IOWA CITY — Stadium experience was a source of query in the wake of Iowa’s 28-9 loss to No. 23 Wisconsin.
Offensive line coach Brian Ferentz tweeted Friday afternoon that the Kinnick Stadium experience is lacking and urged fans to take care of that themselves. Before kickoff, Iowa athletics director Gary Barta acknowledged Brian Ferentz’s tweet and said the notion had his attention. In his post game, head coach Kirk Ferentz, Brian’s father, said the general concept of stadium entertainment is “just a matter of us trying to be where everybody else is, not everybody, but we go into some tough venues . . .”
Kirk Ferentz didn’t want to suggest the fans aren’t into it.
“It’s our job to generate the electricity and the energy,” he said.
What generates more fan response in a stadium? Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” song from the “Top Gun” soundtrack or explosive offensive football? The Iowa players know the answer.
“When Kinnick is rocking, it’s awesome, I love Kinnick,” linebacker James Morris said. “Our fans are great, but at the same time, we’ve got to give them a reason to get excited. When you’re three-and-out, when you’re not making plays, you can’t blame anybody.
“You pay $60 or $65 a ticket, you come there to be entertained. I don’t hold anything against the fans. I’m thankful that they’re there. They’ve supported us through thick and thin, all that good stuff. We’ve got to give them a reason to get excited.”
Maybe last weekend’s game in Kinnick matched the two schools with fan bases that really appreciate and understand the power of the power football, meaning winning games through the physical marriage of running game, offensive line and rush defense.
At this point in time, Wisconsin is better than Iowa (5-4, 2-3 Big Ten) in all of that. Beyond the recent result in which the Badgers outrushed the Hawkeyes by a near 2-to-1 margin (218 yards to 115), Wisconsin has gone to the last three Rose Bowls. Iowa finished 4-8 in 2012.
Iowa’s offense has made incremental improvement over 2012. Iowa is gaining more yards, running more plays and scoring more points than it did last season. It rotated Indiana and Penn State off the schedule and picked up Ohio State and Wisconsin, but after nine games, Iowa is one game up on where it was last season, holding a 5-4 record compared to last season’s 4-5. Last season after week nine, Iowa was in the middle of a six-game losing streak. This year, the Hawkeyes have an excellent chance to clinch bowl eligibility Saturday at Purdue (1-7, 0-4), a team with a first-year coach in Darrell Hazell and a team that is, hands down, the worst in the conference this year.
Quarterback Jake Rudock (sprained knee) and running back Mark Weisman (foot, upper body) didn’t finish last weekend’s game, but Ferentz said he expects both to return for Purdue (11 a.m., Big Ten Network).
This isn’t a stat, but this year’s Hawkeyes have put themselves in position to give them a better chance to win games. Against the Badgers, Iowa won the coin flip and deferred because of a 12 mph wind whipping through Kinnick. Iowa had an average starting field position of its 44-yard line in the first half, penetrating UW’s red zone (inside the 20) twice, and came away with just two field goals.
That’s not the kind of offensive football that’s going to generate enough electricity to run a popcorn popper at Kinnick.
“The first half came down to us being in the red zone twice, not being able to come out with a touchdown,” Ferentz said, “and a couple of self-inflicted wounds on both possessions.”
If you boil the game and what drive noise in stadiums, it’s touchdowns. It’s running backs scoring on big runs and/or quarterbacks dropping a pass into an open receiver’s hands. It’s an offense executing and crossing the goal line.
Against FBS teams this year, Iowa is 99th in the nation in offensive TDs per game with 2.2. In the last three games, Iowa is 124th in the country with 3.3 points in the second half.
Through nine games, Iowa’s numbers are up in every category, including scoring at 25.3 points a game to 20.4. Iowa is one game better than it was a year ago and the topic of conversation is stadium experience.
What Iowa does on offense and has done and will do under Ferentz is, as always, a lot more salable when Iowa wins. The fact that Iowa is 5-8 at Kinnick in the last two seasons doesn’t do a lot for stadium experience.
“Our goal is to amp it up a little bit more,” said Kirk Ferentz when asked about exactly what’s lacking in Kinnick’s game day. “We’re on that path now, we’ll be there next September.”