Monday, October 31, 2011

Iowa State Treats, Iowa Tricks, & Tebow Tebows Out?


From the Cardinals World Series win, to our crazy college football teams, this is the week that reminds you why sports is the best show on TV-it is totally unscripted.

I thought if the Cyclones could take care of the ball and limit turnovers they'd have a chance to upset, or at least scare, a Texas Tech team that would probably be due for a bit of a letdown after such an emotional win at Oklahoma the week before.  41-7 is no letdown or meltdown, that's four solid quarters of smackdown.

In every Cyclone loss Iowa State took themselves out of games early with bad turnovers and stupid penalties.  Avoid that, and most of those games get a lot closer, with a chance to pull out a win.  We saw just how good Iowa State can be when they aren't shooting themselves in the foot.

Jared Barnett is not spectacular yet, but the kid's unflappable.  And he still is a kid.  Helps to have one of the most unheralded players in our state, James White, to hand the ball to.  And you have to be impressed with the way Steele Jantz was so animated on the sidelines and looked to be doing everything he could to help the kid.

It's still going to be tough for ISU to reach six wins.  Number five should be a slam dunk next week, Kansas looks like a bad Big Ten team.  But after that?  Oklahoma State at home on a Friday, then at Oklahoma and K-State.  I know what Tech did in Norman, but the OU game seems impossible.  Kansas State came back to earth, and that season finale looks to be ISU's chance at bowl eligibility.  Then again.....Paul Rhoads has upset several top 25 teams on the road.  Sooner or later he's due for one at home.  Why not Oklahoma State?

As for Rhoads, he's not a perfect coach and there are times his style will cost ISU, whether it's a blowout loss or some interesting sideline antics.  But at the end of the day, there's no better man for this job, and he once again proved it on Saturday.  Right now, he's got as much job security in Ames as Nick Saban has in Alabama. 

The best thing for me about trips to Minneapolis is I usually get to stay overnight with my dad and watch sports and talk.  All week he told me he thought Minnesota would give Iowa a game.  Word to my pops.

I was on the sidelines and in the postgame pressers, and I STILL don't understand that game or the ways Iowa tried to explain it away.  There's absolutely no way they were prepared for the surprise onside.  Slow mo the kick and it's their regular kickoff coverage group, and you can see Jason White's knees practically knocking as the ball was in the air.  AJ Derby, who just started playing special teams last week, was on the field.  How could you not think Minnesota was going to onside?  What did they have to lose?

Lots of questions, no real answers from this game
Then there's no apparent effort to get the ball to Coker or McNutt at the end.  When I asked Ferentz about why Coker didn't get the ball he said they were in a hurry and needed to move the ball quickly.  They had over two minutes left, a timeout, needing only to get into field goal range (granted not a slam dunk with Meyer's two misses) with a running back who was averaging eight yards a carry!  That sounds like a panic move.

As for McNutt I realize Minnesota might have clamped down on him a bit more at the end, but he'd been in single coverage most of the game and once again, on the road, Iowa forgets about him for much of the day.  Even if you don't go to McNutt, go for Martin-Manley but for pete's sake, why are Brad Herman and White getting thrown to with the game on the line when they've barely seen the ball all year?  If McNutt has triple coverage you've still got to try and throw a ball up for him to try and leap for.

Ferentz refuses to acknowledge the road losing streak, counting the Missouri Insight Bowl win as a win away from Kinnick Stadium.  He's got a right to that opinion, but most people don't count a neutral site game with a sizeable Hawkeye contingent as a hostile environment.  Iowa's last road win was 18-13 at Indiana on November 6, 2010.  And the kicker?  Three of their last five road losses came in places where they had a huge following of fans.  Iowa had a big number of fans for the Iowa State game and Minnesota games.  Hell, Minnesota fans are used to leaving at halftime and heading back to the tailgate unless the road team gives them a reason to stay.  It's not like their playing in the Big House or Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.  This road losing streak is in their heads.

All this in mind, don't be shocked one bit if Iowa wins their next two against Michigan and Michigan State.  Yes these are the best teams to come to Kinnick all year, but it's a totally different Iowa team at home. 

UNI Buffaloed By The Bison
Northern Iowa likely saw their Missouri Valley Conference title fade away after losing 27-19 at North Dakota State.  Look on the bright side Panther fans; since you nearly beat ISU, and NDSU did beat Minnesota, the Panthers and Bison would probably finish in the middle of the Big Ten pack! 

Playing in the Fargodump....excuse me Fargodome, like I said earlier this year, not a fan of tough enough when they jam 19-20,000 people in, but that UNI had a shot to win late despite seeing Tirrell Rennie get knocked out is a credit to the Panthers toughness.  Assuming UNI can get off the deck they should still be in line to get several home playoff games, and maybe even a bye.  Won't be shocked at all if these two play again in the playoffs, but it will have to be in Fargo again.

I don't think Timmy would support this kind of Tebowing
It won't stop the Denver or national media from curbing Tebow mania, but the Detroit Lions gave Tebow and his followers a cold dose of reality.  He finally ran into a team that wasn't going to shoot itself in the foot and could capitalize off his poor play.  And they can't blame this one on Kyle Orton.  So is this the true Tebow, or can he be the guy who has had sparks of greatness late in games against Houston, San Diego, and Miami?  We'll all find out after 9 more games.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cyclone Stunner, Hawkeye Embarrassment


I've been surprised by a lot of things, in the world of sports, but I don't know if I've ever been blindsided like this. I thought the Hawks would roll to a comfortable victory over one of the worst teams in the entire country. WRONG! I also thought that the 20th-ranked team in the country would send ISU to its 5th straight Big 12 loss. WRONG-ER! What happened on this Saturday in October, quite simply, couldn't have been predicted by any person on the planet.

Where do we start? I say, let's give the winners their due. Iowa State had been blown out by all four teams in Big 12 play. Frankly, the only game in which the Cyclones looked good, was against Iowa. To say that they would compete against Texas Tech, let alone beat Texas Tech, let alone beat the red off the Red Raiders, would be a stretch. ISU dominated that game from start-to-finish. There was no letup. There was no back-door touchdown to make the final score look closer. The Cyclones suffocated Tech for 60 minutes. By the time it was over, it was 41-7. Iowa State doesn't even beat Kent State, or Toledo, 41-7. This was the case of a football coaching staff having its team ready to play the best game of their careers.

Iowa State has had some impressive wins in the Paul Rhoads era, but this was the most impressive of them all. It's not just because they beat the 20th-ranked team in the land. It's how they beat the 20th-ranked team in the land. This kind of game is exactly why Paul Rhoads is the right man for the job. Iowa State had no business doing what it did. But don't tell the team that. the Hawkeyes. What. The. Heck. Was. That? Minnesota isn't just a bad team. Minnesota might be the worst team in the country. This is a team that lost to North Dakota State, and New Mexico State --- at HOME! This is a team that lost to Michigan, Purdue, and Nebraska, by a combined score of 144-31! And it's a team that made this year's Kirk Ferentz team, look like the 1999 Kirk Ferentz team.

If you would've told me that Marcus Coker would run for 252 yards, and the Iowa defense would hold Minnesota to 3-for-11 on 3rd downs, I would've guessed the final score to be Iowa 45, Minnesota 17. Instead, it was a 22-21 stunner in Minneapolis.Without question (in my mind), this was the worst loss of the Ferentz era.

I've been critical of Ferentz, quite a bit, lately. I started to have my doubts about him in 2006, and this was it. Although I don't think Kirk Ferentz will ever be fired from the University of Iowa, I think it's time for him to move on. Yes, it's a drastic step after all he's done for the program, but I think it's time to go in a different direction. Ferentz hasn't changed a thing in his 13 seasons at Iowa. He's supposed to be a Bill Belichick clone, but he's anything but. Not only is he nothing like him, he's the opposite of him. Rush Limbaugh thinks Kirk Ferentz is too conservative.

