IOWA CITY — Almost everyone makes compromises in their careers.
With me, it’s wanting to remind people not to take this sports stuff too seriously, then realizing if they didn’t deeply care I’d have to work in a tire store. And I don’t know anything about tires, including how to change one.
However, the thought of how meaningful this all really is was driven home to me Saturday while I was driving. Via satellite radio, I was listening to the West Virginia broadcast of Iowa State’s football game there. Along came a plug for Julia’s Pepperoni Rolls, the Official Pepperoni Roll of the Mountaineers.
Were I a University of Iowa athletics department employee, I would have pulled over on the shoulder of I-380, phoned my bosses, and said we need to meet first thing Monday morning to discuss securing an official pepperoni roll. There are, somehow, still dollars being left on the table.
Just because we announced our official pizza (sold at a convenience store chain headquartered in Wisconsin) earlier this season doesn’t mean we can’t cross another new frontier with pepperoni rolls.
As many words as we spend here on the games and the matchups and the personnel and the coaches and the strategy and the stats, maybe this thing is just one big pepperoni roll.
Now, Iowa’s two straight losses with a total of 15 points scored demands outrage. Were I paying the kind of money a program like Hawkeye football asks for donations/season tickets, on top of the other associated costs and time demands of attending a game, I’d have the modest expectation of seeing an offense that entertains.
On ESPN’s SportsCenter late Saturday night, Brandon Smith’s sensational 33-yard touchdown catch made the show’s Top 10 plays of the day segment, and was the highest-ranked play from major-college football.
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— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 13, 2019
So there was that, and it was great. The rest of it was pretty dry toast.
I’m not the first to point this out, but of the 21 Big Ten games since Brian Ferentz became the Hawkeyes’ offensive coordinator, the offensive unit hasn’t scored 20 points in 12 of them.
In fairness, Iowa was held under 20 points in five conference games and the Outback Bowl in 2016, the year before Ferentz was the OC.
Twenty points in college football, by the way, isn’t some barrier surrounded by a moat filled with alligators and snakes.
But what does outrage get you? If you were an Iowa defensive player, would you look at the national statistics, see your team is fifth nationally in scoring defense and seventh in total defense, and insist the offensive players carry you to practice on their shoulders?
It’s better to listen to Iowa defensive end Chauncey Golston, who had a terrific game in the Hawkeyes’ 17-12 loss to Penn State Saturday night.
“We have to start holding teams to zero points,” Golston said. “We need more shutouts.”
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I pointed out to him that shutouts don’t grow on trees, conveniently forgetting Wisconsin has four in its six games including Saturday’s against Michigan State.
“Your dreams aren’t big enough if no one’s laughing at them,” he said.
Golston would be offended if you told him he could point fingers at Iowa’s offensive unit.
“It’s all positive talk,” he said. “There’s no negative. You don’t ever speak negative when times aren’t going well. Because if you’re speaking negative, you’re your own worst enemy.”
Now that’s a winner.
This, however, could be construed as negative talk: A year from today the Hawkeyes will have just played at Ohio State with their next game at Penn State. Eek!
Penn State Coach James Franklin, by the way, locked up a $200,000 bonus with the win over Iowa. His team improved to 6-0, guaranteeing it bowl eligibility and him the bonus because of it.
So if Franklin goes 6-6 at Penn State, with all its advantages over most other Big Ten programs and the nonconference teams it schedules (Idaho, Buffalo and Pittsburgh this year), he gets 200 grand on top of the $5.65 million he’s guaranteed this season.
On the other hand, it just wouldn’t be right if Julia offered a West Virginia player a few hundred bucks and a bag-full of pepperoni rolls to endorse her product.
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