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Hawkeyes see lack of 'makeables' during film session

Iowa players, coaches had to work through frustrating Sunday, watching what went wrong against NDSU

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IOWA CITY — There are good film sessions and bad film sessions.

As should come as a surprise to exactly no one, the Iowa football team did not have a good film session on Sunday after losing to FCS No. 1 North Dakota State, the first loss to an FCS team in Hawkeyes history.

There wasn’t a whole lot the Hawkeyes wanted to see in those frames. Mistakes of every kind were found. But there’s no doubting it needed to be seen.

“I mean, it’s always painful when you lose. There’s no way around it, and Sundays are not fun after a loss,” Coach Kirk Ferentz said at his weekly news conference on Tuesday. “I think the key thing there is you learn from what you see, and there’s a lot to learn from, and as I said, probably the biggest, most glaring thing in my mind, we’re just not doing well with the makeables. Makeables to me are plays that you should be able to execute without having a superstar player, that type of thing.”

“Makeables” was the buzzword Tuesday among coaches and players.

So why weren’t the Hawkeyes solid with the makeables on Saturday against the Bison — especially when those are plays that usually serve as the bedrock of a Ferentz-coached team?

Defensive ends Parker Hesse and Matt Nelson both cited possible lapses in attention to detail that, even if momentary, were clearly enough to have a major impact on the game. Ferentz was at a loss, after all that film Sunday, for an answer.

When simple things go wrong, frustration peaks.

“I really can’t tell you. I thought we really played very clean in our first two games, maybe on the other end of the spectrum, probably cleaner than you’d expect coming out of camp,” Ferentz said. “But that wasn’t the case the other day. You just look at the first two plays offensively, first half and second half, there’s two plays out there, too, but I can probably give you a list of 20 of them, unfortunately.”

Film is revelatory, and mistakes are out there for everyone in the room to see — usually over and over again, while a coach is stating explicitly why a given mistake was a mistake, and how and why it needs to be corrected.

There are a few different emotions players go through when put in that spot: embarrassment, frustration with oneself and, most often, an earnest desire to make up for what went wrong. The challenge is striking the right balance of letting that film be teachable, yet not letting it become a distraction.

“I would say it was kind of frustrating to watch at times. You see mistakes you made, plays you have been able to make in the past and are easily correctable, and, you know, those hurt us,” said linebacker Ben Niemann. “You kind of think sometimes, ‘If I could’ve made this play, it would’ve altered the game.’ It’s definitely frustrating after a loss.”

There’s a parenting technique that involves catching children doing good, as opposed to only scolding when they’ve been bad. That theory absolutely applies to coaching, and specifically to film sessions, and that’s at play inside the Hansen Performance Center.

There was some good on both sides of the ball to go with the bad, and wide receiver Matt VandeBerg pointed out that “any time you go into a film session, you’ve always got to be looking at what you could’ve done better — regardless of if it was a good play or bad play. That’s what film is, regardless of a win or a loss.”

The problem is the makeables aren’t highlight plays when they go correctly — they’re highlight plays when they go wrong.

Defensive back Greg Mabin — who has had more than a few plays pointed out in film for the wrong reasons this young season — said “there’s so many little plays that make a big difference,” citing things like “missing a tackle or just different things that if we would have done like we’re capable of doing, the outcome might’ve been different.”

The why isn’t understood just yet, but the film session Sunday got a message across to the Hawkeyes.

“Looking back on the film, I don’t know if it was complacency or what,” Mabin said. “We’re still trying to figure that out (as to why). 

“The sun rose (after the loss). Monday, we got back to work (with practice). We just got done with practice today and we’ll have another practice Wednesday. It’s just a train that keeps going. You can’t stop for anybody.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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