I'm not calling for Ferentz to move on based on this one game. Year in, and year out, Iowa loses to teams that it should not only should blow out. Ferentz's conservatism eats him alive on the road. Iowa can stay in games against better teams, but that hurts them, ten-fold, in games against bad teams. Iowa is the easiest team to game-plan against in the entire country. You know what they're going to do. Some years, Iowa has enough talent to overcome that with outstanding play. But most years, that's not the case. 

Since 2004, Iowa has a .500 record in the Big Ten. Outside of one season (2009), Iowa has been an average to below average team in the Big Ten. I don't know who the heck could come in and do a better job, but I do believe that it's time to see what the future holds. Hayden Fry was a great coach, but it was clear around his 15th season that it was time to move on. Ferentz will enter his 14th season, next fall. He will go down as one of the best, if not the best, coach in Iowa history. That won't change, but times do.

I have no idea who could come in and do a better job. And, for the record, I didn't want Tom Davis fired in 1998. Ferentz apologists are afraid to let him go because know how you can be burned by thinking the grass is greener on the side. Who knows if the Hawks could find a guy to take Iowa to "the next level". That's not necessarily what I'd expect. What I expect, is a guy to come in and shake things up. Beat the teams you're supposed to beat, even if this new guys' style means he'll get blown out every now and then by a great team. The new guy should show some guts on the road. He should also show some faith in his players, and not make them think that their next mistake could be their last.

Will that translate to more wins? Who knows. But I do know it would result in less days like Saturday.

Cardinals Win, Andy Celebrates, Fans Yawn

  • Game 7 of the World Series was bound to be anticlimactic after the epic game 6, and it was, but it's still hard to fathom the Cardinals are the champs. A wild card team more than ten games out with a month to go? Wow.
  • The home team has won game 7 nine straight times. As a wild card team, the Cards had no business having the home field edge, but they should at least send a thank you note to Prince Fielder for the All-Star game homer.  
  • The Rangers won't be over that game 6 meltdown anytime soon. A pitch from the title twice, and they didn't get it done. That's hard to take.
  • I'm happy for Andy Fales, Dave Price, Bill Fennelly, Ryan Greening, Arnold Woods, and the many other Cardinals fans I know. To their credit, they really understand and appreciate baseball. It's a great fan base.
Andy celebrating at the Ridgemont with his friend Ryan. I think it's the 11th title for the Cardinals.

  • West Virginia in the Big 12 makes no geographical sense, but the Mountaineers are arguably an upgrade from Missouri in both football and men's basketball, the two sports that count most.
  • The SEC web site accidentally sent out a release Thursday welcoming Mizzou to the conference. It was dated October 31st. Missouri says it hasn't decided yet. Right.
  • The Big 12 says it will stay at ten teams for now. That's good for ISU financially, but bad competitively. ISU desperately needs divisions again---especially in football.
  • We're having a kids halloween party Saturday. They're even bringing in a jumpy house. It's days like this I love my family, and my DVR.
  • I can't remember a week during conference play where fans collectively cared less about Iowa State and Iowa football games, but Iowa fans know they're going to win, and Cyclone fans know they're going to lose. Maybe it won't play out that way, but that's the way it feels to each (I think the fans are right). Maybe more people in Iowa will pay attention to UNI. The #2 Panthers deserve it when playing the #3 team in the nation.
  • Hope to see you for Halloween SoundOFF Sunday night.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Baseball Game for the Ages, Defending Tebow and Tebowing

  • As I begin blogging, it's 11:35 p.m., and World Series game 6 is still going. It has been, quite simply, one of the most exciting baseball games in history. Not the best played, but one of the most thrilling. The Cardinals have come back from the dead twice. The Rangers were one pitch from winning the World Series twice.
  • Game over! David Freese homers in the 11th and the Cardinals will not die. Amazing baseball game. I feel bad for any baseball fan who missed it. Heck, any sports fan.
  • I hope kids who are Cardinals fans were allowed to stay up late. I've forgotten most of what I learned in 1975, but I will never forget game 6 of the World Series, and no kid watching this game will forget it either.
  • Joe Buck's homage to his father, and his father's team, "We will see you tomorrow night!" is okay by me. I loved it. And as many of you pointed out, it was 20 years ago Buck's dad, Jack, used the line on Kirby Puckett's game 6 home run, also in the 11th, also to center field.
  • I don't root for the Cardinals, but I sure respect that organization and its fans. Plus, Andy will be in a great mood Friday.
  • The home team almost always wins game 7.
  • Maybe that song on TBS that drove me crazy during the playoffs, "Oh, it's written in the stars..." is right.
  • I had little interest in this World Series, but it's been the most entertaining in at least a decade.
  • In other news, planking is done, Tebowing is now. I Tebowed before Thursday's Murph & Andy Show:
  • I was surprised, and disappointed, to learn a few local people saw this as mocking Tebow's Christian faith. That thought never crossed my mind. I think those people are taking "Tebowing" too literally. Tebowing for me is about the physical pose, not prayer. It's a fun take on an indelible image. I'm sure someone somewhere sees it as an opportunity to mock Tebow, but not me. I continue to see Tebow as one of the most positive figures in sport. I think he's the rare role model who is sincere in all that he says and does.  I believe him, and I root for him.  Unfortunately, Tebow's become a polarizing figure, in large part not through any fault of his, but because many of his supporters see any humor or criticism aimed at Tebow as some kind of attack on Christianity, which is not consistent with the Christ I was raised on.

4A Blowouts, Emotional Rhoads, Stache for Cash

  • When one high school football team is leading another 47-0 after one quarter, as Southeast Polk was vs Sioux City North, are there too many teams in the 4A playoffs? Yes. (Ankeny won 54-0, among several other blowouts.) It's humiliating to lose like that, and the winners risk injuries for a more closely contested playoff game.
  • Cyclone fans, and players, love Paul Rhoads' emotion, and though his body language looked silly at times during Saturday's sideline tantrum, most in Cyclone nation loved that Rhoads let officials know how they all felt. It's fair to question if Rhoads' can't control his emotions, how he expects his players to control theirs, but it can also be argued he's getting on the refs so they don't. Bottom line: He doesn't need to apologize, he is who he is, but it wouldn't hurt to curb the jumping up and down.
  • Just when you think the Big 12 has learned from its dysfunctional ways, West Virginia isn't sure whether it's in or out.
  • Wake me when this Indiana/Minnesota stretch is done. Michigan/Michigan State sounds slightly more interesting.
  • Andy backed me into a corner live on our radio show with his desire to see me looking silly with a mustache. I'm certain it's revenge for the buzzed head. Anyway, I thought I'd be fine since there's no way my boss would allow me to grow facial hair live on the air in HD, only the boss said, "sounds fun". So "No Shave November" starts Thurday with the Stashe for Cash. It's going to be a bad look, so the least I can do is try to raise some money to fight cancer. Here's more info:
  • It's not in many theaters, but if you like a good old-fashioned sports movie---the kind they say no one makes anymore---check out the "Mighty Macs". It's a formulaic, feel good movie based on a true story about a women's college basketball dynasty in the 70s that I didn't even know existed. Incredible story simplified for a G-rating, but still effective. A must-see if you have or know a girl who loves basketball.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Big 12 Gets Bigger, Hawkeye Road Woes, Mr. Sexy


West Virginia to the Big 12, is a good get for the conference. You could argue that WVU and TCU make the conference even tougher than Missouri and Texas A&M. WVU and TCU have been to plenty of BCS bowl games, and the WVU basketball program is one of the best in the country under Huggy Bear.

Yes it will be a long trip for anyone to watch their team play in Morgantown, WV...but it's actually closer to Ames than Lubbock, TX.

