Iowa football #MusterOneUp Mailbag: Throwing back 8-4? Maybe take another look

The song you're looking for is Badfinger's "Baby Blue"

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) fakes a pass as  wide receiver Nick Easley (84) runs the ball during the second half of game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Saturday, November 11, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) fakes a pass as wide receiver Nick Easley (84) runs the ball during the second half of game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Saturday, November 11, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

The theme this week is "putting your finger on the problem." Good luck with that.

That was one 38-14, historically bad offensive output against a College Football Playoff contender a week after punching another College Football Playoff contender in the throat.

And so this week is Purdue, a team coached by Jeff Brohm, whose name has started to appear on job lists just one season into his tenure in West Lafayette, Ind. (I don’t see it, but it’s college football and it will happily devour itself.) Purdue has life. Just last year it was zombies.

The Hawkeyes have to deal with last week by dealing with Purdue.

An 8-4 season still is out there. That doesn’t ring the bell for some of you, but given all of the spinning plates this team had coming out of 2016 — feels like just yesterday Ed Cunningham screamed bloody murder and people cussed me out on Twitter for not asking the hardball questions of Ferentz in the third quarter while the 30-3 Outback blowout at the hands of Florida was still going on — and a schedule with a much higher degree of difficulty, take this 8-4.

Don’t make it a T-shirt, but take it, win the bowl game and then the question becomes “Are the Hawkeyes ahead of schedule?”

Right now, that’s fantasy football. Reality is dealing with Purdue.

Stadium songs actually is the theme, so never mind about that other stuff. We’ve got important work to do here.

 

Told you stadium songs is the theme. And sometimes you can just tell when someone’s lips are moving when they type. (Kidding, Joe has had beer at my house, an exclusive group of about 439.)

 

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I think the “getting better” thing runs through everything this program does. We don’t see it. I don’t mean it THAT way, it just beat Ohio State. I’m talking about practice, training, the stuff that makes players. I think what a lot of people want to see with the “eye to next year” thing is something like Toren Young or Ivory Kelly-Martin getting 15 carries, letting A.J. Epenesa play middle linebacker or something something young player something.

Winning will always, sigh, win out over giving the young guy a shot because conference championship season is over. If last year’s Outback Bowl — one-legged C.J. Beathard limping through that — doesn’t prove that point, I don’t know what will.

That said, Iowa has depended on a ton of young players this year. Everywhere but linebacker, that should pay dividends and relatively soon, in my opinion.

Iowa is playing to go 8-4 and win a bowl game, significant markers for this program.

 

We’re on a music theme.

I don’t know any Taylor Swift songs. Let’s go with Badfinger’s “Baby Blue.” First line is “Guess I got what I deserved,” and last week might’ve killed Walter White, too.

 

It really has become a rotation of three — Nick Easley, Matt VandeBerg (Ferentz said this week he’s missed some practice) and Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Brandon Smith’s playing time has fallen off. Max Cooper never got more than a couple of snaps.

Three is the bare minimum. You can’t doghouse a guy when there’s no one on the bench who can do what he does.

But I think this is a fair question. It sheds light on a lot of what we’ve seen from Iowa’s offense this season. The receiving corps was completely rebuilt, something like nine new bodies and a new coach. If you want to read that as an “excuse,” fair enough. I’m not going to talk you off that. This is where I write, “It’s also reality.”

You should expect growth. This is week 10. Iowa just isn’t in position right now to fire anyone at wide receiver.

 

When you’re right, Feldy, you’re right.

Iowa had a lot of problems last week. Was this the coffin lid or just another nail?

The Badgers were at 37.8 yards per punt going into last week. I didn’t even mention punter Anthony Lotti. He averaged 43.6 yards and had a 62-yarder and downed three punts inside the 20.

Whoops.

I’m sure a ton of thought and coaching goes into this. The result is inexcusable.

 

Man, that’s good. Bennie is good at this game. Well done. I really like that.

Why didn’t Iowa think of that while it had a linebacker named “Josey”? I know, different movies, but how cool would it be to have a linebacker named “Man With No Name”?

 

No, I’ve actually said this. The league has a big say in Big Ten bowl selection. Yes, Iowa travels really well and that has put Iowa in “bowl up” mode.

Competitors don’t think like this. They’re just not made that way. But it’s OK for us to talk this through and, yeah, the Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 27, New York) against Boston College would be right. Or the Foster Farms (Dec. 27, Santa Clara, Calif.) against Washington or Washington State or Utah. Or the Music City (Dec. 29, Nashville, Tenn.) against Kentucky.

