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Iowa Football: Is 2012 an Off Year or a Sign of Bigger Problems for the Hawks?

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Iowa Football: Is 2012 an Off Year or a Sign of Bigger Problems for the Hawks?
David Banks/Getty Images

"I don't recall seeing anyone take a delay-of-game penalty in a two-minute offense situation."

ESPN analyst, 15-year NFL veteran and former Ohio State receiver Joey Galloway said these words after the Iowa Hawkeyes took just such a delay-of-game penalty while running its two-minute offense in Saturday's 17-28 loss to the Northwestern Wildcats.

One is left to wonder if in taking such a penalty, the Hawkeyes went "out of book," which in chess means the game moved away from the known history of recorded moves and did something that has never been done before.

Of course, with chess, going "out of book" is generally a good thing. With Iowa, it was awful.

While the penalty itself might have been unique, the Hawkeyes' ineptitude in running the two-minute offense was par for the course. It is something Iowa fans used to blame on former offensive coordinator (OC) Ken O'Keefe, but a new OC has led to the same old problems. This logically leads said fans to look beyond the OC for the source of the problem.

And the only person beyond the OC is the head man himself, Kirk Ferentz.

Against the Wildcats, Iowa took three delay-of-game penalties, all of them inexcusable and two of which cost the Hawks potential scoring opportunities. The one that didn't directly cost them a scoring opportunity came on the fourth play of the game—i.e., the scripted part of the game.

Moreover, all of them were with an experienced senior quarterback and a head coach that is allowed to call timeouts.

These delays were three of many mental mistakes and questionable decisions that cost Iowa against Northwestern and have cost them on the season.

Coming into 2012, Hawkeye fans knew they had a young team, and that this would be a rebuilding year. Most came into the season expecting an eight-win-at-best team, and certainly not a team that would compete for the division title.

However, it is not the youth or even the losses that are upsetting the Iowa faithful. It is a home loss to 3-5 MAC bottom-feeder Central Michigan, not to mention a failure to compete against Penn State and NU.

All three of those games included a team that didn't look prepared, whether it was a blown onside-kick recovery, a defense that seemed surprised by NU quarterback Kain Colter's rushing ability or an abortive two-minute offense.

This unpreparedness further manifested itself in the Northwestern game via the Iowa run defense's worst performance since 2004 Minnesota, and in the PSU game via its worst home loss since 1999 Michigan State.

Even more problematic is that while the Hawkeyes are young, when looking at many of the self-perpetuating problems that are plaguing them, one consistently notices upperclassmen failing to execute.

The problem isn't the young players. The problem is the juniors and seniors who are playing sloppy, unprepared, poorly coached football.

That is the antithesis of what Kirk Ferentz built his program on. Ferentz has always stressed the importance of older players' growth and contributions. He won games by taking care of the little details.

This is exactly what isn't happening in year 14 of Ferentz's tenure as head coach in Iowa City. It is also exactly what should be happening in the 14th year of any given coach's regime.

It is as if Ferentz is going in reverse.

Looking at the remainder of the schedule, it is difficult to see this Iowa team having anything more than a puncher's chance against three of its four final opponents. The exception is Purdue, which is a home game and features a Boilermaker squad that is reeling worse than Iowa.

If Iowa does finish the season 1-3, that will leave the Hawkeyes at 5-7, bowl-less, with their worst record since year two of the Ferentz era.

That will also be three underachieving seasons in a row, and with that on the resume, it is difficult to see this season as anything but a further indication that these problems aren't a blip on the map; the program itself is in utter turmoil.

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