The Hawkeyes haven't won on the road in 50 weeks. They're 0-for-their-last-4. Kirk Ferentz tried to defend Iowa's road woes by saying they won on the road at the Insight Bowl, in Arizona. That's not a road game. In fact, it was a virtual home game with Hawkeye fans outnumbering Missouri fans, 3-to-1. Minnesota doesn't scare anyone, but I do think there is some cause for caution. The way Iowa is playing defense, the Gophs are going to put up some points. A win, and a Michigan victory over Purdue, sets up a 3-1 Legends division showdown at Kinnick Stadium, a week from Saturday. I'm not sure this Hawkeye team is good enough to win a division title, but thanks to one of the easiest schedules in America, they'll have a chance to play for one. Iowa should control its own destiny with 4 games to play.

In other news, Minnesota's Jerry Kill just received a 7-year contract extension. Huh? Am I not right in saying that he's 1-6 in his first 7 games? The Gophers look like one of the worst teams in the history of Big Ten football. I feel bad for him for all the health issues he's had to deal with, but I'd be upset if I was a Minnesota fan. Then again, we all know Minnesota football fans don't exist. 

Hawkeye fans are having some fun with the sideline antics of Paul Rhoads. Here's to people who have way too much time on their hands.   

From 'Donkey Paul' to 'Rockin' Rhoads', even Cyclone fans have a good sense of humor about it. Here's a little something the folks at Wide Right Natty Light put together.

The MVC has released its preseason basketball poll, and you won't find a team from Iowa in the top-3. Creighton is the overwhelming favorite to win the Valley, following by Wichita State, and Indiana State. Northern Iowa is picked to place 4th, while Drake is expected to, once again, finish 7th.

My parents, teachers, coaches, friends, and co-workers, have always told me not to brag --- but I'm going to anyway. I've just been notified that I've made Cityview's list of the 100 sexiest people in Des Moines. There's a website where you can vote for the winner, but I'm sure Cityview is just trying to be nice to the other 99 people. There's no way this guy is going to lose. So as not to hurt the feelings of the other nominees, please be kind and vote for them.

Here are a couple of my modeling shots:

Monday, October 24, 2011

McNutt's Future, Rhoads' Decline, Canadian Cyclone


Marvin McNutt has been named Co-Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, along with MSU's Kirk Cousins. We've gotten some emails from people saying we're giving McNutt too much praise. I disagree. He's the best Hawkeye wide receiver I've ever seen, and he's one of the best Hawkeye players I've ever seen. He'll be an early round pick in the NFL. I wouldn't be surprised if he plays his way into the 1st-round.

Maybe the Hawks should consider making him a two-way player, for the remaining 5 games. Iowa's defense is bad. The Hawks rank last in opponents 3rd down conversions, and 11th in total defense. They made Indiana look like a good offense, when in fact the Hoosiers have one of the worst offenses in the country.

Here's a wild stat. Over the last 2 seasons, Wisconsin is 17-0 against teams not named Michigan State, while Michigan State is 17-1 against teams not named Iowa.

ABC has chosen Purdue At Wisconsin, over Michigan At Iowa, for the 2:30pm slot, a week from Saturday. Huh? Purdue doesn't stand a chance in Madison. I was looking forward to a mid-afternoon start. Now we're stuck with another 11am snoozer. That's just too early for football games to start. The only teams that have to play 11am games are midwest teams in the central time-zone.

I like the fact that Paul Rhoads is going to give Jared Barnett a chance to start against Texas Tech. The one thing that separates him from Steele Jantz, is Barnett seems to value the football. ISU can't afford to be turning the ball over against anybody. Then again, they also need someone that can make a big play on offense. Jantz has shown he can do it...but Barnett has not.

I don't see any way the Cyclones reach the 5-win mark. Five of their last six games are against teams from the top-20, and their final three are against top-10 teams. A 1-8 Big 12 record will be hard to swallow, but the Cyclones are dealing with one of the toughest schedules in all of football. The problem is, that would leave Paul Rhoads with another decline in wins.

2009: 7-4
2010: 5-7
2011: 4-8?

Some say they aren't seeing any improvement in the Cyclones. It's hard to find improvement when the team keeps losing. Let's face it. It's hard to win at Iowa State. Now, it's nearly impossible to compete for a conference title. Rhoads is the right man for the job, and Cyclone fans know it.

Fred Hoiberg has shown that he's going to recruit 'outside the box' ... he can also recruit outside the country. ISU signs Naz Long, a 6-4 guard from Ontario. Long is ranked as the 7th best prospect in Canada by something called 'North Pole Hoops'. He'll be eligible to play as early as January, but ISU will likely redshirt him, this season. Is it just me, or does it seem like ISU has signed over 30 players over the past year?

Check out this sweet picture of the great Midwest, from space. Pretty neat.

Who Are The Hawks? Gabe Succeeds James Vandenberg? Aluminum Pantz?


The Iowa Hawkeyes are the only football team I can ever remember watching where, after 7 games, we still really don't know what this team is all about.  And we really didn't learn anything yesterday against a very bad Indiana team. 

We think Iowa has a great offense, but do they?  At home Iowa has scored 182 points (196 overall but two were defensive TDs), an average of 36 a game.  They've been creative and dynamic, averaging 431 total yards of offense per game.  James Vandenberg looks like Peyton Manning, Marvin McNutt like Calvin Johnson.  On the road they're bland and anemic.  They're averaging 22 points and 309 total yards, but much of that is inflated by the three overtime game at Iowa State.  James Vandenberg looks like Curtis Painter, Marvin McNutt disappears.

It's not like we can point to any team they've beaten or lost to as an accurate indicator.  Four home wins were against terrible teams, Penn State is ranked but their "best win" probably came against Iowa, and Iowa State has gone in the tank. 

Minnesota certainly won't give them any better competition, but it's important to see if they can play a consistent and solid game away from Kinnick Stadium.  This is a game they should win and win easily.  After seeing the defense struggle against a true freshman QB I'm thinking it might be tougher than we realize.

He Got Skills
When Marvin McNutt is drafted in April, I'm betting his highlight reel has more than a few plays from this game on it.

We possibly did learn one thing about Iowa this week-the backup quarterbacks must be REALLY bad.  AJ Derby was moved over to linebacker and all indications are it is permanent.  John Weinke was in just long enough to take a knee.  James Vandenberg played nearly the whole way, all this while diving head first on runs and take shots to the knee on sacks.  Does anyone realize that the season is over if he goes down when keeping him in so long in blowouts? 

Perhaps Iowa's QB of the future is James' brother, Keokuk junior Gabe Vandenberg.  Vandy Deuce has had a big year and brings Keokuk to Norwalk for the start of the 3A playoff Wednesday.  Papa Vandenberg says Gabe has a more natural throwing motion.
Gabe Vandenberg. Photo courtesy John Gaines
Barring injury, creative play calling, or Steele Jantz taping a football to his hands to keep from fumbling it, I think Jared Barnett will start the rest of the season.  It wasn't perfect, but I thought Barnett handled a tough situation against a good team very well.  The most important thing though?  Barnett's not turning the football over.  Jantz has been a turnover machine, and the Cyclones have a tough enough time without turning the ball over against their Big 12 foes.

Jared Barnett.  Photo courtesy Charlie Neibergall AP
Not surprisingly the game where Jantz made the fewest mistakes was the Iowa game.  He became a campus legend for his performance that day, and it was nearly flawless.  But Chris called it in his recent blog-Jantz benefited more from a weak Iowa defense.  The Hawkeyes struggled to handle Indiana true freshman Trey Roberson last week.  To be fair, Jantz can be effective if he's taking care of the ball and making good decisions, as he did against the Hawkeyes.  But frankly, for a guy who did play some JUCO ball, he seems as rattled in the pocket as you'd expect a freshman like Barnett to be.

