IOWA CITY, Ia. — For those who bleed black and gold, silver linings are hard to find.
No matter what positives Iowa tries to pull from Saturday’s season-opening loss to Northern Illinois, the immediate football future seems dire.
Expectations — which already were modest — must be modified.
“From where I was standing, I thought our guys played hard,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We just made some mistakes that were tough to overcome.”
The worst part is, you could see trouble coming.
It felt like everyone in Kinnick Stadium was anticipating a fake punt in the third quarter. The crowd of 67,402 began to wince as Northern Illinois defenders started jumping pass routes in the fourth quarter.
By the time Huskies kicker Mathew Sims lined up for a 36-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining, Iowa’s defeat was inevitable.
“It’s definitely tough to lose,” receiver Jordan Cotton said, “but we’ve got to put this behind us.”
It’s all hindsight, now. But where do the Hawkeyes go from here?
Hopes for a bowl bid have taken a serious hit — especially since five of Iowa’s last six opponents have been ranked among the preseason top 25.
So let’s set the bar lower, setting a standard that can be cleared fairly quickly. Like … ending a seven-game losing streak.
“I think as a team we need to learn how to win,” linebacker James Morris said. “It means you’ve got to be so in tune to the ebb and flow of a game, the situations, what’s at stake.”
Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, their next opponent also is mired in a funk.
Missouri State, members of the NCAA’s Football Championships Subdivision, went 3-8 last season and dropped its 2013 opener against Northwestern State 23-17.
Beating the Bears, led by former Northern Iowa coach Terry Allen, would sooth some of Iowa’s pain.
Turning it into a rout might even restore a little luster to the annual Cy-Hawk showdown, set for Sept. 14 in Ames.
Back-to-back wins, including a victory over the Cyclones, would make it OK to keep your holiday plans flexible.
“One game is down,” Hawkeye quarterback Jake Rudock said. “We’ve got 11 more guaranteed. The most important thing is next week.”
Rudock’s performance Saturday was sort of symbolic: 276 total yards, 21 completions out of 37 attempts, a couple of under-thrown balls and an interception that proved to be a deal breaker.
He wasn’t alone when it came to hits and misses.
Mike Meyer recorded touchbacks on five of six kickoffs, but Hawkeye returners need to know when to take a knee.
Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens combined for 27 tackles, but Northern Illinois receivers started playing Marco Polo with the secondary.
The Hawkeyes pounded their way to 202 rushing yards, averaging 4.7 per carry, but have yet to find a home-run hitter.
Afterward, the Huskies talked about guessing where Rudock was aiming, and how they just missed picking off several other passes.
That would seem to fall on the coaches.
If the Hawkeyes continue to be predictable, any opponent will have a puncher’s chance — even Missouri State.
Andrew Logue covers Iowa football and sports media and has been with the Register for 18 years.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football