By Pat Harty
The much-anticipated White Out turned into a blowout in the pouring rain at Beaver Stadium, and how it happened is something Iowa fans are used to seeing, but that still doesn’t make it any easier.
The Iowa offense had one of its worst performances under embattled offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz in Saturday’s 31-0 loss at No. 7 Penn State and that’s saying a lot because there have been so many recently.
Iowa was held to just 76 yards, including 20 rushing yards, and only ran 33 plays while Penn State ran 97.
The hope was that the addition of Michigan transfer Cade McNamara at quarterback would help to jumpstart the offense, but it just hasn’t happened as McNamara only has 459 passing yards in four games.
He only completed 5-of-14 passes for 42 yards in Saturday’s game, and Iowa also committed four turnovers.
And while the turnovers were a factor in the beat-down, the Iowa offense other than the opening drive before committing a turnover, was almost dysfunctional.
Iowa only averaged 2.3 yards per play and was 1-for-9 on third-down plays.
It was just a brutal performance on offense, the latest in a growing list.
The soft-tissue injury that McNamara suffered on Aug. 12 at the Kids Day practice still appears to be bothering him. But McNamara apparently still is Iowa’s best option at quarterback, or he wouldn’t be playing.
The problems on offense also go far beyond McNamara’s struggles, and the anti-Brian Ferentz chatter will likely hit a fever pitch as his critics and naysayers are always ready to lash out.
In fairness to the critics, the performance on offense was unacceptable, and that falls on Brian Ferentz, and on his father, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.
“We’re not going create a new playbook, is that what you’re suggesting?” Kirk Ferentz said when asked about the offense after Saturday’s game. “I’m not a wholesale believer in changing just because you had a bad game. It was not a good game tonight. I think we made progress in three weeks. Tonight was disappointing. We played a really good football team.
“We’ll keep it in perspective. We’ll evaluate things over the course of 12 games. We’ve got eight to play. We’re not just going to start over again in any phase.”
The defense eventually wore down in the second half because the Iowa offense couldn’t stay on the field.
The drive to score 325 points for Brian Ferentz took a major hit with Iowa being shutout, but the real concern is that the Iowa offense hasn’t improved much, if at all, from last season.
And you can’t blame former Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras anymore.
Iowa has been good enough on defense, and on special teams to win a respectable number of games recently, but that recipe only goes so far.
Against elite competition, the offense usually is a no-show, and that ultimately is too much to overcome.
Adding to misery is that Saturday’s game was played before a nationally televised audience, although, by the end of the game, there probably weren’t many watching besides Penn State fans.
McNamara was brought in to win games like Saturday’s Big Ten opener, but it became painfully obvious as the game played out that the Iowa offense was overmatched.
“I don’t think tonight is a reflection of the offense, defense or the special teams,” McNamara said. “This team is better than what we played tonight. I believe that with my whole heart.”
Iowa played without three of its best players on offense as tight end Luke Lachey and running backs Kaleb Johnson and Jaziun Patterson all missed the game due to injuries, and that certainly had an impact.
But that still doesn’t excuse the offense for performing as poorly as it did pretty much from start to finish.
The weather didn’t help, but the Penn State offense was able to overcome it.
This was a deflating loss in so many ways, but mostly because it showed that the Iowa offense still is a mess.
As horrible as the offense performed in the first half, with just 62 yards, Iowa only trailed 10-0 heading into the third quarter.
Iowa had two turnovers in the first half, including one on special teams where mistakes rarely happen.
This turnover happened when a Penn State punt deflected off the back of Iowa defensive back Brenden Deasfernandes.
Penn State recovered the fumble at the Iowa 39, and that blunder led to a touchdown for the Nittany Lions.
Iowa tight end Erick All also lost a fumble in the first quarter in Penn State territory.
In fairness to All, though, his three catches for 35 yards in the first half were more than half of Iowa’s total yards in the half.
It was an all-too familiar script as the defense played well enough to keep Iowa within striking distance in the first half, while punter Tory Taylor was sensational as usual in flipping field position, but the offense failed to do its part.
And yet despite the offensive woes, the game was still there for the taking heading into the third quarter.
Penn State only had 62 rushing yards in the first half and averaged just 3.4 yards per play in the half.
The Iowa defense was holding its own in the trenches, but that changed in the third quarter as Penn State scored two touchdowns and rushed for 71 yards in the quarter.
Iowa trailed 24-0 heading to the fourth quarter, and with the offense performing so poorly, it felt hopeless.
Iowa entered Saturday’s game ranked 22nd in the coaches poll and 24th in the Associated Press poll.
But it also entered Saturday’s game with an offense that would fail to do its part yet again, and that storyline is beyond getting old.
Iowa 0 0 0 0 – 0
Penn State 3 7 14 7 – 31
P – Alex Felkins 46 FG
P – Khalil Dinkins 9 pass from Drew Allar (Felkins kick)
P – Tyler Warren 2 pass from Allar (Felkins)
P – Warren 7 pas from Allar (Felkins kick)
P – K. Lambert-Smith 3 pss from Allard (Felkins kick)