Captain Insano Shows No Mercy.  Photo Courtesy Charlie Neibergall
I think it's hard to not like Paul Rhoads, and it's tough to criticize him.  Forgetting the situation ISU's program is (pretty much always) in, he brings passion and enthusiasm that many of his coaching counterparts never show, or possibly even have.  But with a team that looks undisciplined at its worst, how can he expect his players to keep their composure when he can't keep his?

We've gotten emails from some UNI fans wondering why their second ranked squad isn't getting more attention.  I could point to the UNI-Indiana State montage we did on SoundOFF two weeks ago, or the fact we've had highlights from every game in our weekend sportscasts at some point.  But nothing illustrates the point better than this-I have taken more calls for SoundOFF about Iowa State volleyball this year than Northern Iowa football.  Panther fans, if you want people to talk about your team, SPEAK UP A BIT!  For those wondering, UNI stayed perfect in the MVC with a win over Southern Illinois (and Jewel Hampton), and plays what might be the FCS game of the year next Saturday at 4th ranked MVC unbeaten North Dakota State.

Big week so a few final scattershot thoughts:

-It's too bad Albert Pujols 3 Homerun game happened on a college football Saturday where all hell broke loose.  It was an amazing and rare moment.
-Rangers-Cards feels like a seven game series.
-Wisconsin fans no longer have to worry about being screwed out of the national title game.
-Christian Ponder looked good.  But Aaron Rodgers is Playstation good.
-How are the Chiefs 3-3 and playing for first in the AFC West lead next week at home on MNF against San Diego?
-Watch out for Da Bears in Da Wildcard.  The Lions are a young team that might be cracking under the weight of heavy expectations.
-Until Tim Tebow plays a team that doesn't piss games away late, I ain't buying it.  Stupidity and late turnovers by San Diego and Miami shouldn't wipe the slate clean. 
-Ouch Colts.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hellboy, Hawks, Hampton, Hoover, and other H's

  • Baseball America names Des Moines' Jeremy Hellickson MLB Rookie of the Year, but Hellickson doesn't really want to talk about it until the "real" awards are in. He should win American League honors from the baseball writers too.
  • There are few, if any, jobs in Iowa sports more thankless than leading the Des Moines North football program. If Greg Holland is done as head coach of the Polar Bears, after a long and difficult run, it's nice to see Holland go out with a win. I just wish the Hoover kids could have experienced that feeling too. (Hoover did win one game, but it was by forfeit.)
  • I think Texas A&M is going to keep the misery going in Cyclone country. I'll be surprised if ISU keeps it close, but I hope I'm wrong.
  • Indiana often plays Iowa tough. Not this year. Iowa will thump the Hoosiers. Game over by halftime.
  • UNI fans who double as Hawkeye fans should get a kick out of seeing Jewel Hampton run the football against the Panthers. Hampton's the leading rusher for Southern Illinois. Salukis at UNI-dome Saturday.
  • Theo Epstein is finally announced as a Cubs employee. Good for the Cubs.
  • Anyone else sick of Missouri's news conferences to further hint at leaving the Big 12, while simultaneously trying to ensure it doesn't look like the bad guy? Just go. It's understandable, go.
  • How 'bout the late Steve Jobs throwing down on Google and Bill Gates in his biography?
  • Part of starting a new Facebook page---thank you, Alisa---led me to post a picture of myself as a koala bear. Long story. Now, thanks to this blog, I've learned koalas aren't bears, they're marsupials. Thank you, astute readers.
  • Dan Winters kid, Cole, is seriously cute:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cardinals Stumble, Wegher Trouble, Friendly Halloween

  • Great start to the World Series. Baseball is more of a regional sport than football, but for Cardinals fans, and  hardcore baseball fans, two well played one run games,three hours long is a nice beginning.
  • I do welcome a break from the Tony La Russa is a genius talk, though he might be. La Russa didn't blow game 2, but he didn't micromanage the Cards to another win either.
  • The World Series sure changed in the ninth inning. Cardinals win that game, they win the Series. Now it's up for grabs.
  • It's ridiculous the wild card winning Cardinals have home field advantage because the National League won the All-Star exhibition in the middle of the season.
  • Brandon Wegher can't get his life going in a positive direction since leaving the Hawkeyes for personal problems. He's only 20. Still time to get it together.
  • Jewel Hampton---remember him?---will play for Southern Illinois against UNI Saturday.
  • Former Cyclone Alexander Robinson signs with the Cedar Rapids Titans. The IFL is the "other" indoor football league, though to be fair, it's actually called Indoor Football League. I digress. The Vikings cut A-Rob, and as he tries to work his way back to the NFL, he'll make $225 a game, an extra $25 if the Titans win. Not exactly Chris Johnson pay.
  • First college basketball poll out, not an Iowa team in sight. Can't wait for a return to glory. Paging anyone.
  • Living History Farms does a great job with Halloween for small kids.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cards Win Again, Mom Visits Son, Tasty Taco Closes

  • Cardinals are now three wins from their 11th world championship. All 11, Andy reminds, would be since the Cubs last won in 1908.
  • Chris Carpenter wons his eighth post-season game for the Cards, breaking a tie with the legendary Bob Gibson. Surprising to me, even though Carpenter benefits from more series'.
  • Tim McCarver and Joe Buck are both lifetime Cardinals, so expect cries of biased broadcasting from all directions, especially Texas.
  • My parents are visiting. Always a treat, but more so as my mother fights off cancer a second time. SU2C.
  • Nice story by Marc Hansen in Wednesday's Des Moines Register on Bill Fennelly's cancer battle. To know Bill is to know how much the Cardinals are boosting his spirits.
  • Do you know anyone who cries when they laugh? Tears down the face? John Bachman. It happens at least once a week. Ed Wilson is usually the reason.
  • They just closed the Tasty Taco on Douglas because it wasn't busy enough. Wait, what? It was always crowded. Maybe not the typical Tasty Taco line-out-the-door crowded, but busy in a way most restaurants would love.

I'm hungry.

  • Facebook informed me I can't accept any additional friends, and I need to change my account to a "personality page". This caused me anxiety, and led to my wife saying, "Relax, this is no big deal", which is a role reversal. I attempted to change the page and ended up with a koala bear as my avatar. Long story. Anway, web producer Alisa Link is attempting to help me through this. She deserves a raise, and a hug, just for volunteering.  

