Des Moines – Well it has been two days since Iowa’s loss against Northwestern on Saturday, and I’m still aggravated about the piss-poor performance that the Hawkeyes displayed in Evanston. I tweeted late in the game on Saturday that this article would be an interesting one to write because I firmly believe the majority of Hawkeye Nation is just as ticked off as I am.
That type of lackluster performance is unacceptable, and it starts from the top down. There are no acceptable excuses. To make matters worse, the Hawkeyes were coming off of a bye week… Meaning they had two weeks to prepare for this game. How do you have two weeks to prepare for a pretty poor Northwestern team and then come out and lay an egg like that? It’s unacceptable. Plain and simple.
Now, let me put out a couple disclaimers before moving on to a checklist of my biggest complaints/concerns. First and foremost, the Hawkeye defense played a heck of a game without their leader, and best player, Josey Jewell. Brandon Snyder was also out. The defense played well enough to win. In fact, with the effort they put forth without two of their best players they deserved to win. It isn’t fair to them that the offensive side of their team was so incredibly, well, offensive.
Also, before I start criticizing the coaching staff I want to be clear. I’m a Kirk Ferentz fan. I believe Brian Ferentz has a bright future as an offensive coordinator, and probably as a head coach some day. By and large, this coaching staff does an incredible job. They develop great football players, but more importantly they develop outstanding young men.
With that said, let me get back to the point of this post. The game day coaching we saw on Saturday from Brian Ferentz and his offense was absolutely atrocious. There’s no other way to describe it. It is your job as a coach to put your players in the best position you can to help them win. As offensive coordinator that means your job is to call plays that are working, and move away from plays that aren’t. Which means you have to be willing to make in-game adjustments in order to put your players in a position to win. Brian Ferentz didn’t do that on Saturday. He stubbornly kept trying to run the ball when it was obvious to everyone that it wasn’t working. I realize running the ball is Iowa’s bread and butter, but when it isn’t working you have to try something else. That’s your job.
Here are some of my complaints and recommendations after watching the offense implode on Saturday (please remember this is just my opinion):
- Akrum Wadley is not a bruising type RB. Why continue to use him in short yardage situations when you have Toren Young available? Look, Wadley is by far the best back on the team, but his skills are not ideal for bulldozing forward and gaining a yard. Far from it. Either QB sneak it, hand it off to Young, or try to catch the defense off guard with a PA pass.
- What happened to trying to get Wadley the ball in space? The strategy coming into the season was to have formations with both James Butler and Wadley on the field at the same time in order to find more creative ways to get Wadley involved rather than simply out of the backfield. Just because Butler was injured doesn’t mean you have to abandon that type of thinking. It appears to me that both Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin are capable of filling that James Butler role. Once Butler was injured it seems like the coaches just said “Welp I guess we’re not going to do that anymore. Let’s just scrap it and go back to being as predictable as possible”. Why not keep those formations and ask the younger guys to step up?
- THROW THE BALL DOWN THE FIELD!!! Yes, I’m well aware Stanley has struggled completing deep throws this season, but if the defense is giving it to you then you can’t stop trying. Go back and watch the film from the Northwestern game. The coverage on the receivers was pretty tight on underneath routes, but the further they ran down the field the more wide open they became. Why? Because Northwestern had absolutely no respect for Iowa’s passing game. It’s your job to make them respect it, and you can’t make them respect it if you don’t try. The most basic offensive philosophy is taking what the defense gives you. If they are choosing to give you long pass opportunities then why would you not try to take advantage of that more often?
- Northwestern was selling out on stopping the run. Why continue to run right into the teeth of their defense? Do you still think this Iowa offensive line is a group of bulldozers? Because clearly they aren’t. They are probably the most underwhelming and over-hyped position on the field for Iowa. Yes, I know they’ve been dealing with injuries, but every single offensive lineman who has been playing has plenty of experience (aside from Tristan Wirfs, but he’s playing over guys who have experience so that’s not an excuse). I don’t know why they aren’t playing well, but I do know that they aren’t playing well. All you have to do is watch the game in order to notice that. If I’m able to recognize that then I expect the Iowa coaching staff to recognize that and change their game plan. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
- Execution on first down has been awful. Primarily because the defense knows there is a good chance a power run is coming. There’s nothing more detrimental to an offense than constantly having to deal with 2nd and long and 3rd and long. If you go back and watch which drives were successful on Saturday you’ll notice they often started with well executed first down throws.
- For the love of God get more creative!!! Get Wadley the ball in space. Put him in motion. Get him out in the slot. Find ways to get him matched up with a LB.
- Keep looking for ways to get Fant and Hockenson more involved. Yes, the TE’s have been used, but not enough in my opinion. This offense has weapons available, and they are two of the best. Use them as much as possible.
- Why is Josh Jackson still returning punts? He cost the Hawkeyes at least 40 yards worth of field position on Saturday because he doesn’t recognize when he should or shouldn’t catch the ball. Enough is enough. The young man is a damn good defensive player. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to him, but he should not be the punt returner if he can’t make those types of split second decisions. When your offense is struggling as much as Iowa’s you simply can not afford to lose field position because your punt returner can’t make a routine decision.
Those points sum up some of the most frustrating aspects of the Hawkeyes’ performance on Saturday. I was following Twitter throughout the game, and based upon what I read I know I’m not alone with many of these thoughts. I’m well aware this offense isn’t capable of being elite, but there are absolutely some things that can be done to help them be more successful. That’s the most frustrating part to me. I genuinely do not believe the coaches are putting them in the best position they can to win. That needs to change, and it needs to change fast.
Now, the players need to execute as well. They aren’t without blame here. Especially up front on the offensive line. What we’ve seen out of them this season has been incredibly disappointing, but ultimately adjustments need to be made. The coaching staff is in charge of making these adjustments, and they need to do a better job. I’m guessing they would be the first ones to admit that. That’s the type of people they are. I just hope they get over their tendency to be stubborn. If something isn’t working don’t force it. Figure out a way around it. You’re only beating yourselves by trying to do something that isn’t working.
Rant over. Brian Ferentz is a young offensive coordinator, and this is still a young team. Time to turn the page and move on to the Gophers.