The Iowa Hawkeyes lost to the Wisconsin Badgers today. Let's get this part out of the way: That sucks.
After Iowa converted a fourth and one on a quarterback sneak with twelve seconds left, they easily could have gotten reset, spiked the ball and barely lost anytime on the clock while keeping their final timeout. Instead Kirk Ferentz decided to use the Hawkeyes last timeout. This was a bad decision.
After the timeout, Wisconsin did a good job of creating pressure and Stanzi tried to make a play. Instead of just throwing the ball away, he dumped it to Adam Robinson who was tackled inbounds, and time ran out. Hence, every Hawkeye fan's reaction was that Kirk Ferentz blew the game with poor clock management.
So let's pretend that Kirk didn't use that timeout. There's now 11 seconds left and Stanzi completes that pass to Adam Robinson, and the Hawkeyes use their final timeout after he is unable to get out of bounds. Iowa is left to try a 52 or 53 yard field goal with a true Freshman kicker who wasn't even originally offered a scholarship. That's not the best odds for a win right there.
As easy as it is to blame Ferentz for his time management gaffe, the biggest reason the Hawkeyes lost is they failed to execute on special teams. They left four easy points on the board, and when you're playing a team that is as evenly matched as Wisconsin, you simply can't do that. I was more upset that Iowa gave up the easiest fake punt in the history of college football. When there are only seven minutes left, and each drive is taking at least five minutes, you have to be aware of that possibility. And as much as I like Colin Sandeman, he isn't such an explosive returner that you need to give him a chance to take it to the house every time.
Another reason the Hawkeyes lost is that Wisconsin got yards when they needed them. The front seven slowed down the Wisconsin rushing attack, but in second and short, or third and short situations, Wisconsin never seemed to fail to convert the first down. Bravo to the Wisconsin offensive line and John Clay for consistently running through arm tackles.
Back to the end of the game. I know this is blasphemous, but maybe Kirk Ferentz is just bad at clock management. In the 2005 Capital One Bowl, it's not like Ferentz's clock management was brilliant. In fact, his inability to use his timeouts was a far more egregious error than today's mistake was. But Warren Holloway completed a miracle catch from Drew Tate, so all was forgiven and forgotten. Kirk is a coach that focuses intently on every aspect of what happens on the football field. That's a great characteristic. Still, sometimes he gets wrapped up into what is going on in the game and doesn't have time to fully analyze the best way to utilize timeouts. As much as Iowa fans want to believe he is, Ferentz is not a perfect coach, but he's a damn good one.
The Hawkeyes may have lost today, but if they win out, and Wisconsin loses one game, guess what? The Hawkeyes are smelling roses on the way to Pasadena. Iowa Hawkeyes, 11-2, Rose Bowl Champions, I'm not quite ready to call this season a disappointment.
P.S. I'm not saying I'm always rational, as I still nearly threw my remote control through my TV when the game ended.