Iowa football aims to fare better in close games in 2019

After coming up short in one-possession games a year ago, Iowa will look to execute in close games this season.

Iowa+head+coach+Kirk+Ferentz+speaks+during+the+second+day+of+Big+Ten+Football+Media+Days+in+Chicago%2C+Ill.%2C+on+Friday%2C+July+19%2C+2019.
Back to Article
Back to Article

Iowa football aims to fare better in close games in 2019

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Katina Zentz

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Katina Zentz

Katina Zentz

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Robert Read, Sports Reporter

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Heading into its Oct. 28 heavyweight matchup against Penn State in 2018, Iowa football was well positioned for a run at the Big Ten West title and a trip to Indianapolis for the conference championship game.

Instead, the Hawkeyes lost the next three games — including that contest against the Nittany Lions — by a total of 12 points.

Goodbye title hopes.

The stretch dropped Iowa’s record to 6-4, and the No. 18 spot the team boasted in the AP Poll heading into the Penn State game evaporated. The team rebounded and finished the season on a high note, winning its last three games, including the Outback Bowl, to finish with nine wins and the final spot in the AP top 25.

In that Outback Bowl showdown against Mississippi State, Iowa did what it could not do against Wisconsin, Penn State, Purdue, or Northwestern: win a close game.

The Hawkeyes aim to try to keep that momentum going as they head into the new season.

“All of our four losses — I can do the math, they didn’t come down to one possession, but if you were at the games, they were basically one-possession ballgames,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That’s really the difference between being at the top, being near the top, or being in the middle or at the bottom, how you handle those little things.”

RELATED: Ferentz speaks at Big Ten media days

Much of the Ferentz-era of Iowa football has been about consistency, and the Iowa teams that have most consistently handled those “little things” have come up clutch in close games.

In the three seasons with the most victories under Ferentz — 2015, 2002, and 2009 — Iowa has gone a combined 12-4 in one-possession games. Forget about being near the top or being in the middle, those three seasons included Iowa claiming a Big Ten title and make appearances in the Rose Bowl and two Orange Bowls.

“For us historically, we have to be able to win close games,” Ferentz said. “If our players understand that and we do a good job as coaches, we understand that then at least we give ourselves a chance to maybe be competitive when it all counts.”

Winning close games, as those three historic Iowa teams did so well, is an important part of any team’s recipe for success, but for teams playing in the Big Ten West, it is even more crucial.

RELATED: Barta sounds off on issues in Iowa sports, college football

The West boasts a number of talented teams, all capable of beating the others. It is a level playing field. Combine that with the more methodical offensive systems seen in Big Ten play (the slower the tempo, the fewer the possessions), and each possession is more and more crucial in winning a game.

2018 Big Ten West champion Northwestern finished 5-1 in one-possession games last season. The Wildcats’ ability to remain in games in which they were thought to be the underdog, as well as execute late in those games, punched the team’s ticket to Indianapolis. At one time, Iowa had thought that ticket could be its own.

If Iowa wants to make this season one to remember, it will need the clutch performances the program has seen in years past to make that a reality.

Facebook Comments