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Hawkeyes focus on curing second-half struggles

[ 0 ] October 25, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Iowa has been a Top 25 team football team in the first half of games this season. The second half? Not so much.

The Hawkeyes have led all seven games at halftime but are just 4-3 heading into Saturday’s 11 a.m. contest with Northwestern at Kinnick Stadium.

“There’s never just one clear-cut reason,” linebacker and captain James Morris said. “That’s certainly something that we’re aware of, and every game we’re out there trying to get better and trying to improve and finish everything that we do.”

Iowa is one of eight FBS schools to lead at halftime of each game. Five of those schools – Alabama, Florida State, Oregon, Missouri and Baylor – are undefeated and ranked in the Top 10. The other two, Louisville and Nebraska, have lost once and are in the Top 25.

In its three defeats, to No. 23 Northern Illinois, Michigan State and No. 4 Ohio State, Iowa outscored those teams in the first half, 55-37, but got outsored in the second half, 53-10. The Hawkeyes have scored seven touchdowns and two field goals in the first half, just one touchdown and one field goal the second.

“I don’t think there’s anything magical about it,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “You play the full 60 minutes, and realize it’s going to take 60.”

Iowa will need to reverse that Hyde and Jekyll trend in a hurry if it has serious bowl aspirations, starting Saturday against a Northwestern team that has won six of the last eight games in the series. Iowa has had the halftime lead in three of those eight games and lost two of them.

“We’ve just got to do a better job of finishing,” Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock said. “That’s the biggest thing. Just finish the game.”

The numbers reflect a night-and-day difference in halves for the Hawkeyes in their three defeats this season. Numbers like 452 yards passing and 232 yards rushing in the first half, just 290 yards passing and 125 yards rushing in the second.

The offense has had the ball for roughly 49 minutes in the first half of those three games, just 29 in the second, while running 117 plays in the first half and 86 in the second. Iowa has picked up 10 yards or more on 20 plays in the first half, just 11 in the second half.

Last week’s 34-24 loss at No. 4 Ohio State was a textbook tale of two halves. Iowa scored 17 points on its first three possessions of the game, on drives of 12 plays, 10 plays and 15 plays. The Hawkeyes had 18 plays, total, the second half and got outscored, 24-7.

“I don’t think our team has a problem finishing,” Ferentz said. “It’s not like that’s the issue here. We played a pretty good team the other day. They had a lot to do with it, too.”

Ferentz doesn’t subscribe to the theory that teams are making adjustments at halftime, and his team hasn’t been able to counter.

“It’s a team game,” Ferentz said. “If we could have sustained a couple of drives there, maybe that would have made a difference. You have to do that in every game to be successful, and we didn’t get it done.”

Ohio State’s cornerbacks played tighter in the second half to counter Iowa’s effective three-tight-end formation.

Against Michigan State, after the Hawkeyes scored on back-to-back possessions late in the first half, they had no answers offensively the second half and lost, 26-14.

“We had some momentum going, they had blitzed a couple of times and we burned them,” Rudock said. “But Michigan State has a good defense. They just kept doing what they were doing.”

Opponents have had the ball for 98 plays and 41 minutes in the first half, but 144 plays and 61 minutes in the second half. That’s due to a combination of Iowa’s offense not staying on the field and the defense not getting off it.

“When I think about football plays, or halves, or quarters, I look at it from a more isolated perspective,” Morris said. “Each play is a battle, right? And you might win a majority of those battles in the first half. But just because you did doesn’t mean you will in the second.”

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TALE OF TWO HALVES

Iowa has led at halftime of all seven games this season, but is just 4-3 heading into today’s game against Northwestern. The statistics in those three losses tell the story:

Category 1st half | 2nd half

Yards rushing — 59-232 | 27-125

Passing — 39-58-1 | 27-59-4

Yards passing — 452 | 290

Time of possession — 49:02 | 28:45

Offensive plays — 117 | 86

Third down conversions — 14 of 24 | 5 of 21

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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