IOWA CITY, Ia. – It’s time to shake things up.
The Iowa football program has become stale. And despite snapping a seven-game losing streak, Saturday’s 28-14 win over Missouri State did little to liven up the mood.
A Kinnick Stadium crowd of 64,201 – Iowa’s lowest attendance figure in 10 years – spent most of the afternoon fidgeting and fuming, wondering how their Hawkeyes could be sputtering against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent with just six victories in its past 26 games.
Not only were the Hawkeyes boring, they were befuddling.
That’s not exactly a good way to build momentum heading into this week’s showdown at Iowa State.
“I think a lot of it had to do with the attitude coming out,” said senior safety Tanner Miller, whose late interception in the end zone helped stave off the Bears. “We can do a better job coming out with more energy and more focus, ready to play.”
Yes, the Hawkeyes were uninspired. They were also predictable.
Well, Missouri State coach Terry Allen saw the way Northern Illinois exploited Iowa’s secondary a week earlier. He inserted a copy-cat play and called it on the Bears’ opening possession.
Quarterback Kierra Harris dropped back from his own 36-yard line and saw receiver Eric Christophel running uncovered downfield.
Only the slippery fingers of fate prevented the Bears from bolting to a 7-0 lead.
“We took a shot,” Allen said with a sly grin. “It just went through the kid’s hands.”
The Hawkeyes defense caught a break and went on to hold Missouri State to 197 total yards.
It was an impressive effort that seemed to come with an asterisks.
“Roughing up an FCS (school), I don’t know if you’re necessarily a physical team,” linebacker James Morris said. “We’ve got a ways to go, and we’re going to keep trying to improve.”
Iowa’s offense needs even more tweaking.
If not for Mark Weisman’s 180 rushing yards and two touchdowns, the Hawkeyes might have joined Iowa State on the list of this season’s Football Bowl Subdivision teams to lose to an FCS foe.
Weisman was the only ball carrier to gain more than 40 yards on the ground. Tight end George Kittle was the only receiver to catch a pass longer than 18 yards. And Jake Rudock was the only quarterback who took a snap.
This was supposed to be a mismatch, a chance for the backups to get a little mop-up duty.
When Rudock threw a pick-six, enabling Missouri State to pull within 21-14 early in the fourth quarter, he was left to clean up his own mess.
C.J. Beathard will have to make his debut another day.
In the meantime, Iowa needs an infusion of fresh faces and creative scheme-calling.
Kittle, a redshirt freshman from Norman, Okla., caught a pass from Rudock and turned it into a 47-yard gain, setting up Weisman’s second touchdown.
LeShun Daniels, a freshman tailback from Warren, Ohio, ran for 30 yards on six rushes. Damond Powell, a junior college transfer, is still adjusting to Iowa’s schemes, but everybody raves about his speed.
Jordan Canzeri, a sophomore running back from Troy, N.Y., remains somewhat of a mystery. Lots of fanfare. Limited exposure.
“We all have the opportunities in practice,” Kittle said. “We do what we have to do, and then we get (opportunities) in the games and it’s just wonderful.
“Hopefully that leads to more plays on the field. That’s all I want.”
Those who follow the Hawkeyes want more pizzazz when it comes to play calling.
The tempo is quicker under second-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis – with the average number of plays increasing from 67 a game in 2012 to 83 so far this season – but passes to the flat and bubble screens are annoyingly familiar.
Why go no-huddle if everyone has a pretty good idea what you’re doing?
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz tends to be conservative and loyal. He trusts veterans players such Don Shumpert and Damon Bullock, and plays that succeeded in the past.
But sometimes it’s better to roll the dice than be rolled over.
Andrew Logue covers Hawkeyes football and sports media for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMLogue.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football