Big Ten Report: Iowa Hawkeyes Still in Contention in 2010

Ted EContributor ISeptember 23, 2010

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 18:  Quarterback Ricky Stanzi #12 of the Iowa Hawkeyes prepares to snap the ball during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 34-27.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images



Last Saturday night turned out to be a tough lesson for the Hawkeyes, but it may also have been a necessary one before Iowa starts its Big Ten schedule next month.  Lets break down the valid excuses for the loss by this Hawkeye squad first:


The Hawkeyes had a ‘West of the Rockies’ curse put on them by a band of gypsies many moons ago:  Oh wait, we’re just listing the valid excuses here.


It was hot:  Truthfully it was 95 degrees at kickoff in Tucson and a chilly 55 in Iowa City.  The heat had to be at least a small factor in the apparent Iowa fatigue.  Acclimatization can’t be achieved overnight.


It was late:  As coach Ferentz stated before the game, the late kickoff time probably had a bigger effect on the coaching staff than it did on the players and at times the coaching staff did look beleaguered on the sidelines; although that may have been more from what they were witnessing on the field than just from their long day and late night.


The Hawkeyes were missing a major member of their team:  This time it wasn’t Stanzi, Hampton, or even Koeppel who was missing from the depth chart; it was Iowa’s defensive coordinator Norm Parker.  Parker, the coach of what has been hailed the best defensive squad in the nation, had recently been hospitalized for complications associated with diabetes and was unable to make the trip west with the team.  No doubt this had to weigh on the team’s mind as they went in to the game Saturday night.  Parker is still hospitalized but is expected to be back within a few weeks.


Arizona is a good team:  The Wildcats have won 12 of their last 15 home games.  Mike Stoops (who might want to look into some anger management classes and a switch to decaf judging by his sideline behavior in this game) and his staff have done an excellent job with their Wildcats and it looks as though they’ll be making a strong run at the PAC-10 title this season.  The better season Arizona has, the better Hawkeye fans will feel about this loss going forward.


Without a doubt Kirk Ferentz and his staff we’re already making mental notes on how to correct their team’s weaknesses as they watched the game unfold against the Wildcats last week.  So what was learned then in the 34-27 Hawkeye defeat in Tucson?  Well, the weaknesses were exposed: 


The special teams need a whole lot more work:  They handed too many points to Arizona in the form of a blocked punt, a big kick off return for a touchdown, and allowing an extra point to be blocked which prevented the Hawkeyes from taking the lead after a major rally by the rest of the team. 


The offensive line:  This less than experienced squad was a question going in and they really seemed to come apart allowing Stanzi to be sacked six times, including three times in a row on the final Hawkeye drive that could have tied the game late in the 4th quarter.  They also did little in the way of opening lanes for Adam Robinson or Jewel Hampton to run through.  The Hawkeyes were limited to just 29 yards rushing in this contest.  Sadly Hampton is now out for the season with another torn ACL.  The hopes of the Iowa running game now fall to the shoulders of Des Moines Lincoln High grad Adam Robinson, whose style of plowing through defenders makes him very prone to injury himself.


Some things did go right though and the Hawkeyes proved that they can still make those big second half comebacks in very hostile environments, even if it wasn’t enough for the W this time.


Ricky Stanzi needs to get rid of the ball if he can’t escape the defense and he did throw one interception, but on a positive note Stanzi passed for 278 yards and three touchdowns.  A more focused offensive line will give Stanzi the couple of extra seconds he needs to get the ball out and stay accurate.


The Hawk defense allowed Arizona just 13 points by Arizona and Broderick Binns even helped out the struggling offense by intercepting one and running it in for the tying TD.  Mike Daniels also delivered a solid performance with two tackles for loss and one sack.  This stout defensive squad also held Wildcat running back Nic Grigsby to just 27 rushing yards and also forced him to fumble the ball in the red zone.


The Hawkeyes get a chance to refocus and regroup with Ball State coming in to play them in Iowa City this Saturday at 11am CST and the Big Ten title is still within reach as Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State all face Iowa at Kinnick this fall.    All things considered, this tough early season loss may be just what Iowa needed to prepare them for their Big Ten title run.