Those are the three bowls, but the Byzantine B1G bowl-o-rama ... you can waste a lot of time on that.

 

This won’t pass “1989.” Ryan Adams made that legend.

 

Question of the always with Iowa, and probably a ton of other teams. I can’t cover them all.

1) Close losses. I think everyone went into this expecting six, seven or maybe eight wins. So good and so close against Penn State. So ... something at Michigan State. Score said close, I don’t know. I think that game played out exactly the way Mark Dantonio wanted it, but we’ll mark it close because it was just 17-10.

The overtime loss at Northwestern, everyone is allowed to flake out on that one. Was that loss more “gettable” than Penn State? Ohh, what a fun debate that won’t be, because I’m not having it.

2) Wisconsin has nice things. Walking around Camp Randall before last week’s game, it’s the same block-locked stadium that Kinnick is. These programs are cousins. Not the cool cousins, the cousins whose stuff is ... hey, where did they get the 4K TV? Did they have that Mach 5 Speedracer car last year?

If Wisconsin has nice things, I know you guys think you should have them, too. You should think that. You also should be nervous that you’ve been staring at Wisconsin’s taillights pretty much since 2010.

3) See below.

 

It is amazing. I made a big deal out of Iowa allowing 599 yards last year to Penn State. This year? Penn State had 579 yards. The difference? Scoreboard.

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This is a super power you want. If Iowa makes it a four-quarter game, it keeps you engaged and they obviously have a chance to break through.

Staying alive is a good thing. It’s also frustrating when the breakthroughs don’t happen. All you can do is keep going back. Do you have the stomach for it?

 

I know what Slipknot is. I couldn’t name one of their songs.

You guys are making me feel like a classic rock dork. That “Essential Dad Rock” playlist on Apple Music isn’t bad, you guys. Grateful Dead, The Replacements, Dawes, Jason Isbell. You know you want to click it.

 

Possible. Eventually, some offensive coordinator is going to realize what’s going on and treat Jackson like Area 51. Don’t fly over that, there are aliens down there.

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The Thorpe Award? I don’t know. It’s not my job to push Jackson for that. I’m not contacting the Thorpe people. I don’t want to appear as if I’m pushing for it.

That said, if he’s not the best defensive back in the country, when did Spiderman start playing college football?

 

One is fun. The other is work.

Seriously, every Saturday has become “Adventures in Babysitting” on Twitter. And then the emails. When Iowa goes thud like that, my inbox starts to feel it late in the fourth quarter and doesn’t stop until like Thursday.

It’s part of the job. I try to answer everyone, hear them out, maybe reach some agreement and have a few laughs. I look forward to running a complaints department in my next life.

 

How many playbooks does Iowa have? And how many are too many? And where’s my playbook (only TE out routes, my tried and true NCAA video game championship formula)?

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You’re in the clear here, Josh. Iowa has one playbook when it wins and one when it loses. What’s in the game plan on a week-to-week basis, that’s another story. And, no, I don’t know who has what say in that. Ohio State felt more BF, but I also think the fact that the Buckeyes have the firepower to score nine TDs in like three minutes drove that more than anything.

And nice breakdown on Iowa-Wis. That really was a lot of it, IMO.

 

LeVar Woods is the special teams coordinator. Kevin Spencer is a quality control assistant for special teams this year.

The 10th coach thing happens in January. I think secondary, but I might be wrong. Phil Parker has done secondary along with defensive coordinator and he seems OK with it.

 

Tear down will start on the north end zone next week. Check here for seats. Only 300 club seats remaining. The feedback I’ve gotten on that is sticker shock. Club seats are great, but these are also in the end zone. It’s up to the people to decide if that’s premium.

 

This is a really great question and I’m kind of stumped.

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1) Will any of the current second-teamers show up here? Kevin Ward is graduating, so he’s out. But when Josey Jewell was hurt earlier this year, junior Jack Hockaday played, not Kristian Welch. And then when Jewell didn’t start at Northwestern, they reconfigured and Ben Niemann got the start. Aaron Mends has become a special teams mainstay, but will that translate to the weakside linebacker job next year?

2) Feels like Amani Jones is going to plug in. No idea where. He brings hitting to the field.

3) OK, let’s give it a try:

Middle — Hockaday and Welch will fit it out, but will Jones knock down the door?

Weakside — Mends and Jones and ... we have to throw a wildcard out, right? ... Ben VanSumeren. Why not? He’s the newest recruit. He’s 6-3, 225 right now.

Outside — Let’s keep it in the family and say Nick Niemann.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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