DJK CFL, Light Punishment, Piling On Jantz

  • DJK in Canada? He tells me he's agreed to play for the Montreal Alouettes in 2012, though I wouldn't be surprised to see him warm-up with some AFL closer to home. Hey, if he's headed to Montreal, he needs to warm-up.
  • Mark Phelps' punishment for Kurt Alexander and Rayvonte Rice for admitting they stole from Scheels is just one exhibition game (vs Quincy) and one regular season game (vs Upper Iowa), plus unnamed internal penalties. Phelps defends the one real game punishment to the Des Moines Register this way, “It’s the first two games on our schedule, bottom line. There will be tickets sold and there will be fans in the stands". Phelps is a smart man. I suspect he knows in his heart of hearts that's lame. Rice is Drake's star, and he's said and done all the right things, but come on, I expect more from Drake. By the way, Drake's next game after Upper Iowa... Iowa State.
  • The fundraiser at the Front Row for the Greenwood family reportedly raised $8500. That's a strong showing for a grass roots movement started by local artist Sean Thompson and taken up a notch by Hawkeye hero Rob Houghtlin flying in for the event. I asked Houghtlin if Rick Reilly was right, that Houghtlin has never had to buy a beer in Iowa since kicking the field goal that pushed #1 Iowa past #2 Michigan in 1985. Houghtlin says he has had to buy a beer, though not many. He adds he's not much of a drinker anyway.
  • Like many people, I still feel awful about the death of Dan Wheldon. I know Wheldon died doing what he loved, but that must be small comfort to his wife and two small children. The kids are so young, it's unlikely they'll even remember their father, and Dan was a memorable guy. He was always so nice and so charismatic at Iowa Speedway (he won the Iowa Corn Indy 250 in 2008). Wheldon was cooler, weathier, and better looking than the guy interviewing him, but he never made you feel that way.
  • Jimmie Johnson says Indy cars should never race on ovals, that it's just too dangerous. Racing has made great strides in all series' since the death of Dale Earnhardt ten years ago, but you can never make it completely safe. It's a dangerous sport, and the men and women who drive know the risks.
  • Steele Jantz is taking far too much of the blame for Iowa State's ugly skid. Jantz is part of the problem---he's turning it over way too much---but there's blame to go around. There's also reality: a huge talent gap remains between Iowa State and every other team in the Big 12 except Kansas. How did Gene Chizik do at ISU? How's he been at Auburn? Talent matters more than anything else.
  • Northwestern isn't a good footbal team, but that win Saturday changes Iowa's season. Plus, coming up next, Indiana and Minnesota, two awful teams. How much do you think ISU wishes those two were next about now?
  • Tony LaRussa is the kind of guy you love if he's leading your team, and can't stand if he's not. He looks like a genius about now.
  • Ditto Jim Harbaugh.
  • I can't believe the Cardinals are in the World Series. Again.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Here's the thing about Steele Jantz...


Here's the thing about Steele Jantz; he's not that good --- not nearly as good as Iowa made him look. We've all been wondering when the old Steele Jantz that we saw one September afternoon would show back up. I'm now convinced that amazing showing was more a product of Iowa's defense than Jantz's magic. The Hawks let Jantz do whatever he pleased. When he has time to throw the ball, he can be great --- but so can 99% of all BCS quarterbacks. Jantz is a guy you have to pressure. As we've seen in every game (other than Iowa), Jantz is prone to make mistakes.

Take away the Iowa game and Jantz has thrown 6 TD's, to 8 INT's. And then there are the fumbles. Jantz is losing the ball at an alarming rate. Every time the guy takes off, the ball seems to squirt out like a moist bar of soap. That being said, I don't think Barnett is the answer. Jantz still gives you the best chance to win. The problem is, outside of one game vs. Kansas, those chances are pretty slim.

If you think Jantz's numbers are bad, check out how Iowa State's team stats stack up nationally. Keep in mind, there are only 120 FBS teams.

108th - Total Defense
110th - Penalties
111th - Time of Possession
115th - Kicking
115th - Scoring Defense
117th - Scoring Margin

I can't put too much blame on Rhoads, however. There aren't many teams that could put up good numbers against the level of competition ISU has been playing. Texas A&M is in town this weekend. Yikes....

IndyCar Tragedy, Northwestern Dumb Dumb Dumbbells, Cards in the Series


Dan Wheldon, after winning 2011 Indy 500, kissing the bricks with 2-year old son Sebastian
IndyCar certainly isn't the most popular sport in America, but the death of Dan Wheldon seems to have hit people hard from coast to coast (and abroad since Wheldon was from England).  It's not the equivalent that Dale Earnhardt's death was to Nascar, but Wheldon was one of the best and brightest stars on the circuit.  He leaves behind a wife and two young kids.  The final five lap tribute was some of the most powerful sports television, both moving and heartbreaking, I've ever seen.

Wheldon won in Iowa back in 2008 and, though he didn't race in this past year's Iowa Indy Corn 250, was at the event doing reporting for TV.  A lot of people at WHO and other media outlets across town are pretty shaken up over this.  The IndyCar drivers are some of the friendliest and most fun professionals we get to talk to.  Frankly I'm shocked there weren't more serious injuries after that wreck.

I'm sure the debate over safety will be brought up.  IndyCar is one of the safer racing circuits out there by and large.  If Wheldon's car doesn't get flipped he probably walks away.  Wouldn't be shocked if changes are made to slow down the cars a bit (Wheldon had actually been working and test driving on the new IndyCar that will be raced in 2012), and the big complaint from this event was that the field might have been too large, giving less room on the track to avoid crashes.

Can't say enough about the performance of Marvin McNutt last night at Kinnick.  You all saw the touchdown grab and his other big grabs.  What you didn't see and hear was how vocal he was throughout the game in pregame huddles and on the bench pumping up the crowd.  Perhaps just as big as his touchdown grab were the two onside kick recoveries.  We all know big time wide receivers can be drama queens, but McNutt busts his butt in every phase of the game.

Should Have Sent Out Shake Weights
I didn't watch Dan Persa's previous games against Iowa (though my first boss in the TV business was a Northwestern alum so I always heard plenty about it), but I can't believe Iowa has had so much trouble with him (and they had more talent in previous losses on defense too).  To his credit, he is a tough nut, and the shots he was taking would have knocked most guys out of the game early.  But the guy plays like his hair is on fire, and that 95-yard Pick 6 he threw was one of the worst decisions I've ever seen made on a football field.  That's a play you would expect in Pop Warner Football, not from a senior captain.  Those purple dumbbells Northwestern sent out look more like shake weights now.

Mixed bag performance on defense.  Terrible on third down but, with a ton of injuries, they got a ton more pressure out of their front four.

I and a lot of people have been quick to praise Paul Rhoads this season, and rightfully so.  He took over a mess of a program from the Chiz who shall remain nameless and scored some big wins.  And most everyone thought squeezing six wins out of this schedule would be a minor miracle coming into the season.  But what the heck was that at Mizzou?  The Tigers aren't terrible but should not be 52-17 good against anybody in FBS.  It'll be an interesting press day in Ames tomorrow, and I'm curious to see what Rhoads has to say.

How Did This Happen?
The Cardinals are in the World Series.  Step back and consider that.  They lost Adam Wainright preseason.  Albert Pujols has had constant baggage all year with the contract situation.  Matt Holliday and numerous other guys have been dinged up all year.  The rotation outside of Carpenter (who struggled for about half the year too) was awful even in winning the NLCS.  They were dead as a doornail in August after losing 7 of 9 to the Pirates, Cubs and Dodgers.

And yet they're four wins from a championship and will have HOMEFIELD.  Pujols certainly deserves a lot of praise for his postseason performance.  David Freese has been ridiculous.  But this is all on Tony LaRussa.  Keeping this bunch together might be his best coaching job ever, and that's saying a lot.

Andy will be insufferable for the next week.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cyclone Meltdown, Hawkeye Redemption


That was as bad as I've seen Iowa State look under Paul Rhoads. Yes, they've had some lopsided losses, but not against a team as mediocre as Missouri. The Tigers entered the game with a losing record, not Iowa State. This was an absolute beat down. Next week, the Cyclones host Texas A&M on national tv. If Rhoads holds true to his pattern, the Cyclones will come to play and make a game of it. This is one of the toughest schedules Iowa State has ever had, but it's still going to be tough when they're home for the holidays after starting 3-0.

Hawkeye fans can't get over how bad Iowa State has looked since beating their beloved Hawkeyes, 44-41 in triple overtime. The fact is, Iowa allowed Steele Jantz to run roughshod over them. Every other team  has pressured Jantz, and forced him into mistakes. Iowa's whole philosophy is to wait for its opponents to make its own mistakes.

I've been very critical of Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeye football team, this season...but I must give credit where credit is due. Yes, the Hawks blew a 17-0 lead, but they stood tall when most people thought they would fall flat. A loss to Northwestern would've been a death-blow for the Hawkeyes, this season. They stepped up when they needed to, and now they have a chance to be relevant in the Legends Division race. Iowa should win its next two games against Indiana, and Minnesota. That would make them 3-1 heading into a pair of Kinnick showdowns with Michigan and Michigan State. There's still a chance the game in Lincoln on the final weekend of the year will be for the divisional title.

