By Pat Harty
This was embarrassing.
The Iowa football team had two weeks to prepare for Saturday’s game against Penn State, but it was hard to tell with all the dysfunction that occurred on both offense and defense.
Iowa looked unprepared, unmotivated and under-equipped while getting crushed 41-14 by the Nittany Lions, who are certainly a good team, but hardly elite.
“It’s certainly disappointing that we didn’t respond better to this whole environment and to a good football team,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said on his post-game radio show. “And we’ve got a week to respond.
“The biggest thing moving forward is how we respond and how we handle this individually and collectively. There is no answers other than getting back to work tomorrow.”
Iowa (5-4) had no answers on either side of the line of scrimmage. You name it and Penn State did it better, especially on the ground where Penn State outgained the Hawkeyes by 329 yards.
And if you think Penn State looked impressive on Saturday, Iowa’s next opponent crushed the Nittany Lions 49-10 on Sept. 24 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
It’s scary thinking what could happen next Saturday in prime time when Iowa plays host to second-ranked Michigan at Kinnick Stadium.
The game shows all signs of being a mismatch unless Iowa can improve dramatically in all phases in just a week.
Iowa seems to have regressed during the bye week, which is a head scratcher.
The Hawkeyes couldn’t run or pass with any effectiveness against an average Penn State defense, whereas the Penn State offense shredded Iowa on the ground and through the air.
The Iowa defense made Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley look like a cross between Antwaan Randle El and Aaron Rodgers. McSorley took turns shredding Iowa with his arm and legs. He passed for 240 yards on just 11 completions and rushed for 40 yards.
“When they started to mix the run in with the quarterback, that really puts a lot of pressure on you defensively,” Ferentz said. “They executed real well.
“And I think the other big thing that’s happened with them is I think their offensive line has really developed, certainly from last year, but even the last eight weeks. They’ve really done a good job of growing.”
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Iowa, on the other hand, has regressed on offense despite being a veteran squad.
The performance of the Iowa offensive line was perhaps the most disappointing thing about Saturday’s beat-down because it should be better than what it showed against the Nittany Lions, who entered the game ranked ninth in the Big Ten in rushing defense, allowing 183.4 yards per game.
When the Iowa offensive line breaks down, the offensive machine breaks down. Iowa isn’t talented enough at receiver or creative enough with its schemes to beat anybody respectable without running the ball.
It was hard knowing what to think about Iowa coming into this game because it hadn’t done much to inspire optimism, but enough to inspire hope.
The defense had improved enough to where you thought that maybe Iowa could compete with just about anybody.
The hope was that having a week off to recover and re-energize would provide a spark for quarterback C.J. Beathard and his cohorts.
Well, that didn’t happen.
A season that started with high expectations is now unraveling. This season sort of feels like a combination of the 2012 season when Iowa looked inept on offense, finishing 4-8, and the 2014 season when Iowa couldn’t beat a respectable opponent.
The current situation is why I cringed when Iowa athletic director Gary Barta gave Ferentz another 10-year contract with a ridiculous buyout in which the university has no leverage.
Ferentz’s contract is now a major source of frustration for fans, who worry that last season’s 12-2 record was an anomaly.
It sure looks that way now, considering last season was preceded by a five-year stretch in which Iowa compiled a 34-30 record.
A 34-30 record is average any way you slice it.
Sadly, average would’ve been a step up from what the Hawkeyes showed on Saturday.