COLUMBUS, Ohio — Saturday’s Iowa-Ohio State football game gave us a lot to chew on, so here are some bites:
1. Were you as shocked as apparently the rest of Western civilization when the Hawkeyes tucked it in when they had the ball at their 33 with 52 seconds left in the fourth quarter and two timeouts remaining?
Give human beings credit for being optimists. In that situation, they see only the possibility for bullet passes to receivers straddling sidelines and brilliant clock management to set up a game-winning field goal. Like you seem to see in NFL two-minute drives every week.
Such brilliance isn’t as widespread in college ball. I have a theory: The players aren’t the best in the world like those in the pros. Trust me.
In Iowa games alone this year, we’ve seen interceptions returned for touchdowns on four occasions. While the rest of the world sees potential for the picture-perfect finish, college coaches see disaster lurking in every corner (or cornerback).
With a Rose Bowl berth on the line and a rookie quarterback at the helm, what percentage of major-college coaches get truly serious about taking a shot in that spot?
Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, who got booed for his late-game play calling, would have done just what Ferentz did. They aren’t a couple of dim bulbs.
And as well as James Vandenberg played in the Hawkeyes’ 27-24 overtime loss, he wasn’t perfect and sometimes showed his age and inexperience, as you would expect.
Iowa’s game-tying touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter was a keeper, but defied the odds a bit.
Vandenberg had a throw on that possession that became a Tony Moeaki reception instead of an OSU interception only because of a multi-Buckeye pileup going for the ball that was easily-pickable. Moeaki alertly came up with the fluky carom.
Kirk Ferentz got hammered by second-guessers Saturday night and Sunday morning. I sympathize with those who wanted him to put the pedal to the metal when Iowa was on a roll. But fumbles after sacks and pick-sixes enter into the equation.
It wasn’t a bold move by the coach, for sure. But was it gutless or foolish as many have depicted? Not in that situation at that place at that time.
2. Vandenberg could be special.
I talked to an Iowa fan who sat among Ohio people here Saturday, and they told him Vandenberg clearly outclassed USC freshman QB Matt Barkley, who won here in September.
The sizzle and frequent sharpness of Vandenberg’s passes combined with his eye-opening poise was a revelation.
Ferentz loves his veteran, tested players. But what if Vandenberg continues his progress Saturday against Minnesota and pilots Iowa to a 10th win. Who starts at quarterback in the bowl game, a rusty Ricky Stanzi or a dandy Vandy?
The answer is Stanzi, by the way, if he’s healthy.
3. I’m not going to play the bowl-speculation game for the Hawkeyes. Yet.
Well, of course I will at the Hlog on GazetteOnline. That beast needs constant feeding, and the bowls make for good snacking.
But there are still so many variables left. Sure, Iowa could land in the Fiesta Bowl. But things need to fall in place. Like, uh, beating Minnesota for starters.
4. The Rose Bowl was so close. So . . . close.