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COMMENTARY: Little things make the difference (premium)

Posted on 19. Sep, 2010 by in Iowa Football


By Brendan Stiles

TUCSON, Ariz. — The final score was 34-27. Statistics will show that No. 9 Iowa was defeated by No. 24 Arizona on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Nick Foles to William Wright with 3:57 to play.

But let’s not kid ourselves. This game was lost from the start.

Iowa senior quarterback Ricky Stanzi said it best after the Hawkeyes were defeated by the Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on Saturday, saying Arizona deserved to win and Iowa didn’t.

We can sit here and credit the Hawkeyes for overcoming a 20-point halftime deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter, much like they did in 2008 when Iowa overcame a 24-9 deficit at Illinois before losing to the Fighting Illini on a late field goal.

But at the end of the day, this was a team loss. Special teams will get scrutinized heavily, as it probably should. But the offense and defense both made enough mistakes as well.

I felt coming into this game Iowa needed to do three things to win: Weather the early storm, show balance offensively, and most importantly, win the battle of field position.

Arizona jumped out to a 14-0 lead, Iowa was mostly one-dimensional on offense, and the Wildcats made big plays and won the field position battle.

In other words, Iowa did little to nothing to deserve winning this contest.

Now granted, it doesn’t help the offense when it constantly starts on its own 20, but that’s where you credit Arizona’s kickoff coverage.

Iowa got away with spotting Penn State 10 points in a big road game last September. This time, the Hawkeyes spotted Arizona 14 points. Between the blocked punt, the early Arizona touchdown, and the pick-six by Trevin Wade (the same guy who had a pick-six last year against Iowa), the Hawkeyes got off to the worst start possible.

Even when Iowa began to make plays like the fumble recovery by Jeremiha Hunter and the touchdown pass Stanzi threw to Jewel Hampton, Arizona had a way to respond. The Wildcats were up 20 points at halftime. 20 points.

And just think. Had the Hawkeyes not created that Arizona turnover, they might have been trailing by three touchdowns after one quarter of play.

Last week, many were saying the first half against Iowa State was perhaps the best half of football played by Iowa under Kirk Ferentz. On Saturday, the first half against Arizona might have been one of the worst halves of football under Ferentz given the circumstances.

Now, when the Hawkeyes made their second-half comeback, they relied heavily on the passing game. This proved to be a gift and a curse.

On one hand, Iowa was effective through the air. If the ball wasn’t being caught by Marvin McNutt or Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, there was a penalty being called on the Wildcat defense. But on the other hand, the fact that the running game wasn’t there all night hurt Iowa in the final minutes.

Once Arizona seized momentum with the blocked PAT and ensuing game-winning touchdown, the Wildcat defense was aggressive, blitzing and getting to Stanzi repeatedly. That’s what happens when you become one-dimensional on offense. Eventually, good teams adjust accordingly, which is exactly what Arizona did.

One thing I felt Iowa needed to establish was offensive balance, something it was successful with the first two weeks of the season. On Saturday, it just wasn’t there. Last week against Iowa State, Adam Robinson and Jewel Hampton combined for 240 yards rushing. In this loss to Arizona, the two combined for 35 yards on the ground. Robinson, coming off back-to-back 100-plus yard rushing performances, had five yards rushing. Five yards.

Simply put, that is not going to win you games.

Finally, there was the big plays from the Wildcat offense. One thing I felt Arizona had done a good job with in both of its prior games was getting yards after catch or yards after contact. This played a big role in the Wildcats being able to move the ball at will during crucial moments against the Iowa defense.

As a result, Iowa’s defense stayed on the field longer, and the Wildcats ultimately won the time of possession battle. As a result, Arizona was also winning the field position battle. Anytime the Wildcats needed to make plays, they did.

When the Hawkeyes get back to Iowa City, they’ll have plenty to improve on.

Starting with the little things that could be the difference in a win or a loss like the one suffered in the desert Saturday.


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