1) Fourth-and-no debate — When Kirk Ferentz sent the punt team out last week at Indiana, he knew what was coming. Iowa faced fourth-and-1, about two feet maybe, and after officials called for a review, Ferentz put away thoughts of a quick sneak and immediately went with punt.
It was the first question in the postgame. It was a question again Tuesday. Ferentz said it was his call to look for the sneak and his call to pull the plug.
The message to the players? Well, the O-line was ready to go.
“We talked about it in the meeting rooms [this week],” offensive tackle Matt Tobin said. ” ‘How geeked up were you to take off?’ We were all ready to go and then they held it back. It was a tough situation.”
But everyone has a boss and most people have to do what their boss says. In football, that’s 99.96 percent true.
Earlier this season, Iowa went for it on a fourth-and-1 at Michigan State. It turned out to be a score in a double-overtime victory. Ferentz makes the call on these. Game clock, field position and distance are elements that go into the decision.
Last week, it was a decision of defense over offense, with the idea the defense had a better chance at forcing a three-and-out or a turnover than the offense had at gaining six inches.
Given the way it’s gone for the offense this season, is there even a right answer here?
2) Hope takes some swings — For last week’s Penn State game, the number of scanned tickets to enter Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium was 23,432, according to the Lafayette (Ind.) Journal and Courier. The stadium holds 60,000. The Boilermakers have lost five straight going into today’s matchup with the Hawkeyes. The athletics director, Morgan Burke, has issued a statement.
It doesn’t look good for coach Danny Hope, who’s in his fourth season and has a 19-27 record. He responded to critics this week.
“Obviously the fans have a reason to be disappointed — we’re very, very disappointed — but I don’t let someone who demonstrates himself in a small way set me back a whole lot,” Hope said. “Certainly, I wouldn’t let someone that has that small character take my happiness away, I assure you that. It wouldn’t be worth it, so it would be beneath me.”
And . . .
“A lot of people who are judgmental to the players are people who never really have enough substance to come close to accomplishing what the players have in their athletic lives,” he said. “Consider the source. That’s the message we send to our team. We want to focus on winning and having a successful season and being winners. It’s hard to focus on that if you’re focused on losers on the outside looking in.”
Purdue won’t lack for motivation this week.
3) The whole juco thing — It’s not that Ferentz is closed to the idea of junior-college transfers. Quite the opposite, actually. Iowa brought in QB Cody Sokol and OL Eric Simmons last January.
Trends do say, however, that Iowa prefers four-year players. Going by the makeup of the five classes on this year’s team: In 2011, Iowa signed OL Dan Heiar, who left the team. Before that, you have to go back to ’08 for another juco, RB Nate Guillory, who also left the team.
“The reality of it is, and I’m going off my history at this school, junior college players don’t, as a rule, always transition in as well,” Ferentz said. “That hasn’t been our mode. but there are some schools where it’s probably more workable.”
The regional comparison here is Kansas State. Coach Bill Snyder has the Wildcats ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings this week. The 29 junior college players, the most among FBS-level programs, have certainly been a building block.
The state of Kansas also is a more lively juco football environment. Eight schools have football programs there compared to just three in Iowa.
“I’ve never said we wouldn’t look at a juco,” Ferentz said. Given the fact that there are fewer junior colleges in Iowa and “transitioning well” is cautionary, don’t expect a bounty.