Iowa Football: Ferentz, Vandenberg & Other Issues Still Haunting Hawkeyes Fans
With the embarrassing loss at Minnesota still on the mind of Hawks fans everywhere, I am here to offer some perspective.
I waited a couple days before embarking on this task of thinking anything positive about Iowa football, because it sure was hard after Saturday's game. I did not want this to be a scathing rant like many people felt like writing last weekend.
It seems like most Hawkeyes fans fall in two camps.
There is the camp that is totally against everything Iowa right now and think Kirk Ferentz and his entire coaching staff need to go. And there is the camp that claims Kirk's past track record, Iowa's (except for 2010) annual strong November play and James Vandenberg's strong arm can get this team back on track before this weeks looming matchup with Denard Robinson and the Michigan Wolverines.
I have identified five issues, or opinions, that I feel are relevant to all Hawkeyes fans and attempted to shed some light on all of them.
1. Blaming the Defense Is Indefensible
A lot of attention has been paid to the "defensive collapse" at the end of the game last Saturday.
Yes, the defense did give up two big scores in the fourth quarter that ultimately led to the Hawk's demise. Yes, they did a terrible job of containment on the quarterback on the big scoring play. Yes, they could have played better. Yes, I understand that Minnesota is a bad offensive team, but they have a mobile quarterback, which always causes Iowa defenses fits
However, let's think about a couple things.
First, the defense didn't do that bad of a job this weekend. 22 points given up against a team with a defense like Minnesota's isn't insurmountable by any means. Looking back, 22 points should have been enough for Minnesota to be within three touchdowns of Iowa, not winning the game 22-21.
Yardage wise, the Hawkeyes gave up 371 total yards to the Gophers. Why are people up in arms about 371 yards? This is the least Iowa has given up in the Big Ten this season, and that includes the bore-fest in Happy Valley.
Northwestern and Indiana racked up 495 and 414 total yards, respectively. Iowa state had 473 and Pitt had 422. Even ULM got 352 yards.
Was the defense bad Saturday? Eh, kind of. But no worse, then they have been all season at times. Let's also not forget, the defense is designed to give up yards. "Bend but don't break" is the motto. They broke for 22 points. Not too bad.
Secondly, special teams and the offense didn't do the defense many favors.
Most defenses in college football are going to give up points after being on the field for over 11 minutes of game time like the Iowa defense was in the fourth quarter. What that mostly their fault? Sure, some of it. But some of it was on the special teams for being unprepared yet again.
The defense is an Iowa defense. They will give up yards and points. They will probably keep the game close. Do I wish they mixed it up more and blitzed sometimes? Absolutely. But this is Iowa. Nothing has changed.
2. Coaching Change Are Needed, Just Not at the Top
Yes, I am calling for some coaching changes in Iowa City. However, I am not calling for a new head man.
Kirk Ferentz's record at Iowa speaks for itself. I understand Iowa has underachieved a bit for some seasons over the last five or six years, but I can deal with that when there is also years like the 2002 year and the 2009 year sprinkled in.
Ferentz may not show much fire on the sidelines, which I really wish he did, but that is just Ferentz's way. I will say, maybe he should take a look at the way the fans have embraced Fran McCaffery and the way the Iowa basketball team took on his personality last season as a model of how to bring some controlled energy to the Iowa sideline.
The coaching changes I am calling for are, not surprisingly, at the coordinator positions.
I love Norm Parker, but his time is about up. I truly do wish it wasn't, but Parker's health problems and his age have caught up to him.
The coordinator I am most anxious to get out Iowa City is Ken O'Keefe. I haven't been happy with O'Keefe's overall offensive scheme even during the good years. Iowa's offense is often too predictable and there always seems to be an unusually high amount of confusion on two-minute drill situations.
The Ferentz/O'Keef/Parker trio has had a great run. I still want to see Kirk patrolling Iowa's sidelines for years to come, but I wouldn't mind a couple of different coordinator's on his sides.
Hey Mike Stoops and Chuck Long, you busy?
3. I Miss Ricky Stanzi
This is one argument I didn't want to win.
I have been arguing since 2009 that James Vandenberg was not going to be the next Chuck Long, or even Drew Tate, that many thought he was.
I said it after his valiant performance as a freshman in the Horseshoe in Columbus, which was followed up by a dismal performance in a win against Minnesota.
I said it even after his record comeback against Pittsburgh.
I am saying it now after the terrible road performances we have seen at Penn State and Minnesota this year.
James Vandenberg is not the leader and quarterback that Ricky Stanzi was.
Vandenberg remains winless on the road for his career. His numbers are helped by arguably the best receiving tandem in Iowa history in Marvin McNutt and Keenan Davis. (I am not saying Davis is an all-time great, but he has to be one of the better No. 2 receivers in Iowa history)
Through 10 starts, he is 6-4. 6-0 at Kinnick and 0-4 on the road.
In his junior season, Stanzi won at Iowa State, at Michigan State, at Wisconsin and in Miami at the Orange Bowl. I miss you, Ricky.
4. Play/Don't Play
Is anybody else tired of seeing Iowa's tight ends drop passes? I really liked Brad Herman last year, and still do at times this year, but he has had one too many drops for me to be on his side any more.
It is time for C.J. Fiedorowicz to get his shot at being the next great tight end for the Hawkeyes. He has the size and talent to do it right now.
The only obstacle I can see is if he is not as good at pass protection or run blocking as Herman or Zach Derby. That is always hard to tell as a fan, because who wants to take their eyes away from the developing play to watch the tight end block? But if he is anywhere close to the other guys at that, he should be in there.
As for a couple other young stars in the making, Mika'il McCall and Jake Rudock: Redshirt them now. The Hawkeyes are 5-3. The season is far from over, but it also isn't going to end in Pasadena.
Let these two ultra-talented players redshirt together and come in next year ready to contribute or, in Rudock's case, have at least three years as a possible starting quarterback.
5. Let the Stars Win or Lose the Game
This is an issue I have had with the Hawkeye's two-minute drills in the past, but at no time more so than last Saturday.
On the potential game-winning drive, the Hawks threw three passes. Two went to Brad Herman, and one went to Jason White.
No Marcus Coker. No Marvin McNutt. No Kevonte Martin-Manley.
Were these guys so tightly covered that Vandenberg couldn't pass it to them and took the better option, or were these the numbers called by O'Keefe?
Hard to tell.
What I can tell you is that Iowa needs to trust their "guys" to win or lose the game when it is on the line.
There was 2:38 left. Give Coker a run or two. He was breaking off six or seven yards every carry. Throw a pass to McNutt, covered or not, and let him try to go up and get it.
Just know that if you go down, you go down swinging. The Hawks went down like a 100 mph throwing pitcher, getting beat on a hanging slider after throwing two fastballs by the hitter.
The season is far from over.
I, as much as anybody, did not ever want to think about last Saturday ever again.
However, those are five things I feel strongly about and felt it was imperative to see how Hawkeye Nation feels now, before either a beating from Michigan or an upset win over the Wolverines.
What is the opinion of Hawkeye Nation right now?
Mine is that the Hawkeyes need help. Maybe not as much help as some people think, but they need some.