Iowa executed their game plan, especially on defense, through much of yesterday’s game against Wisconsin, and still suffered a 28-9 home loss to the Badgers. The reason for the disparity on the scoreboard wasn’t in the coaching or the scheme, it was simply the fact that the Badgers have superior athletes.
In their four losses, the Hawkeyes have been outscored 74-13 in the second halves of those games. Those four opponents have been No. 17 Northern Illinois, No. 22 Michigan State, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 24 Wisconsin. In all four of those games, Iowa either led or was within a field goal at halftime.
The fact that Iowa has been able to compete on an even par with these four teams listed in the BCS standings through 30 minutes is a credit to the Hawkeyes’ coaching staff, led by head coach Kirk Ferentz. The game plans the staff have been able to come up with have played to the strengths of the team and put Iowa in position to win the game. At that point is where the disparity of talent has killed the Hawkeyes.
Again yesterday, the second half was abysmal on offense for Iowa. Eight second half possessions ended with a field goal, two interceptions, two turnovers on downs, and three punts. The Wisconsin running game that had been contained through the first half finally broke through the Hawkeyes’ defense and put the game out of reach.
No one questions the effort or heart of this Iowa team. The reality is that they are simply outclassed on the field. In the second half of these games, the disparity in talent on the depth chart has become impossible to ignore.
If the Hawkeyes are ever going to become a team that competes for Big Ten championships year in and year out, they will have to move up as a program from one that relies on player development, to one that recruits playmakers. Until then, putting together 60 minutes of winning football against top 25 teams will be a rarity.