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Overtime: A Look Back at the Iowa Hawkeyes 17-10 Loss to Northwestern

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By Jack Brandsgard (   10/23/17

A cloud still hangs over Evanston from the stench of Iowa’s offensive performance on Saturday in a 17-10 overtime loss to Northwestern. For the second time in three weeks, Iowa’s offensive performance netted just 10 points, and this week’s rendition was against Northwestern’s 49th-ranked defense (in terms of points allowed per game) as opposed to Michigan State’s 14th-ranked unit.

It was by far Brian Ferentz’s worst showing as play-caller for the Hawkeyes. I thought he lacked creativity. For the game, Iowa rushed 33 times for 89 yards, amounting to an anemic 2.7 yards per attempt. That’s not going to get the job done, and it doesn’t meet what most would expect from a line as highly thought of as Iowa’s leading for a back as talented as Wadley.

Of Akrum Wadley’s 26 carries, I’d venture to guess that 20 of them were between the tackles. What happened to the revamped offense that was promised after the long-awaited departure of Greg Davis? Instead we saw a 190-pound running back used as a battering ram. Shouldn’t that be a role reserved for Toren Young? He has 30 pounds on Wadley and is much better suited for the bruising style required to be effective inside. Asked after the game if he’d like to get out in space more, Wadley responded, “No comment.” Stretches, tosses, and counters are all ways to get Wadley on the perimeter.

Speaking of which, Wadley must get more action in the passing game. Screens are an obvious solution, but I’d like to see Wadley in the slot more often. Get him matched up with a linebacker or a safety and let him take advantage. Wadley could even come out of the backfield and run routes. I still remember this Christian McCaffrey touchdown on the first play of the Rose Bowl because it’s such a simple concept: get your best player in a favorable matchup (against Jordan Lomax in this case) and roll the dice. McCaffrey won and it ended in a touchdown. Wadley can be used in a similar fashion, and it’s a much more efficient way to exploit his talent.

Iowa’s defense has to be frustrated. Conceding just 10 points in regulation (without Josey Jewell) should result in a win almost every time, but Iowa’s offense failed the team.

It’s not the end of the world. The loss drops Iowa to 4-3 (1-3 B1G), which isn’t far from what most expected. The majority of preseason predictions I saw pegged Iowa for 7-5 or 6-6. I picked the Hawkeyes to go 7-5, which means they’d have to win three of their remaining five games. Hosting Ohio State and making the trip to Wisconsin can likely be penned in as losses, but the remaining three games are toss-ups. Minnesota and Purdue at home are both games Iowa can win, and the Hawkeyes have shown an affinity for pounding Nebraska, even if it is in Lincoln.

So no matter how upset everyone was/is with the offense’s performance, Iowa is still on track to meet preseason expectations.