ANN ARBOR, Mich. – At some point Saturday, the Iowa football team’s 2012 season went from being frustrating and embarrassing to sad and pitiful.
It’s hard to say exactly when it happened, considering Michigan scored touchdowns on its first six offensive possessions while cruising to a 42-17 victory before an announced crowd of 113,016 at Michigan Stadium.
I actually found myself feeling sorry for the Iowa players as the beat-down worsened in the third quarter.
The Iowa offense fired a few shots early behind the grind-it-out running of Mark Weisman and the receiving of tight ends C.J. Fiedorowicz and Henry Kreiger-Coble.
But this was a depressing mismatch almost from the beginning, especially when Iowa’s sieve-like defense was on the field getting shredded for 513 yards.
The teams looked so unevenly matched that you had to keep reminding yourself that it wasn’t 1998 or 1999 all over again, or the 1970s for that matter. You also had to keep reminding yourself that Iowa had won the previous three games against Michigan.
Iowa (4-7) has lost five games in a row – it’s longest losing streak since 2000 – and has played itself out of bowl contention. The defense also has allowed over 400 yards in each of the five losses.
You know things are bad when Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz starts his post-game press conference by praising his special teams for the second week in a row.
“I thought we did some good things on special teams,” Ferentz said. “I thought our offense, at times, looked good.
“And then defensively, we didn’t have any answers for their attack. That became pretty apparent pretty quickly. So credit them, they did a great job.”
What also became pretty apparent pretty quickly is how much slower Iowa looked than Michigan on both sides of the ball. That was especially true at the skill positions where the Michigan receivers repeatedly created space for themselves to operate, unlike the Iowa receivers.
Sophomore Kevonte Martin-Manley was the only Iowa receiver to catch a pass Saturday. But he only finished with two catches for seven yards, with each catch coming in the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter, or in other words, during mop-up time.
I know I’m repeating myself, and repeating what Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis said shortly after being hired, but it’s worth repeating again. The Iowa coaches need to address the team’s lack of speed ASAP or risk more of what happened Saturday.
There is no way to address the speed factor before next Friday’s season-finale against Nebraska, but it should be priority No. 1 during the offseason, followed by over-hauling the defensive line.
It’s no coincidence that Iowa has had its best seasons under Ferentz when the defensive line excelled at pressuring the quarterback.
And it’s no coincidence that Iowa has failed to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2000 during a season in which its pass rush has been virtually non-existent. Iowa entered Saturday’s game ranked last in the Big Ten with just 11 sacks for a minus-60 yards and it left the game with those same statistics.
It was hard enough for the Iowa defensive linemen to get penetration. And the few times they did, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner made them look silly with his speed and elusiveness.
And speaking of the 6-foot-4 Gardner, he’s exactly what the Iowa offense needs to catch up with the times, of course, not him specifically, but somebody with his immense skill set. Michigan probably needed him earlier, too, because its offense looks more complete with Gardner playing quarterback instead of senior Denard Robinson.
Robinson is an electrifying player, but he’s more of a slot receiver/running back than a quarterback, whereas Gardner is the latest in a growing list of dual-threat quarterbacks who can burn defenses on the ground or through the air. All but five of Gardner’s 23 passes Saturday were completed for a whopping 314 yards.
Gardner is also somebody who Iowa can’t emulate in practice because there is nobody like him on the Iowa roster, especially at quarterback.
“We kind of had an idea of what to expect, but you can’t really simulate it any time in practice,” said Iowa junior free safety Tanner Miller. “As far as scramble drills and stuff like that, that’s the best you can do.”
The best Iowa could do on Saturday wasn’t nearly enough.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football