Iowa and Northwestern combined for 38 points in the 4th quarter. Maybe these two teams should be in the
Big 12.

Marcus Coker finally looked like the Marcus Coker of old. He runs like he's blindfolded, but the guy runs hard. Can't fault him for that.

I hate Wisconsin, but I feel bad for them. The Badgers haven't won by fewer than 30 points all season, and they might not get an opportunity to play for the national title. If OU runs the table, they'll play the LSU/Bama winner, and Wisconsin will get the short straw. College football is my favorite sport of all, but it drives me absolutely nuts.The Badgers will get their first real test of the season at Michigan State, next Saturday. The Spartans have a defense, unlike Nebraska.

How can anyone like Bo Pelini? If he's not yelling, he's standing there looking like a fool.

At a high school game, on Friday night, I overheard something I still can't wrap my head around. A kid that couldn't have been more than 6 years old hit what I believe is his mother, and called her the "b" word. His Mom looked at him and said "Don't f---ing hit me!" Can't make it up.

Props to Waukee High School for the best pregame atmosphere in the CIML. It almost feels like I'm at a college game when the Warriors take the field. Valley wasn't concerned with the pregame excitement...the Tigers were more concerned with the game. Valley won BIG. 'V' is back.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Football Friday, Northwestern Jinx, Conference Megatron


It's hard to believe we only have one more week of regular season play in the prep football season.  Though it seems a little weird to me they truncate the playoffs a bit to beat the cold.  It's football, it's supposed to be played in the cold.  Most fun I had was winning a playoff game in a few inches of snow (granted it helped we dropped a Benjamin on the other team).

Not a whole lot of surprise this week.   Valley is Valley again, crushing a hot Waukee team 55-14 on the road.  Indianola, winless after a rules violation stripped them of a couple victories, led Dowling 7-0 at half before the Maroons rallied to win 21-7.  All but certain these two are meeting in the playoffs (shocking no?).

ADM Adel and Norwalk might be on a collision course too.  The Warriors got a big road win in Newton 35-28 while ADM hammered Saydel.

I'm not a fan of cheerleading, but kudos to the squad at Hoover High School.  The Huskies are having a rough year, 0-8 after losing 70-16 to Lincoln.  They may have the toughest job in the city, but they keep cheering and trying to lift the spirits of fans and players.  It reminds you that Friday Night Lights is about more than the scoreboard.

There's a lot of negativity toward the Hawkeyes.  I get it after last weeks debacle at Penn State and the recent Northwestern success against Iowa.  I don't buy it.  Northwestern is Charmin soft.  They're bad defensively and they get rattled easily.  It won't be easy, but the Hawks are going to bounce back. 

No clue what to expect from the Cyclones.  If this team is going bowling they need to steal games like this on the road.  I just hope it doesn't come down to a field goal or extra point.

At one point in Game 5 of the NLCS, Zach Greinke had thrown 74 pitches with only one being swung at and missed.  It's a best of two in Milwaukee now for the Cards.  Everyone, including Andy Fales, keeps pointing to the Brewers home record when saying their not confident the Cards can move on.  Thing is, even in the game one loss, St. Louis looked pretty darn comfortable there.  I think the homefield in this series is overrated.

Remember when we were talking about the 16-team superconferences?  Well Conference USA and the Mountain West have beaten everybody to the punch.  The two leagues are merging to form a 22 TEAM FOOTBALL CONFERENCE.  The goal is to get the BCS autobid away from the Big East.  Every time you think realignment can't get any crazier......

The other half is that both leagues are trying to fend off the Big East from poaching its teams.  The Big East has invited Air Force, Boise State, Houston, SMU and Central Florida.  With the Big East potentially losing more teams (UCONN, WVA, Louisville), and the merged league being more TV friendly, I'm not sure it's more appealing than Conference Megatron.  Hopefully these leagues will at least get new names.  It's hard to call conference's that have teams in every timezone the "Mountain West" or "Big East".

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Greenwood Miracle,TBS Torture, Laptop Crap

  • "Written In The Stars" song, or Brian Wilson's XXL chalupa ad? Which one is more likely to make you stop watching otherwise interesting baseball playoff coverage on TBS? I'd include the 117 times I've now seen Ray Romano stand up to cancer by bringing those dining ladies a check, but hey, Ray's standing up to cancer, not ranting nonsensical jibberish about a glorified burrito while wearing no beardnet.
How much more can we take?
  • Andy Fales is at game 4 in St. Louis. The Brewers win all but guarantees Andy's in a grumpy mood all weekend, which is never a bad thing for What's Bugging Andy?

    Andy Thursday night when the Cardinals were leading. The picture a few innings later would look much different.
  • Great news out of Iowa City Hospitals that Brett Greenwood is out of his medically induced coma. The nurse tells the Register's Tommy Birch it's a "miracle". She says Greenwood has spoken, though it remains unclear what kind of recovery lies ahead. Regardless, it's encouraging beyond words. I can't imagine how relieved Brett's family feels right now.
  • The ease with which we can send someone an email or a tweet leads to mostly positve connections. However, we now get so many emails for the sports office, SoundOFF, the radio show, and just personal messages, that I at times lose track of responses I intended to send at a quieter time. That's almost always a bad strategy. I know I shouldn't wait. If you've tried to reach me, and I didn't answer, I apologize. Please email again. I'm trying to keep up.
  • My laptop just crapped out. I work, on average, about four hours from home each day. I'm already lost trying to use my wife's tiny little laptop that looks like it was designed for a small child, or Prince. What do I need to buy? Should I really drop a grand on a Mac?
  • Our Hawkeye Insider, Jon Miller, of Hawkeye picked Northwestern this week. I'm not sure if Jon's using reverse psychology. Probably. I disagree with the pick. I think Iowa wins comfortably. Jon won't mind if he's wrong and I'm right.
  • Parent-teacher conferences tonight. Our two youngest are still really proud and excited to have us meet with their teachers. We better enjoy that while we can.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Enough Chalupas, Arrive Early, Crystal Beth

  • I can't take much more of Brian Wilson's XXL chalupa commercial. I was okay the first 100 times I saw it this week, but now I'm tired.
  • If the Rangers and Brewers play in the World Series, Fox may tape delay it.
  • Not really.
  • Maria Bello is so good in Prime Suspect that I'm giving the show and cast time to catch up, and then they'll have a hit.
  • I don't know if Hawkeye fans can actually pull this off Saturday night, but if they do, it will be really cool. (If you're going to the game, you're asked to be in your seat 15 minutes early. You'll find a two-sided card.)
If it doesn't work, blame tailgating.
  • Someone sent us a picture for SoundOFF. The viewer thought this might be Cooter Ray's wife, Crystal Beth, but it's not even close. Though I could see Crystal Beth saving money on rollers.
Not Crystal Beth, though Cooter Ray does leave empty cans behind.

