IOWA CITY — “Who are you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?”
That old line popped in my head after I heard postgame comments from the Iowa camp following the Hawkeyes’ curtain-closing 13-7 loss to Big Ten Legends Division-champion Nebraska Friday at Kinnick Stadium.
A sixth-straight loss, and so many of the same, sad symptoms of an offense that seemed poorly coordinated almost all season. You don’t need or want a laundry list at this point. If you’ve seen the Hawkeyes play this season, you know the gory details.
Year 1 of Greg Davis as the offensive coordinator was a full-blown bust, but for some reason it isn’t publicly being regarded that way within the Iowa compound. Or else it’s being treated as a hiccup, not a case of football whooping cough.
Are you comfortable with this coaching staff as it is going into the future, Ferentz was asked.
“Yeah, I’m comfortable with everything right now,” he said. “With that being said, I need to take some time and look at everything, starting with my performance, going right down to the bottom. We’ll do that like we do every year. We have good coaches, good people.
“There’s a lot of things that go into execution and production … that go into being a good offensive football team. There were several games this year when I thought we were in sync and I thought that’s where we want to be, to operate.”
Iowa had 22 offensive touchdowns in 12 games as opposed to 43 in 13 games last season, and the Hawkeyes weren’t the Offensive of the Century in 2011. But this year’s Hawkeye offense fell off a football cliff.
Maybe it just dusts itself off and evolves into something substantial next season. That’s what the now-former starting quarterback expects, anyhow.
“I loved working with Coach Davis,” James Vandenberg said after his team scored once and accumulated but 200 yards Friday. “I have total and complete confidence in his system.
“I was continuing to learn it, he was continuing to learn us as a team. … Certainly some bumps and bruises, but I think everybody has total faith in what he’s doing here.”
You can’t and shouldn’t rule out that the insiders actualy know more about how things are evolving inside the Hawkeyes’ program than the rest of us. Way back at the end of Ferentz’s first season as Iowa’s coach, a 1-11 season, a Hawkeye senior named Jay Bickford told us Iowa would go to a Rose Bowl within four years.
They went to an Orange Bowl instead, because of BCS nonsense, but Bickford was essentially correct.
College football teams turn, and then turn again, and again. But we live in the present, and in the present my lying eyes just saw the end of a 12-week “Groundhog Day,” with overly predictable playcalling, 4th-and-3 plays that would gain one yard, illegal substitution penalties coming after timeouts, and a vertical passing game that often seemed to go public as rarely as Punxsutawne Phil.
That’s not the laundry list, by the way. That’s a condensed version.
So, the Hawkeyes go into an early hibernation rather than to an Insight Bowl. But what happened here this season won’t fade from memory anytime soon.
Iowa’s players showed up Friday, came to play, came to fight through gruesome weather, came to win. They were the more-spirited team in the first half, a little remarkable given they were playing for the sake of playing while Nebraska was trying to bolt down its division-title.
After five straight games of getting chopped, sliced, diced and pureed, Iowa’s defense gave its team a chance to go out in style as a spoiler. It wasn’t enough. Nothing was enough this season.
“Four-and-eight, not much joy there,” Ferentz said.
Nine months ago, Davis was hired to replace the departed Ken O’Keefe. The general feeling throughout Hawkeyeland was tempered enthusiasm. Davis represented a fresh approach, and everyone wanted fresh. This was someone who had directed some mighty highfalutin offenses at Texas.
But now and for the next nine months, Iowa is 4-8. That’s the opposite of fresh. For however much self-confidence may reside within the Iowa program, the Hawkeyes can blame no one if it isn’t shared beyond Melrose Avenue.