CHICAGO — Kirk Ferentz didn’t like how the Hawkeyes finished games in 2010 any better than you did.
And, yes, Ferentz is looking into it.
“The one thing you want to be careful of is not oversimplifying what the issues are,” Ferentz said Friday at Big Ten media days. “Sometimes, it’s two-minute drill, two-minute defense, four-minute offense. I’d also say that there have been a lot of games, and I can think of a couple very prominent right now that we’ll share with the team, that a lot of times it’s what you do in the first half. You squander opportunities that are there for you and you’re not ready to go.
“Those last two minutes, you’re thinking about a couple series you had where you did a poor job and that we wouldn’t be in this situation right now if we had done better there. I can think of two games right off the top of my head like that.”
Ferentz definitely has last season’s Wisconsin game in mind. It was a symbolic loss for ’10, when the Hawkeyes finished 8-5 with all five losses coming in the fourth quarter. In the first half, Iowa had a PAT blocked and short-circuited on a 30-yard field goal attempt.
Maybe the other loss is Minnesota, where Iowa fell behind 17-7 and then frittered away a 24-20 fourth-quarter lead before losing 27-24. Maybe the other loss was the Northwestern game, where the Hawkeyes had a two-minute drill konk out.
“I can assure you, we’ve spent a lot of time this out-of-season looking at that,” Ferentz said. “Clearly, we have to do better, from every standpoint, from coaching to playing. It’s critical.”
There are some basic facts about two-minute drills. One, they usually don’t work. Ferentz said if you’re down to a two-minute drill for a win, the percentage it comes through is closer to 25 percent than it is to 50. Two, they’re hard to execute.
Ferentz mentioned the timeout issue against Wisconsin. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi didn’t spike the ball to stop the clock and Iowa was forced to use a timeout with 12 seconds left. So, under a heavy rush, Stanzi completed a short pass to running back Adam Robinson, who was tackled near the middle of the field as time ran out.
“That was a critical mistake,” Ferentz said. “We’ve addressed that and we’ll be better moving forward. If we’re not, then we’re not doing our jobs.”
On defense, the main issue was getting off the field on the fourth quarter. Opponents converted nearly 57 percent on third down in the fourth quarter against the Hawkeyes last season.
Ferentz pointed to the play against Wisconsin before the fake punt that worked like a charm and eventually set up the Badgers’ winning points. UW quarterback Scott Tolzien just tried to throw the ball away and dropped it receiver Isaac Anderson, changing what would’ve been a fourth-and-7 to a fourth-and-4.
“If it isn’t for that play, none of the other stuff happens,” Ferentz said. “So, all of the sudden, all those other things become important and any one of those things probably would’ve given us a better chance to win the football game. We can do a better job in a lot of areas, that’s the reoccurring theme there.”