Howe: Hawkeyes Miss Another Opportunity in Key B1G Road Tilt

October 5, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – We saw this movie before. It played in 2017 at Wisconsin and Michigan State. A return engagement showed up at Penn State a year ago.

For Iowa fans, it’s a slasher flick they’d rather not see any more. Tough Big Ten road games have become the Hawkeyes’ house of horrors.

The latest in the franchise came Saturday here at the Big House. Nineteenth-ranked Michigan silenced No. 14 Iowa in a 10-3 defensive battle.

We can call it that. But if we do, we’re ignoring the elephant in the room when it comes to the Hawkeye offense with coordinator Brian Ferentz and quarterback Nate Stanley in this scenario.

Iowa’s strong defensive effort can’t mask the three-season issue with beating tough Big Ten competition on the road. Saturday saw Stanley sacked eight times and one yard of rushing. Yes, the sacks factored into the ground total, but the top three backs averaged just 3.2 yards on 21 carries.

The Hawkeyes wilted under the Michigan blitz. It looked like the Wolverines were playing with a couple of extra guys. They also locked up Iowa’s receivers with man-to-man coverage, leaving very small windows for Stanley.

The senior signal caller completed just 23 of 42 passes for 260 yards. He tossed three interceptions after not throwing a pick in his team’s first four games this season.

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As receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette pointed out, the inept offense doesn’t fall all on Stanley’s shoulders. The offensive line leaked all day. Wideouts dropped passes. And as mentioned, the running backs couldn’t break free.

It looked a whole lot like what we saw in Madison two years ago when Iowa managed just 66 yards. Earlier that season, it gained just 19 rushing yards on 25 attempts and committed two critical turnovers. Last year in State College, it became discombobulated in key moments and cracked under pressure.

Ferentz and Stanley came here Saturday looking to change the narrative that they can’t win big league road games. Instead, they added to it. Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown won the matchup with his counterpart by knockout.

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Again, if we’re being fair, more goes into the struggles than just two guys. But fans don’t think that way. It falls at the feet of the coordinator and quarterback.

Saturday hurts more because this isn’t a great Michigan team. The game was there for the taking had the Hawkeyes shown a pulse on offense.

A win would have silenced the narrative. More importantly, the Hawkeyes could have kept pace with Top 10 and unbeaten Wisconsin in the East Division race instead of relying on help from other teams to trip up the Badgers.

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Winning games like Saturday are needed if a Big Ten title drought dating back to 2004 is to end. Losing them takes away any margin for error.

Stanley stood up and took blame for another failure. He’s always done that, and it’s commendable.

However, his legacy will be lessened greatly unless he rallies this team to a title. And that’s likely going to take a win later in the season at Wisconsin. He’s running out of opportunities.

One was wasted on Saturday. And it looked all too familiar.

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