There was a Seinfeld episode in which Jerry sees a new restaurant across the street from his apartment that is struggling to attract guests. He patronizes the establishment and befriends the Pakistani owner, Babu Bhatt. Jerry suggests that the restaurant is struggling because the menu is too varied. He further suggests that the restaurant owner is missing out on an opportunity to be unique and should convert the menu and decor to be exclusively Pakistani. Bhatt takes Jerry’s advice and completely remodels. Business only worsens and the end of the scenario is Bhatt being deported.
On the last play of the third quarter in last Saturday’s loss to Northern Illinois University, the University of Iowa Hawkeyes were faced with a third-and-one on offense. The Hawkeyes had a 24-20 lead and were at their own 40 yard line. That was the moment when they closed up shop and re-opened the doors with a complete renovation. Instead of handing the ball off to Mark Weisman or Damon Bullock and trusting the offensive line to get a yard to start off the fourth quarter with a first and ten near midfield and a lead, an incomplete pass deep down the field was the play.
Iowa’s momentum went the direction of Bhatt’s restaurant and the Hawkeyes ended up losing. Post-game interviews given by Coach Kirk Ferentz and others haven’t alluded to whether the deep pass was the design of the play call by Hawkeyes’ offensive coordinator Greg Davis or it was a decision made by quarterback Kyle Rudock to throw that pass instead of a shorter one. Either way, it came at a horrible time. Trying to catch the defense off-guard is understandable. Having faith in your punter and defense is understandable. That was not the time to re-design, however.
Every situational indicator points to the fact that running the ball was the right call. The Hawkeyes had a redshirt freshman quarterback (Rudock) making his first ever start in his first ever collegiate game. The intended receiver was a true freshman (Damond Powell) playing in his first ever collegiate game. The secondary and pass rush are the strengths of the Northern Illinois defense. You have an experienced offensive line and two talented running backs (Bullock and Weisman) with some experience. You’ve got the lead, and as long as you hold onto the ball your defense rests and you keep Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch on the sideline.
Of course, it can’t even be assumed that the Hawkeyes would have gotten the necessary yard if they had decided to run the ball. Odds are likely that they would have converted it based on earlier success, but there is no guarantee. It can’t be assumed that the Hawkeyes would have finished that drive off with points. At this point, re-hashing the decision is crying over spilled Pakistani food.
The important thing that can be taken away from it is a lesson. If the Hawkeyes want to get cute, test the play-making abilities of their redshirt freshman quarterback and true freshman receiver, they should do it this weekend against Missouri State, not against a team like Northern Illinois. Offenses like that can turn a four point deficit into a three point lead in one play at any time. Considering the overall youth and lack of play-making abilities of this team, opening the Pakistani restaurant now is not wise.