IOWA CITY, Iowa – Score more points. Please.
That’s what Iowa fans wanted last year and are hoping happens in 2018. Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz understands that. He just doesn’t believe it’s the most important aspect of his job.
Despite some folks being tired of hearing that the Hawkeyes play complementary football, it’s not changing anytime soon. That means all three phases working together in what the coaches and players hope is a successful game plan.
“Ultimately, the goal of the program is to win the Big Ten Championship. To me I feel like if we win the Big Ten Championship, let’s start with the Big Ten West, then we have a pretty good offense. I’m not really interested in what the numbers are, other than the wins and losses,” Ferentz said.
That really doesn’t make Iowa any different than other teams. You need to score more points than the opponent. How that happens varies from week to week and year to year based on personnel and its strengths.
If you’ve watched the Hawkeyes for any length of time during the last two decades, you know the approach. They play ball-control, low-risk offense, bend-but-don’t-break defense and efficient specials teams that complement the other two phases.
To expect to see them running blitz after blitz on defense is like banging your head against the wall. You’re not going to be watching four wide-receiver sets and 60 passes a game.
When Iowa went 12-0 in ’15, it ranked 54th nationally in scoring offense (30.9 PPG). That complemented a defense that rated 19th (20.4). It also finished 26th in turnover margin, featured a dynamic return man in Desmond King, a reliable kicker in Marshall Koehn and a sound punter in Ron Coluzzi.
While some phases were stronger than others, there wasn’t a weak link. They complemented each other.
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“We had a lot of talent, but more importantly, we maximized what we had that year. We played really tight, really together, and when the games were close, we found a way to win those games, and I don’t know if there’s a metric to measure that,” Ferentz said.
“I just think it comes down to playing good football and executing at the level you’re capable of executing at, whatever that is. Each team is a little bit different.”
The Hawkeyes ended last season at 8-5 overall and 4-5 in the Big Ten. The scoring defense ranked 17th (19.9), higher than it did in ’15. The scoring offense sat at 66th (28.2), not that far off from the team that went undefeated in the regular season two years prior. The punting and punt return teams struggled.
What made Iowa’s offense of ’17 so frustrating was its inconsistency. It averaged 13.6 points in its five losses. That rose up to 51.7 against in victories against Ohio State, Iowa State and Nebraska. It was feast or famine.
“You’re going to play in certain games where points are at a premium. You’re going to play in other games where field position is at a premium. You’re going to play in other games where time of possession is at a premium. But you’re trying to balance all those things. At the end of the day, the No. 1 metric we’re looking at to figure out if we’re where we need to be offensively is are we winning games or are we losing them,” Ferentz said.
Iowa needs to be better on third downs after finishing last season ranked 104th out of 129 FBS teams at 34.4 percent. Its completion percentage must improve from a ranking of 93 (56.1) in ’17.
There’s hope that Year 2 as offensive coordinator will go more smoothly for Ferentz and a staff that added three new position coaches before last season. The installing and learning of new terminology for everyone is behind them. Quarterback Nate Stanley has a year of starting under his belt.
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Ferentz accepts responsibility for the inconsistencies of his unit last year. He’s looking for ways to fix it.
“The main thing is just trying to do a better job of putting our football team in a position to be successful and to have a chance to succeed. Whether it’s about 3rd downs or whether it’s the 1st down play call, just trying to make sure that we’re using the right pieces the best way that we can and trying to give ourselves a chance to win,” he said.
“The goal is to win a Big Ten Championship. I think the biggest thing for me is learning how to do a better job of maximizing the role I’m in now because it was new to me a year ago.”
Watch more of what Ferentz had to say Tuesday in this HN TV video: