Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hawkeye Upset, Cyclone Letdown, Bowl Game Blues

By Zach Borg

Happy New Year Everyone!  Live it up because a bunch of ancient Indians and astrology nuts say it will be our last.
So at the exact moment I returned to Des Moines from Tempe, the Hawkeyes pulled a stunning upset over #11 Wisconsin while the Cyclones nearly laid a titanic egg vs 1-11 Mississippi Valley State.  And it felt like it was in the 50's outside.  Am I in the Twilight Zone?

Long way yet to go in this season, but Fran McCaffery has a signature win and the Hawkeyes have something to build on.  This team easily could have been 2-0 in league play if they finish vs. Purdue.

The best thing about this team is that, even if they are getting drilled in games, they try to push the tempo and it is fun to watch.  Most importantly, despite all the early blowouts, it seems this Hawkeye team has improved game-by-game.  Watching Aaron White and Roy Devyn Marble play, plus the knowledge of a big recruiting class on its way, is tantalizing. 

I don't know that the same can be said for the Cyclones.  Yes they were missing their best weapon, Royce White.  But they were playing a 1-11 team.  And they let an 18 point lead slip away.  Letting big leads disappear was a problem WITH White.  Win is a win, but the margin for error now gets razor thin in the Big 12.

If you ever wonder why Iowa football gets such good bowl games even if they aren't necessarily deserving, I present last nights Insight Bowl.  More than 54-thousand set a new Insight Bowl record.  Most were Iowa fans, and they did it in a disappointing 7-5 year.

Perhaps most disturbing about this season is the way it ended.  In three of Iowa's final four games they fell behind by 20 or more points.  All three were losses.  The Hawkeyes were punched in the mouth early in the games and never really were able to fight back.  They came close against OU but it was too little, too late.

I thought Iowa's defense did play inspired for Norm Parker and players admitted as much after.  The defense did just about everything it could to win the game but turnovers and mistakes put them in bad position, or left them to be gassed, all day.  Best number-OU was up 7-0 after one quarter despite getting just 7 yards of offense.

I'll be curious to see how the staff handles James Vandenberg next year.  His two saving graces were Marvin McNutt and not having a good backup QB.  I have no doubt Vandenberg starts next year, but if he can't get more consistent, especially away from Kinnick Stadium, I wouldn't be shocked at all if he is benched a series or two in games.  Jake Ruddock was redshirted and is probably being groomed as a QB of the future, and on Saturday night JUCO QB Cody Sokol committed to Iowa as well.  Next year there will actually be some competition at quarterback for JVB. 

I obviously didn't watch the Pinstripe Bowl as closely, but I don't get the Steele Jantz/Jared Barnett/Paul Rhoads trifecta of terror yesterday.  Barnett had been shaky at times in other games, including the win over Oklahoma State, but they never pulled him. 

It didn't take long for a few emails saying Rhoads is being overpaid for having another losing season.  Somehow I'm guessing the Iowa fans who sent me the email don't feel a 7-6 record is worth paying Kirk Ferentz twice as much either.

Normally you want to use a bowl and the extra practice as a springboard.  It really won't be for both teams, if anything they make things more out of focus.  ISU has a QB controversy again, and Iowa badly needs some fresh ideas on the staff.
You know Twitter runs the world when seniors on both the ISU and Iowa teams rejoining Twitter just hours or minutes after playing their last game.

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