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Hawks falling on the short side of close games

[ 0 ] November 13, 2012 |

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has done the math.

The veteran coach knows Iowa (4-6, 2-4) has its back against the wall as the season grinds to a conclusion.

The Hawkeyes close Saturday at No. 23 Michigan (7-3, 5-1) and at home on Black Friday against No. 16 Nebraska (8-2, 5-1).

“We could win two, we could split them, or we could lose two,” Ferentz said. “There’s no fear of it, but that’s a reality of it.”

The other bit of math looks at four losses by three points or less — 9-6 to Iowa State, 32-31 to Central Michigan, 24-21 to Indiana and 27-24 to Purdue — and with a better bounce or two, suddenly it’s an 8-2 team.

“If you’re standing around waiting for luck, you probably should get in a different profession,” Ferentz said. “Every game is a different circumstance. It’s true of seasons, too.”

The weekly Iowa media release points out that Iowa leads the country in games decided by three points or less. And it is the first time in school history that Iowa has had six games this close.

“I feel like we definitely show strides of us being an 8-2 team,” junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “Obviously, we’re not.”

The previous high in these close of games was five back in 2009, when Iowa was 4-1.

Iowa has had 22 games decided by three points or less over the past four years. Over the past three years, Iowa is 3-9.

“I think of the Orange Bowl year, we won every critical situation that year,” Iowa senior quarterback James Vandenberg said. “The next year, Rick’s (Stanzi) senior year, we lose five games, all kind of games, like this year.

“Last year we were 7-5, easily could’ve been 9-3. And this year, we’ve been on the short side of that.”

Breakdowns on both sides of the ball have cost Iowa a shot at wins. That and not executing at critical times.

“When it comes down to the critical situations, we’ve been losing those battles,” Vandenberg said. “Other teams have been doing better than us.”

Senior defensive lineman Steve Bigach isn’t going to get into the “what if” game.

“If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas,” Bigach said. “When it’s all said and done and the dust has cleared, there will be some ifs and buts … some what could’ve beens, what should’ve beens.

“But at this point and time, that really doesn’t help us, and it never will.”

Over time, people will forget the close plays and the narrow defeats. They’ll see that Iowa was 8-5 in 2010, 7-6 in 2011 and now sits 4-6 this season.

“They problem is they don’t put an asterisk next to them in the scorebook,” Bigach said. “History is a humbling thing.”

<PS,FRT7,187><TH>HITCHENS PULLED: Junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens is leading the Big Ten in tackles and had eight stops Saturday against Purdue.

But Hitchens also spent most of the second half on the sideline, helmet in hand, having been pulled by the coaches.

“It just shows me I’m not at where everyone thinks I’m at,” Hitchens said. “I’ve still got to improve.”

Hitchens has 114 tackles on the season, the most in the Big Ten by a fair margin.

But the junior first-year starter missed a few coverages Saturday and sat down for it.

“Couple of blown coverage,” Hitchens said. “I’m always trying to learn. Last week wasn’t my best performance.”

<PS,FRT7,187><TH>INJURY REPORT: Ferentz didn’t give positive news when it came to injured running back Mark Weisman and fullback Brad Rogers.

Weisman, who still leads Iowa in rushing with 661 yards despite sitting for much of the past four weeks, is “improving.”

“I don’t know if it’s enough,” Ferentz said. “It’s one of those things where we’re day by day, and even if it looks like he’s going to play, you can’t count on him.”

Ferentz said Rogers might play special team, but a return to fullback seems unlikely.

Senior defensive end Joe Gaglione, who was sick Saturday, seems to be better.

“They said this morning the vomiting has stopped, so that’s obviously a good thing,” Ferentz said.

Reach Ryan Suchomel at rsuchomel@press-citizen.com or 339-7368.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Ryan Suchomel: Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or rsuchomel@press-citizen.com. View author profile.

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