The Aftermath: Iowa State

By BenSewardLewis on September 13, 2022 at 10:30 am
© Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

Fuck Them Points.

I can’t tell where Kirk Ferentz’s love of his own ideas ends and spite for criticism begins, but whatever the mix, we have reached a point where Kirk has said goodbye to the real world when it comes to the offense. I've got no other explanation for where we find the Hawkeye offense in 2022. It has been quite some time since resentment towards and from our fearless leader has been this high, and Kirk really has nobody to blame but himself.

 No matter how proudly inept Iowa’s coaching staff is, I can’t bring myself to cheer against the Hawkeyes. I just…can’t do it. But, and this is a massive, “Sir-Mix-a-Lot would approve” but, when Aaron Blom pushed the possibly game-tying field goal to the left, a part of my brain felt a cascade of relief. The part of my brain that believes in logic, reason, reality, common decency, truth, justice, and the American way. That part of my brain thought, “THANK. GOODNESS, now maybe Kirk Ferentz will be forced to reckon with his decades-long battle with objective reality and the results of his equal parts stupid and stubborn belief in an offensive philosophy that has decayed so badly even the most optimistic Hawk fans are starting catch a whiff of the festering corpse where a functional offense used to be and commenting on the stink.”

Of course, no such reckoning will actually take place. There is a whale’s worth of blubber insulating Kirk from either accountability or self-reflection. Coaches and players whose careers depend on toeing the company line aren’t going to challenge him, and even if someone did say something to Kirk, if they aren’t out-and-out excommunicated, they probably get no more credence than my three-year-old does when she asks me for gummy bears. I suppose when you are locked into a contract that pays you $7 Million/year and makes it exceedingly difficult to fire you, you can utter such absurdities as “Spencer Petras isn’t getting enough help to really do a fair assessment” (of his play) with a straight face. And so we endure what might be the least pleasant Iowa season in a very long time.

Would a detailed recap of this slow bleed-out of a game be helpful? I mean, you saw it too. Iowa came firing out of the gate with a nasty right hook, before they promptly stopped throwing punches altogether and just ran around the ring in terror for the rest of the match, praying for the bell to ring. Lukas Van Ness starting the game by mauling through the wall of dudes meant to protect Iowa State’s punter like the Nemean lion with such force that his head deflected the punt was cool. Leshon Williams barreling through defenders in two plays to cover the sixteen yards needed to find the end zone was equally as cool. But that was where the coolness ended for the Iowa offense.

Lukas Van Ness would complete the second of his labors by blocking another punt in the third quarter, this time setting up the Hawkeye offense on the Iowa State 20-yard line. (These two blocked punts were the only times Iowa got closer than the Iowa State 40-yard line until Iowa’s very silly final drive.) In one of those simple twist of fates which can alter the outcome of a football game, after getting to a second-and-goal from the one-yard line, Monte Pottebaum maybe scored a touchdown before fumbling the ball at the goal line to Iowa State. The play was called a fumble on the field, which made all the difference, as the replays were too dicey to overturn it, taking a touchdown and complete control of the football game away from Iowa. (The call was correct by the way. If it were called a touchdown on the field, it wouldn’t have been overturned, either. Just some dumb luck, which happens.)

Aside from those two drives, the rest of game was Iowa’s defense throwing their entire weight at a dam with a massive crack, desperately trying to keep it from bursting. Despite an absolutely Herculean effort that included limiting Iowa State to three points on three red zone trips, when the standard for your defense is “hold your opponent to under seven points,” they are going to fail. You simply can’t expect to hold an actual college football team with an actual offense to under seven points. I have nothing but love and admiration for our Hawkeye defense, which despite having to defend for twice as many plays as the Iowa State defense, did their damnedest and made the Cyclones earn the ten points they scored in this game.