  • Speaking of Nebraska, a serious loss for the Cornhuskers, Jared Crick out for the season with a torn pec muscle. Crick can be great when he's got it going, and though the Nebraska D hasn't lived up to the hype, it's too bad Crick can't keep playing. Next stop, NFL.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Held to 3, Bad Officiating, Florida Flop

  • I'm still stunned at Iowa's offensive output at Penn State. With all due respect to the Nittany Lions solid defense, there is just no way Iowa should be held to a field goal. Too many weapons.
  • I'll be surprised if Iowa doesn't beat Northwestern Saturday night, and I don't think it will be that close.
  • The phantom offsides call on the Iowa State kicking team at Baylor is one of the worst calls I've ever seen. I don't buy for a second the officials were "out to get the Cyclones", or that it cost ISU the game, but bad calls and bad mistakes (by Iowa State) ended any chance the Cyclones had.
  • Remember when Baylor was viewed as a W on the schedule? RG3.
  • We did not travel to Waco, so we're not owed an explanation by Iowa State why players weren't made available to the media after the game. However, for a reporter like Andrew Logue of the Des Moines Register, who was there, those quotes are an essential part of his job, and communicating the reason for the freeze is not too much to ask. Knowing how upset Paul Rhoads and his players appeared after the game, and how accomodating Iowa State typically is, I'm sure there is a logical explanation. ISU, more than most, understands it is a state-run institution with an obligation to grant reasonable media access, as well as an essential need for coverage and publicity of the football program.
  • The lack of post-game player quotes hurt Logue further when his flight from Waco was cancelled, and Andrew missed ISU's Monday media access opportunity. He said it was just a "lousy trip", complete with a prop plane that looked like it should be piloted by Amelia Earhart. Wonder if Andrew sat next to Del Griffith.
Andrew's pilot and plane from Waco?
  • There are no schools from Florida in the AP top 25. That should never happen.
  • Basketball media days arrive too early, and go mostly unappreciated, but I think Cyclone fans will lean in Wednesday because they can't wait for any glimpse of what kind of hand Fred Hoiberg has.
  • My wife and I needed a little weekend get-away to contemplate some life decisions, so we headed down to Honey Creek Resort at Rathbun Lake. This time we rented a cottage, and it was all we hoped, which is to say, in no way roughing it. In fact, we had Directv on an HD flat screen above a gas fireplace.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rhoads Makes a Mistake and Ferentz is Overrated


I can't believe all the talk from ISU fans and media members after Saturday's loss to Baylor. Yes, there were some bad calls. Yes, it might have made a difference in the outcome. However, the so-called "Cyclone bias" is something I can't seem to wrap my head around. Why would officials be out to get Iowa State...especially in a game against Baylor? What would officials from the Big 12 have against ISU? Hating Iowa State would be like hating hating a puppy for being sluggish and cute. What is there not to like?

Actually, I might have an answer. Paul Rhoads didn't make his players available to be interviewed after the game. That doesn't sound like a big deal, to fans, but it's a huge deal for the media. We often make decisions on which games to cover based on interview availability. For instance, it may serve Channel 13's viewers more, if we sent a reporter to cover ISU's game at Missouri, instead of Iowa's game against Northwestern. We will be able to get highlights of the game, even though it's not on TV. But if we go to Missouri, we'll also give our viewers a chance to hear from the Cyclones. The Hawks game won't end until 9pm, so there's no way we could get post-game interviews on for 10pm.

In light of what happened in Waco, however, we probably won't go to Missouri. What if Rhoads decides, once again, to keep his players off-limits? It wouldn't be worth the time and money to go down there if we can't do our jobs. We haven't heard back from Iowa State as to what the reason actually was. Maybe Rhoads had a legitimate excuse. We'll see. The reason it makes me scratch my head, is because Iowa State has often been upset with us (or another tv station/newspaper) for not covering a game when ISU registered a huge win (i.e. ISU @ Nebraska 2009...we were covering Iowa's last-second win at Michigan State). This kind of move does not encourage the media to cover an athletic program that is always fighting for more coverage.

I would like to point out, however, that Iowa State is usually a pleasure to cover. The coaches are more approachable than those at Iowa. The SID's understand what they're getting paid to do, unlike Iowa. This is one of the few head-scratchers in the 5+ years I've been covering Iowa State athletics.

The Hawkeyes haven't beaten Northwestern at Kinnick, since 2002. The 'Cats have won the last three games in Iowa City. They have more wins at Kinnick over that span, than any other team in the country. If Ferentz doesn't find a way to break the curse of the Fitzgerald, this weekend, Hawkeye fans are going to come after Ferentz like never before. Northwestern is a bad team, this year. This isn't the NW team that averaged 8 wins a season over the last 3 years.

There seems to be a perception that Kirk Ferentz continuously helps the Hawkeyes overachieve. That's just not the case. Kirk Ferentz is 26-23 in Big Ten games since the Big Ten championship season of 2004. I don't think fans that are ready for a change at the head coaching position are as crazy as some people think. The fact is, over the past 6+ seasons, on average, Iowa is an average team at best. That's hard to take when you look around the Big Ten and see teams like Wisconsin (a team that is supposed to be a mirror image of Iowa) growing by leaps and bounds.

I'll withhold judgement of Ferentz's performance, this season, until later on in the year. With the extremely soft schedule, there's still a chance for this team to win 8 games.

It was a must-win for the Bears at Detroit, tonight. A loss would put Chicago 3-games behind the Packers and the Lions in the NFC North. And a loss is exactly what it looks like they're going to get. With the NBA season on ice, I guess Chicago fans will have to make due with the Blackhawks all winter.

Mark Phelps still hasn't decided how many games Rayvonte Rice, and Kurt Alexander, will miss after being charged with 5th-degree theft in September. It's a tough call for Phelps, who is coaching for his job this season. Drake isn't expected to do much at all this season. Without Rice, they have no chance.

Ferentz Heat, Orton Out, Big East & Missouri Valley Going West?

His seat is cooler than ice
Kirk Ferentz is drawing plenty of heat from fans.  You can take one look at our email box at SoundOFF to figure that out.  I agree with Chris, though, only JoePa has more job security in one place than Ferentz.  Unless they start to resemble the early teams in Ferentz tenure and start winning only 1-3 games a year, Iowa still has a team that could win 7-8 games this season, and for most places that's enough.  If the criteria becomes whether or not Iowa should be paying him like a coach who wins 10-12 a year, or if they can take the step from good program to national title contender, then maybe he'll feel a little (emphasis on little) real heat in Iowa City. 

Normally when a team gives up only 13 points on the road in conference play you'd think the defense had a good day.  Not so.  Penn State gashed Iowa on the ground for more than 200 yards.  It's not like this was a dynamic offense.  One other not so fun note-FCS Indiana State scored 7 points in Happy Valley.  Granted they lost by more, but isn't it still a bit odd the team that came in with the top passing attack in the Big Ten and a potential NFL Draft pick at wideout couldn't even manage half that?

Seems like it's becoming old hat for the Cyclones, but if this team is going to hit six wins and go to a bowl, they probably have to win at Mizzou.  The Tigers aren't world beaters, but it is winnable.  The only game one would think is money in the bank for ISU is Kansas, but on the flip side, KU is probably thinking the same thing about Iowa State.

Tebow Time in Denver
John Fox finally caved to Bronco fans and pulled Kyle Orton for Tim Tebow in the Broncos home game with San Diego.  Not like Kyle was helping himself.  The Broncos trailed 23-10 at half, and Orton had thrown for just 34 yards and an interception on 6-13 passing.

And if you think Tebowmania is going to die down, oh brother no.  After starting terribly Tebow nearly led a 16 point rally, with Denver falling short 29-24.  Though the Tebow fanatics will claim its definitive proof that Tebow is Football Jesus incarnate (I kid....a little), it was an inconsistent performance.  The reality is that Orton is probably done in Denver barring injury to Tebow.  The Broncos need to figure out whether or not Tebow actually is a franchise quarterback or if they are in the "Suck For Luck" sweepstakes too.

The Vikings won AND held on to a 20 point lead from the first half!

As a Chiefs fan I'm conflicted.  Kansas City has played much better in the last few weeks, and today got their second straight win over Peyton Manning-less Indy (and a ridiculous Dwayne Bowe TD grab too).  If they win they probably take themselves out of the Andrew Luck race.  But it's never fun to lose, especially as badly as they did the first two weeks.  I should probably pick a better team to support.

