EVANSTON, Ill. — So let’s say you’re an Iowa football season ticket-holder and you get a call from a Nebraska fan.
That Nebraska-Iowa game the morning after Thanksgiving? Well, Cornhusker fans will want as many tickets for that game as they can get if it turns out to be meaningful to them. They travel. They live for this stuff.
They will search eBay and StubHub. They will work whatever angles there are to be worked. They will pay cash money. Will you sell?
Maybe the better question on the heels of Iowa’s performance the last two weeks is this: Why wouldn’t you sell?
Saturday at Ryan Field, it was Northwestern 28, Iowa 17. That was on the heels of Penn State 38, Iowa 14. And for the second-straight week, the game wasn’t as close as the score indicates.
A week earlier, 20,000 to 25,000 Nebraska fans were here, and Evanston is twice as far from Omaha as it is from Iowa City. They came, they saw, they yelled loud enough to force Wildcat quarterback Kain Colter into silent snap-counts late in the game on his own home field, and they conquered, 29-28.
There were plenty of Hawkeye fans at Ryan Field Saturday. But there wasn’t nearly as much to yell about, and there certainly weren’t any silent snap-counts for Crazy Legs Colter.
Nor was there any conquering. Well, not by the visiting team.
Iowa assistant coach Brian Ferentz again used his pet #BulliesOfTheB1G hashtag on Twitter Saturday morning. He may want to locate his delete button.
Those weren’t bullies who climbed aboard those buses for the long ride back home to Iowa City Saturday afternnon. That was a team that spent three hours on ESPN2 making people wonder what has happened to the Hawkeyes.
“You can drag your feet and look for pity, which we’re not going to get,” said Iowa linebacker James Morris. “There’s certainly not going to be any pity tomorrow in the newspapers.”
Or the Internet message boards. Or talk radio. Or the diners, saloons and other spots where two or more Iowa fans gather this week.
This Hawkeye season, which had already seemed frayed at various points, is unraveling.
It shouldn’t be a game of “Pin the Blame on the Quarterback” this week, not if anyone is being fair. James Vandenberg had one of his best games of the season Saturday, at least from a pure passing standpoint. It would have been a really good passing game had receivers caught everything that was catchable.
In the end, though, Iowa scored just 17 points and had 336 yards against a Wildcat defense that had allowed 401 per game and was last in the Big Ten in pass defense.
The Hawkeyes had three delay-of-game penalties in the season’s eighth game. Iowa’s players and head coach mentioned the placement of the play-clocks as a factor.
You don’t fixate on where those clocks are located during pregame warm-ups? You get a delay penalty while in the hurry-up offense with two minutes left in the game and you’re down by two scores?
But this loss hangs on all Hawkeye shoulders. Iowa’s offense wasn’t given a decent chance to squeeze out a win like it did at Michigan State two weeks earlier.
The defense spent its day chasing Colter, not containing him. Colter ran for 166 yards. Imagine being Wildcat tailback Vencic Mark, who rushed for 162 yards and was only second-best on his own team.
Mark did have the offensive play of the game, however. He peeled off a 72-yard dash on the play after an Iowa punt pinned the Wildcats inside the 1-yard line. At the time, Iowa was down by just 7-3 early in the second quarter. It was 14-3 not long after Mark’s big run.
That was the backache before the back-breaker, which came when the Hawkeyes allowed a blocked punt early in the second-half. It bounced out-of-bounds at the Iowa 4.
A play later, Colter had the last of his three rushing touchdowns, the ‘Cats were up 21-3, and the Outback Bowl scouts in the press box thought to themselves “Well, at least we saw a pretty campus.”
It once was a truism to say Kirk Ferentz’s teams got better as the season got longer. But that wasn’t true in 2010 or 2011. How much stardust and magic beans will it take for a reversal this year?
You may have Nebraska-Iowa tickets and no intention of selling them. You may also be sitting next to someone that day who is wearing red.