As for Iowa’s offense, we are really beyond analysis here, and there is nothing new or original to say, which is a sad acknowledgement of a sad reality. I guess it should be no surprise that when you take a really bad offensive line that included an All-American center and remove the All-American center, that line gets worse, but I am surprised at how much worse Iowa’s line looks. We aren’t even talking about them getting overwhelmed physically or with speed (though that has also been happening). It doesn’t look like they know who to block. They are constantly bumbling around like they are in a Benny Hill skit as defenders run untouched into the backfield. Outside of his first two carries, Leshon Williams hauled the rock 12 times for 18 yards. Iowa’s running game is a few miles below awful at this point.

As for the passing game, we have reached a bizarre and transcendent “Hellraiser”-level of pain here. There is no nice way to say this, but here it is: Spencer Petras is simply not a Division I quarterback. At least in Iowa’s offense, he is incapable of playing the position when it counts the most. (Practice should be irrelevant when you are this bad in games.) Here are the numbers: 23/51, 45% completion percentage for 201 yards and 2 interceptions, for a QBR of 3.3. (This is the worst in college football, in case you were just assuming it was.) With numbers this ludicrously bad, you cannot with a straight face point out Alex Padilla’s 2021 stats, including a 49% completion rate, 1/1 touchdown and interception ratio and 43.1 QBR and suggest it wouldn’t be a sizable improvement. Upgrading from an interdimensionally horrific quarterback to one that is merely bad won’t turn the offense around, but it might have been enough for three more points against Iowa State and a win.

But understand, my worry here isn’t ultimately about Iowa’s offensive line or quarterback. As the saying goes, a fish rots from the head down. Even Brian, unqualified and ill-suited to be an offensive coordinator though he is, isn’t the real problem. What we are seeing is the culmination of years of profound neglect of a football unit, like a house whose wooden frame began rotting years ago and the homeowner is convinced that everybody who suggest that something is wrong is either a dope or trying to scam him. We are now seeing the house start to collapse. And look, the game of football passing you by is no sin, but refusing to acknowledge it is increasingly like insisting on drag-racing with a model T.

Iowa is currently dead last in all of college football in yards per game at 158. (The New Mexico State team that generated 90 yards of offense against Minnesota in Week One is second to last at 230 yards a game. Chew on that.) This is Kirk’s most offensively-challenged team in his entire tenure, and might be the worst Power 5 offense of the 21st century. Every snap that the offense takes is depressing, miserable, and hopeless. Watching this team win is a chore. Watching them lose is torture. The offense is so thoroughly awful that Iowa going to a bowl game is an iffy proposition. And at some point, Kirk’s horrible process is so awful that you stop caring about the results.

I don’t have any words of positivity here. Things look grim. Maybe enough of the rich people that help fund the athletic department’s budget will get pissed enough to demand Brian’s removal from his post and to approve his replacement, while setting-up Pentagon-grade security around the offensive personnel to keep Kirk away from them. Short of that, I’ll be looking up synonyms for futility, because I think this Iowa offense is about to become the all-time standard-bearer for it.

Hawkeye Droppings

* What a difference a quarterback makes. Hunter Dekkers made some stupid plays, but he was under pressure a lot and mostly calmly delivered passes to -- and this is crazy -- his receivers in stride. His calm-under-fire was a big reason for Iowa State's success.

* Next week, Iowa plays the only truly terrible team on their schedule, Nevada. Spencer Petras will play and the offense will look semi-competent. You will then hear words like “baby steps,” “improvement,” and the “right direction.” Any offensive competence against Nevada is moron’s gold. Every team on Iowa’s schedule will have a defense closer to Iowa State’s than Nevada’s, except perhaps Nebraska. LOL Nebraska.

* Xavier Hutchison is really good.

* Why is the offensive line this bad though?

* Seriously, this is stupid, Kirk. I get that confirmation bias is your thing, but Padilla or Labas cannot be worse than Petras. Also can we get an actual deep shot or two a game? I don’t even care if it is into double coverage.

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