Rough day for Dallas Clark.  Several drops as he looks lost without Peyton Manning.  Pat Angerer looks great, but overall, Colt coach Jim Caldwell looks like Eeyore on the sidelines without Manning.  "Hey coach, Curtis Painter just went three and out again!".  Jim Caldwell-"Ohhhhh kayyyyy."  Can't blame him, it's clear this team without Peyton is a different kind of Pooh.
Welcome to Indianapolis Colt Football 2011!!
The latest rumor in the conference realignment saga may be the wildest.  In order to survive as a football conference in the BCS, the Big East is reportedly targeting Navy, Army, AIR FORCE and BOISE STATE.  As in the Air Force and Boise State that are in the mountain timezones.  Conference realignment finds new ways to reinvent ridiculous.  The Big East must hope the BCS wouldn't have the stones to tell our armed forces that they can't have a place at the BCS table.
Nothing says BIG EAST or MISSOURI VALLEY like a school in Colorado Springs
Where this might affect us locally is at Drake and UNI in the Missouri Valley.  In the Denver Post Air Force's athletic director all but confirmed the school's intentions, saying they would move all other sports to another conference, preferably the Missouri Valley.  Boise State would (in another potential hilarious and nonsensical development) possibly send the rest of their sports back to the WAC after leaving that league just last year.

Air Force even claims they turned down interest from the Big 12 in possible expansion with the Falcons out of fear they couldn't compete in recruiting against Texas, OU and OSU.  Shows you how much greed there is in this.  A school like Air Force gets its money from government funding and usually isn't lacking in money the way an Iowa State would be if you pulled them from the BCS, and yet they will blindly chase dollars that may (or may not) be there.

Saturday, October 08, 2011


WOW. Now that was ugly. The Hawkeyes scored 30 points, or more, in each of their first four games. Saturday at Penn State, they managed just 3. Absolutely shocking for an offense ranked 2nd, behind Wisconsin, and a passing attack ranked 1st in the Big Ten. I figured the game would be tough (I called it a 50/50 toss-up), but this is not what I imagined. This was the worst performance by an Iowa team since losing to Western Michigan, in 2007. Coincidentally, that was the last time Iowa lost a game by more than 7 points. The nations longest streak ended at 43 games.

This might be the worst defense Iowa has had since 2000, but what I can't make sense of is the lack of production on offense. Kirk Ferentz and company had two weeks to prepare for Penn State. Yes, PSU's defense is good, but those guys looked like the 'Steel Curtain' out there.

Hawkeye fans are starting the "Ferentz is on the hot-seat" talk, again. It's really the first time since 2007 we've heard it. Even if Ferentz deserved to be fired, it would never happen. The guy practically runs the U of I athletics department. He could go 3-9, and lose to Nebraska by 40 points, and he'd still be the head coach next season. That being said, I completely understand the frustration Iowa fans are showing. While I think Ferentz is a fantastic program-builder, I don't think he's a good in-game coach. If games were played on the practice field, Iowa may have won several national championships. Ferentz molds unwanted recruits into NFL players, but for some reason, he doesn't seem to get the most out of them every Saturday. Penn State reversed the curse against Iowa. Maybe the Hawks can do the same against Northwestern, next week. The Wildcats haven't lost at Kinnick since 2002.

Marcus Coker was extremely terse with reporters following the loss. Check out the video from Hawkeye Drive.

How much worse would things be if Iowa hadn't made that 24-point comeback against Pittsburgh, 3 weeks ago?

Iowa's game-plan (or lack thereof) was made even more frustrating when Iowa State came out and knocked #25 Baylor right in the mouth on ISU's very first offensive play. I love the flea-flicker play-call, and it worked. ISU scored a quick touchdown, and hung around a lot longer than they probably should have.

Steele Jantz finally showed some glimpses of the way he looked in the Iowa game. It's just clear the Cyclones don't have enough talent to hang with a team like Baylor, on the road. The good news is, next week's game at Missouri looks winnable. The Tigers are 0-2 in the Big 12 after losing at Kansas State, today. 

The Cyclones may start going for two after every touchdown, from here on out. Grant Mahoney missed a pair of extra points. That's just inexcusable. As a coach, that has to be the most frustrating for a head coach. It's not like Paul Rhoads can take his kickers out and show them how to boot a field goal...although Rhoads could probably make an extra point.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Bernstine Booted, Road Dogs, Dome Dumps


Todd Mihalovich isn't waiting on the legal system.  He kicked star running back Kee'Von Bernstine off the team today.  Mihalovich is a fiery guy and took some heat when it was initially reported that he'd allowed Bernstine to practice following the charges.  Bernstine's attorney said they are looking into appealing his removal from the team. 

Mihalovich said he made the decision to remove Bernstine only after he'd been informed of the details surrounding the charges for the first time.  I can't blame him.  It's a stunning and disturbing read.  Lincoln had no problems in their first game without Bernstine, winning 49-23 at Ottumwa.

It's another lesson in how fragile life can be.  Bernstine was a prep star with big FBS college schools lining up to give him a full ride scholarship.  Now he's potentially looking at prison time.  Amazing how several bad decisions can completely change lives.  And if these allegations are proven true, there's no defending this.  Domestic violence and abuse towards women cannot be taken lightly.

Normally if you lose your best player you struggle.  Not the case for Dowling, they won their second straight without star wideout Amara Darboh.  After upsetting Ankeny last week the defending state champion Maroons beat Johnston 27-14.  If Darboh returns as expected by playoffs the Maroons could be even more dangerous if they've discovered other playmakers.
Cardinals vs. Brewers in the NLCS.  Prince Fielder vs. Albert Pujols.  Winner gets to go to the World Series.  Loser signs with the Chicago Cubs.

It was easy to forget how good Chris Carpenter is after a tough early start.  Fact is the Cards need him to be this good too as shaky as their bullpen has been.

Nyjer Morgan is insane. 

The NLCS will be a lot of fun.  History between the teams in the past (1982 World Series) and recently some bad blood.  It's sure as hell a lot more fun than seeing Arizona in.  The D-Backs had just 38,000 show up for game four.  Tampa Bay also struggled to draw in their series.  It's a shame these two teams are based in what seem like retirement communities.  In St. Louis or Chicago young teams like that would be embraced and beloved.  In Arizona and Tampa they're just glad they don't have baseball to conflict with the big bridge and jin rummy tournaments at the local YMCA.

Both Iowa and Iowa State are road dogs tomorrow.  Iowa has owned Penn State of late and the fighting JoePa's aren't world beaters this year.  Sooner or later all streaks have to end, but I think Iowa finds a way to win.  The key here is that Penn State's offense plays right into one of the few strengths of Iowa's defense.  The Hawks have been strong against the run (see the Pitt game against Ray Graham) and struggled against the mobile option type QBs.  PSU probably won't be overly dynamic and is just going to pound it straight ahead. 

I think Iowa State is much improved on defense and can go in and limit Baylor just enough to give the Cyclones a chance.  Whether or not the ISU offense can clean up the mistakes and turnovers in one week to compete in a shootout I doubt.  I think it's close for a while, but Baylor pulls away and covers.

I'm headed up to Cedar Falls tomorrow as we at WHO Sports show some love for the #2 ranked Northern Iowa Panthers.  UNI starts a tough stretch with 17th ranked Indiana State.  Hopefully the Panthers get a good crowd as they'll have the state all to themselves tomorrow (granted they start in between Iowa and ISU kickoffs at 4).

It's my first trip to the UNI Dome, though I'm sure I'll make plenty more for state football and any UNI playoff games.  It's the fourth time I've shot a game in a dome (Metrodome and a couple on the Dakota tundra) and I absolutely hate them.  If the crowd is big and into the game it helps, but walking into a dome is like walking into a smoking break room.  I don't care if it's -10 with a blizzard in the winters, football should be played outdoors.  Layer up and sack up.  That video from the Metrodome roof collapsing?  I wish that would happen at every dome in America.