Disappearing act for Hawkeye offense in third-straight conference loss

Iowa’s defense put the team in a position to win, but the offense was nowhere to be found.


Lily Smith

Iowa's Ihmir Smith-Marsette holds the ball after catching a pass during the Iowa/Northwestern football game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, November 10, 2018. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 14-10. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

After putting up 36 points against Purdue last week, Iowa left its offense in West Lafayette.

Clayton Thorson forced a bad ball right into the hands of Iowa safety Geno Stone, setting Iowa up at the Northwestern 42-yard line. The Hawkeyes came away with no points.

On Iowa’s next possession, Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s long kick return put the Hawkeyes at their own 40-yard line. Iowa came away with no points yet again.

On five possessions, Iowa started at its own 40-yard line or better, and only twice did it come away with points — 10, if you’re keeping score. Which you hardly need to do with this offense.

Iowa had 13 drives (four of those ended in 3-and-outs), with average starting field position at its own 31. The Hawkeyes also finished 3-of-13 on third-down conversions.

“Frustrating — that’s the biggest word. Guys are frustrated, obviously. It’s not a lack of people going out there and being ready to play or people going out there and not wanting to play, it’s just execution, and there’s such a fine line. I think what we’re finding out this year is the fine line between winning and losing. If you don’t execute the way you’re supposed to, it goes the other way. I think we’ve found that out the last couple games.”

The execution wasn’t there for Iowa’s offense, and it made for a slopping showing for the second time in three weeks.

The Hawkeyes’ lone touchdown drive was as good as their offense got on Nov. 10, and it was all thanks to Smith-Marsette. He had two catches on the drive — his second one coming on a 28-yard pass from quarterback Nate Stanley.

But aside from those two plays, Iowa’s offense had no rhythm.

“[Northwestern] did a lot of different things as far as blitzing to try to keep us guessing on where they’re going to come from, which is not something that we expected,” Stanley said. “They weren’t really a blitzing team up to this point.”

Despite the unexpected blitzing, the Wildcats sacked Stanley only once.

Meanwhile, tight end T.J. Hockenson got going early in the first quarter but disappeared as the game went on. He picked up a 20-yard gain on third down when Iowa was backed up on its own 20 and added another catch later that drive.

In the second half, he had 3 catches for 19 yards.

Meanwhile, Noah Fant, arguably Iowa’s biggest mismatch offensively, had 1 catch for no gain. He was targeted three times.

“It would be nice to say, ‘I want the ball more’ and things like that, but I try to be a team player,” he said. “We win as a team, we lose as a team. That’s ultimately a decision of our coaching staff.”

Just three weeks ago, Iowa was sitting at 6-1 and had a legitimate shot at winning the Big Ten West (which Northwestern owns now).

Back then, Iowa’s offense had put up 113 points over a three-game span. After the loss to Northwestern, the Hawkeyes ride into Illinois having put up 70 points in three-straight losses, with more than half coming against Purdue.

“We write our own history, and that really hasn’t changed,” Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It gets decided out on the field.”

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