tackle Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal went down with season-ending injuries against Penn State.

Running back Mark Weisman has only carried the ball 14 times the last four weeks because of injury.

When the running game doesn’t work, the Iowa offense doesn’t work.

“We’re not as stout right now as we’ve been in the past,” Ferentz said. “We’re going to play with the guys that we have and try to get better.”

2. Defensive breakdown. The Iowa defense was leading the way to a 4-2 start.

After six games, Iowa ranked 21st nationally in scoring defense (17.2 points per game) and 19th in total defense (317.2 yards per game).

Then Penn State shredded Iowa for 504 yards. Northwestern for 433, Indiana for 473, and Purdue for 490. That’s 475.0 yards per game.

“When we came out today, they were tougher than us,” senior cornerback Micah Hyde said Saturday. “They ran the ball down our throat. We were missing tackles. They were more physical. We missed assignments.”

While there may be Hawkeyes playing dinged up, there haven’t been big injuries on the defensive side of the ball.

The opposition the last four weeks has just spread Iowa out and picked at the weak spots. The fast-paced offenses don’t give the Hawkeyes a chance to catch their breath.

“You’re not going to win if you don’t block the point of attack on offense and if you don’t tackle on defense,” Bigach said. “It’s a simple game. But it’s damn hard to do it.”

3. Is it James Vandenberg? He might be a good hunter, but he is struggling in the pocket this season. His 107.2 quarterback rating is 114th in the country.

The five quarterbacks rated lower than him … their teams have a combined record of 9-40.

Misery loves company and a truism seems to be that you can’t win with a malfunctioning quarterback.

“Play calling has got something to do with everything, but I think our execution — I’m going off 13-plus years here — that’s typically what it usually comes down to after games, it’s usually what it comes down to on Sautrdays,” Ferentz said.

However, it is worth noting Vandenberg threw for 3,022 yards as a junior with 25 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. He ranked 42nd in the country with a quarterback rating of 138.4.

So has Vandenberg regressed or is the new offense or lack of playmakers stifling his ability?

“At some point, enough’s enough,” Vandenberg said. “We’ve got to start making plays.”

Many fans are looking towards2013, wondering how the Hawkeyes can steer out of this skid.

“From here, the only direction is up,” junior defensive end Dominic Alvis said. “People are going to talk about dividing us, but we are capable of being a good team. We just have to prove it.

“Two games left. It’s not like they are going to give it to anybody. We’ve got to earn it.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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