116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
ORLANDO, Fla. — What Iowa’s football offense has been and will continue to be was capsulized Wednesday by Kentucky’s defensive coordinator.
Brad White, whose defense will tangle with the Hawkeyes in Saturday’s Citrus Bowl, was asked the last time the Wildcats encountered an offense like Iowa’s.
“Probably inside the 5-yard line,” White said. That got laughs, but he wasn’t trying to do comedy.
“When it's one of those games where you call it a circus and there's motions and flies and the ball going this way and that way, it’s just sort of, ‘Hey, play soft and let it play out in front of you and then you go play ball.’
“This one is sort of challenging your pride. They are not hiding anything. They are coming downhill. They are going to put their pads on you, and they are going to try to drive you off the football.
“For some of our younger players that haven’t been around and have only seen spread offenses, especially in high school, they don’t know what a fullback is.”
The Hawkeyes are fullbacks in a dual-threat quarterbacks’ world. If you’re looking for something to happen to make Hawkeye offense wildly entertaining in years to come, you may also want to keep your eye out for Halley’s comet.
“Offensively, perhaps we haven’t had the statistics or the measurables or all those things,” Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said Wednesday. “Maybe we are not that exciting.
“But at the end of the day, our job is simple: We need to change field position, and we need to score points. That's really it, because we are a three-phase team: We play defense, special teams and offense. We win when all three of those phases are working together.”
This year, they’ve won when the defense collects takeaways by the bushel and when special teams have done noteworthy things. Oh, and when the offense hasn’t screwed things up.
“One thing that’s never going to change, and this is just one person’s opinion,” Ferentz said, “football is a physical game.
“They try to create rules where we can't practice with pads on. They try to create rules where we can't practice at all. But at the end of the day, this is a physical game. And you can make up the difference perhaps between you and an opponent, you can close gaps with the togetherness of team and with the physicalness of the game.
“That's what we are always going to be built on.”
Ferentz is a 38-year-old coach with an old football soul, and is the son of a head coach with an old football soul. The world outside the Upper Midwest can play fancy-schmancy offense with spreads and gadgets and quarterbacks with fleet feet. Iowa will keep pounding you down or lose trying to pound you down.
“It's a scheme that in a world of spread offense — and that's how you sort of build your defense — now it is a little bit more old-school,” White said.
“You have to get physical and you have to get nasty. … It presents a completely different challenge than something we have really faced all season.”
If the Wildcats can get nasty, they’ll win. Maybe big. If they can’t, and Iowa sets up its typical 2021 winning formula of owning field position, the Hawkeyes will have an 11-3 season with a Citrus-flavored chaser.
Iowa’s offensive line must be more than it was against the four best Big Ten defenses it met — Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. The Hawkeyes averaged a puny 68.8 rushing yards and 245.8 total yards against that group.
“If they are gaining yards, it means that they are physically more dominant than you,” White said. “So it's a sense of pride for our front. It's going to be a sense of pride for our back end when they have to come and fill.
“We have to impose our will and our physicality.”
Kentucky receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, a transfer from Nebraska, has 94 catches for 1,164 yards. He has played against Iowa. The guess here is an Iowa-like offense wasn’t what he was seeking when he decided to leave Lincoln.
Iowa doesn’t care. If its offensive line pieces get back in place, it will keep winning eight, nine, sometimes even 10-plus games. If it’s not especially exciting, the Ferentzes probably thinks that’s a “you” problem.
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