Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hawkeyes #18 | Recap: Iowa at Arizona

The Hawkeyes dropped 9 spots in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll released today. The Hawks are currently the highest ranked one loss team. They are the third highest rated Big Ten team between Wisconsin (#11 AP/#10 Coaches) and Michigan (#21 AP) or Penn State (#20 Coaches).

So, what happened last night?

Things got off to a lousy start when Iowa promptly went three-and-out on their initial game opening drive and a Ryan Donahue punt was blocked giving Arizona the ball inside Iowa's ten yard line. Coach Ferentz stated in the post game interview that Iowa had seen that particular punt block formation on tape from last season when Arizona played USC. He said that Iowa prepared for it and it was especially frustrating that Arizona was still able to block the punt which led to outstanding field position and eventually the first score of the game.

Iowa was able to move the ball on its second possession but after a slant pass skipped off of Marvin McNutt's hands Arizona's Trevin Wade went 85 yards for a touchdown. Five minutes off of the clock, on the road in a hostile environment, and down 14-0.

It appeared as if it was going to get worse. The Hawkeyes third possession of the game stalled and Micah Hyde was flagged for kick catch interference giving the Wildcats excellent starting field position. After driving into field goal range and poised to tack on more points, Arizona's Nic Grigsby was stripped by Jeff Tarpinian resulting in Iowa's first defensive turnover of the game.

Iowa started a drive that continued into the second quarter and resulted in a Hawkeye touchdown after Jewel Hampton crossed the goalline on a four yard carry. With the score now 14-7 the Hawkeyes looked to have weathered the initial storm and was on their way to settling down and making it a game.

Then came the kickoff from Mike Meyer and a 100 yard kickoff return by Arizona's Travis Cobb.

The kickoff coverage was an item of concern following the game with Iowa State and Ferentz had addressed it in ISU post game remarks and during his weekly call-in show. Ferentz mentioned that in order to clean things up he was placing Bruce Davis and Troy Johnson back on the KO team. Bruce Davis, consequently, was injured in the fourth quarter covering a kick. His status is still uncertain.

By halftime it was 27-7 Arizona and the Hawkeyes looked like they were destined for a repeat of the 2004 showdown in the desert versus Arizona State in which the Hawkeyes were blown out 44-7. As perhaps a psychological jab at the Hawks the Arizona scoreboard briefly read 44-7 as the Hawkeyes went to the lockerroom.

At one point in the first half Arizona had more points than it did offensive yards (21-17). Defensively Arizona defended Iowa's run with eight in the box and to counter Iowa tried to take advantage and find wide receivers deep against man coverage.

The second half we saw the resilient Hawkeyes we fell in love with in 2009. Not burying their heads the Hawkeye defense was able to stuff the Arizona passing game and the Hawkeyes found some offense. Ricky Stanzi found DJK for a 37 yard touchdown, showing signs of life.

After an Arizona muffed punt, Shaun Prater recovered the ball and the Hawkeyes were able to score after a Stanzi to McNutt touchdown which was reviewed and deemed after McNutt dragged his right foot. The following possession Broderick Binns made a fantastic interception returning it for a touchdown tying the score at 27-27. The following extra point attempt was blocked by Arizona and the score remained deadlocked.

Nick Foles then put the Arizona offense on his shoulders and methodically marched the Wildcats downfield to take the lead. Iowa had it's chance to respond but the Arizona defense stood tall and forced three sacks in a row resulting in a turnover on downs. The final score: Arizona 34 Iowa 27.

The Hawkeye defense mixed in some 3-4 when Lance Tillison replaced Christian Ballard. Broderick Binns was able to sack Foles who may have been confused by the change in coverage. The Hawkeyes also mixed in some blitz and ran the dime defense against Arizona on their final drive of the game. Jordan Bernstine and Greg Castillo replaced the Iowa linebackers and were on the field for Arizona's game winning touchdown.

I was disappointed Iowa didn't attempt a screen pass late in the fourth quarter when Arizona had committed its defense to rushing the passer. After abandoning the run the Hawkeyes became obviously one dimensional and that makes a tough situation for three to four offensive linemen (Zusevics, Ferentz, MacMillan, and Gettis) making their first start and or playing time on the road. The combination of a difficult atmosphere, inexperienced offensive linemen, and deep passing routes was a set-up for failure.

Iowa's next opponent comes to Kinnick at a good time for this team. They'll have a lot of film to review and many mistakes to correct. The Hawkeyes were beaten and battered in the desert and after watching Jewel Hampton, Paki O'Meara, Julian Vandervelde, and Bruce Davis limp off the field this is the right game to get healthier and perhaps experience for backups.

It's also time for the 2010 Hawkeyes to realize that 2009 and the Orange Bowl is a thing of the past. This team has to figure out who they want to be and how they want to be remembered. There is still plenty to play for and quite a few big games still left of the schedule. If the play of the Hawkeyes in the second half against Arizona is any indication of this team's identity, we can still believe that they will be a contender for the Big Ten title.

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