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Wine Online: Strong Finish Possible
Title chances all but gone, but big finish not
It's possible Iowa is missing its most important defensive coach.
It's possible Iowa is missing its most important defensive coach.
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Nov. 14, 2010


IOWA CITY, Iowa --So much for the pre-game hype for Ohio State's visit to Kinnick Stadium Saturday. Iowa's loss at Northwestern let the air out of that balloon.

Only the visiting team will be playing for the Big Ten championship. The home team will be playing for pride, a January bowl game, and a victory for its seniors -- playing at Kinnick for the last time -- to remember.


There is still enough drama involved to produce a special game, but not as much as Iowa players and fans had hoped for. They wanted be part of the championship race.

But that's not going to happen because the Hawkeyes have not played up to par since we turned the page on the calendar. And that's surprising, since Iowa teams under Coach Kirk Ferentz generally play their best football in November. That's why the performance in the two games this month has been puzzling.

Offensively, Iowa struggled against Indiana and Northwestern, two teams that rank toward the bottom of the Big Ten defensively. The Hawkeyes are not hitting on all cylinders.

They were shut out of the end zone in the first halves of both games and scored only one touchdown at Indiana and two at Northwestern. That's a huge reversal for an offense that scored 33 touchdowns in its first eight games, an average of more than four per contest.

Ricky Stanzi and his receivers seemed to be out of sync at times against defenses that have been vulnerable to the pass. Iowa has made some big plays -- touchdown passes of 52 and 70 yards -- but has been unable to sustain and finish drives.

With a fourth-quarter lead at Northwestern, when ball control would have sealed the deal, the offense failed twice, ending one possession with an interception and the second with a punt.





And it's reasonable to assume the Hawkeyes miss their defensive coordinator. Norm Parker, a diabetic, has been in recovery and therapy following a foot amputation. Not only is he one of the best defensive coaches in college football, he is also popular among his players. How could they not miss the most important coach on the defensive staff?


Defensively, the Hawkeyes have also been puzzling. They held Indiana to 13 points, less than half its per-game average, but allowed the Hoosiers to sustain a late drive that would have won the game had a receiver been able to make a difficult catch in the end zone.

After Northwestern scored an early touchdown, Iowa's defense shut down the Wildcats on their next nine possessions, allowing time for the Hawkeye offense to build a 17-7 lead. Then, the last two times the Cats had the ball, they drove 85 and 91 yards for touchdowns that decided the game.

Iowa ranks near the top of all Big Ten defensive stats. On average, it does not give up many points or yards, but it failed to protect fourth-quarter leads against Arizona, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Had it been able to do so, Iowa would be unbeaten.

It's possible that this defense misses two linebackers and a cornerback from the 2009 Iowa team who are now in the NFL. It's also possible that injuries to the current linebacking corps has taken a toll.

And it's reasonable to assume the Hawkeyes miss their defensive coordinator. Norm Parker, a diabetic, has been in recovery and therapy following a foot amputation. Not only is he one of the best defensive coaches in college football, he is also popular among his players. How could they not miss the most important coach on the defensive staff?

Two games remain for Iowa to begin playing November-like football. A victory over No. 7 ranked Ohio State might not get the Hawkeyes a piece of the Big Ten title, but it would put them on track for a strong finish to the season.



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