For the longest time the philosophy has remained the same. The Iowa offense scores points, the Iowa defense wins games. Take a look back to the 2009 season. A 10-2 record, an Orange Bowl appearance, and oh so close to Kirk Ferentz’s 3rd Big Ten championship. Week 1 vs. Northern Iowa, Iowa elected to punt late in the 4th quarter on a 4th and short play. What ensued was a long drive by the Panthers which culminated in a field goal attempt to upset the Hawkeyes. 2 blocked field goals later, and a rule I still don’t get, Iowa escaped that day with a 17-16 victory.
That game was one of many where Kirk Ferentz and co. relied on the defense to make the big play or come up with a huge stop. Last year was the same, only it didn’t quite work out. Plenty of times last season Iowa’s defense was expected to make the big stop. When the Badgers from Wisconsin rolled into town, the defense couldn’t stop the Wisconsin offense from driving down the field in the 4th quarter and taking a 31-30 lead. It was that philosophy that got Kirk Ferentz and his coordinators, Ken O’Keefe and Norm Parker, to where they are today.
But at some point don’t you have to change? At some point you have to look at the personnel you have and make adjustments, and now is that time. Gone are they dynamic playmakers on the Hawkeyes defensive line and in the secondary. All-Big Ten performers Adrian Clayborn and Tyler Sash have found greener pastures in the NFL. A group of inexperienced young players fill their roles. No disrespect to the Greg Castillo’s and Lebron Daniel’s of the world, but they are no All-Big Ten players.
What you do have, however, is an offense that could explode. While we only have a small sample size from James Vandenberg and Marcus Coker, the talent is there. James Vandenberg has led a 4th quarter drive in The Horseshoe to tie the game vs. #10 Ohio State. Marcus Coker set an Iowa freshman recrod with his performance vs. #14 Missouri last December. Let’s not forget that the Hawkeyes have Marvin McNutt at wide receiver, a converted quarterback who should easily break the receiving touchdown record this fall. Keenan Davis was a top 100 high school recruit 2 years ago, and C.J. Fiedorowicz and Brad Herman provide Vandenberg with 2 big targets at tight end.
Also on the offensive side of the ball, the Hawkeyes boast one of the Big Ten’s best lines. Riley Reiff heads the unit as he is expected to be selected in the 1st round of the NFL draft in April. James Ferentz, Markus Zusecivs, and Adam Gettis all return with starting experience. Iowa hasn’t relied on its offense to win games for quite some time, but now is that time.
You have unknowns in Vandenberg and Coker, but what not a better way than to let them lead a 4th quarter drive vs. your in-state rival in 1:17. That’s what the coaching staff could have done last Saturday. Instead they decided to sit on the ball and head into overtime. What ensued was what happened all game, an Iowa State offensive onslaught. Had Ricky Stanzi been in there at quarterback, Ferentz probably rolls the dice on first down to see if his senior quarterback can move the ball into field goal range. Instead he saw a junior quarterback starting his 4th game and ran the ball 2 straight times.
I’m not asking to see this fancy spread style offense that you see in Florida, Oregon, or Oklahoma. However you’d like to see some kind of confidence in the unit that will have to lead your team. Before the season I pegged Iowa as an 8 or 9 win team. It seems they are always good for one big upset and one big let down. That number could go remarkably down, like to 6 or 7, if the Hawkeyes don’t get the ball rolling on offense.