As Cooper DeJean ran toward the end zone for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown with less than 90 seconds remaining in Iowa’s game against Minnesota on Saturday, it looked like Kirk Ferentz was going to get away with it again.
It looked as though we were all going to be subjected to that patented, condescending Ferentz smirk. You know, that grin that Iowa’s coach likes to flash when his team wins another gross, sad excuse for a football game that, in a twisted way, only confirms in his mind that offense is a fruitless burden he shouldn’t have to consider.
Then, thankfully, that glorious penalty flag came.
As DeJean was running to pick up the punted ball, he flailed his left arm, and the referees, ultimately, ruled it was an invalid fair catch signal. The touchdown was negated and Iowa’s offense, predictably, failed again with the game on the line.
Iowa finishing with FBS’ least-productive offense is pretty much likely. Currently 0.1 yard per play away from #131. Still have to play top-60 defenses Illinois and Northwestern and top-20 defenses Nebraska and Rutgers, plus possibly a top-5 defense in a B1G title game
— Jason Kirk (jasonkirk.fyi on bluesky) (@JasonKirk_fyi) October 22, 2023
Ferentz was bitterly disappointed in the postgame, saying he knew he was going to be fined for his pointed comments toward the referees and hoped they’d donate the proceeds to a children’s hospital.
Here’s what Ferentz forgot to mention during his postgame rant: Iowa gained 12 — 12!!!!! — yards of offense in the entire second half. After the punt return was called back, Iowa still had plenty of time to move 30 yards down the field to attempt a game-winning field goal, but quarterback Deacon Hill threw an interception three plays later that ended the game.
Minnesota 12, Iowa 10. Final.
Ding, dong the witch is dead.
Dochterman: Winning ugly is the enemy of progress for Iowa football
Ferentz has put me in an uncomfortable position this year. I’ve been to Iowa City many times, and Hawkeyes fans are sweet, hard-working people who love their football team. They’re nice, warm and passionate. They’re good people. Yet Ferentz has put me in a position that even some of the Hawkeyes faithful have found themselves in — rooting for Iowa to fail.
There is nothing cute about what Iowa is doing this year. More on that in a minute. But first, some background. Ferentz retained his son, Brian, as offensive coordinator after last season despite the fact the Hawkeyes had one of the worst offenses in the past few decades. Like, bad enough to make your eyeballs bleed.
Iowa kept Brian Ferentz in the fold and stipulated in his contract that the team had to score 325 points in 2023. The repercussions if it fails to do so? He won’t automatically be fired, but his contract will expire.
Guess what? Iowa’s offense has gotten worse. Through eight games, Iowa has scored 156 points and averaged 19.5 points per game (well short of the 25 it needs to average over a 13-game schedule). Sixteen of those points are defensive or special teams scores.
It’s been pitiful, disgusting and insulting to Iowa fans.
Yet before Iowa lost to Minnesota, the Hawkeyes kept winning these disgusting rugby matches: 15-6 over Wisconsin, 20-14 over Purdue, 26-16 over Michigan State. Iowa climbed into the Top 25 in the AP poll and came into the weekend as the clear-cut favorite to make it to Indianapolis for the conference title game out of the Big Ten West.
People were amused by how a program that doesn’t try to score keeps winning. We kept coming up with fake scenarios for how Iowa could fail to reach 25 points per game and still find a way to retain Brian Ferentz. It became this fun little game to see how far Iowa could push the envelope.
It’s been a national punchline. We discuss it on the podcast all the time. We laugh about how bad, yet beautiful these games are. Everyone laughs.
But Iowa fans don’t deserve to be a national punchline. And regardless of how much Ferentz has done for Iowa football in the past, he has clearly resigned himself to not caring about its offense. He is seemingly content to beat Big Ten West teams 9-6 and occasionally make it in Indianapolis, never once stopping to consider that his team could be better than 10-2 if it could score.
Iowa’s defensive coordinator, Phil Parker, continues to turn three-star prospects into NFL Draft picks and design a defense that is routinely among the best in the nation. Then his boss jokes about how his favorite victory at Iowa was a 6-4 win over Penn State in 2004.
All of this is happening during a blatant case of nepotism. While his son remains in over his head as an offensive coordinator and jokes keep pouring in, he keeps lining his pockets.
No more. I can’t take it anymore.
Thank goodness Minnesota won, and we were reminded that with an offense that poor, Iowa is susceptible to losing to anyone. Iowa is still technically alive for the Big Ten Championship Game, so I hope it loses to another bad team because it can’t get a first down. I don’t want Iowa to win another game because I can’t stand any more misguided confirmation in Kirk Ferentz’s head that he is doing right by his program, players and fans. He’s stealing money from the people booing in the stands.
Ubben: Iowa to the College Football Playoff? Avert your eyes — but it’s possible
When you stink at your job, you get fired. Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman fired offensive coordinator Dan Enos on Sunday after saying he was the most gifted play caller he had ever seen when he hired him. That was a relationship that ended because Enos isn’t Pittman’s son.
I understand Iowa has been dealt a tough hand with some bad injuries on offense, most notably losing starting quarterback Cade McNamara. Yes, I’m sure the Hawkeyes may be a little better than dead last in total offense in college football had they had their full roster to deal with.
But this isn’t a serious program. It won’t be until it has a serious coach who cares about putting a quality offensive product on the field. Iowa fans deserve better than this.
I’m rooting for Iowa to fail so Iowa fans can get the changes necessary for the program to actually succeed.
(Photo: Jeff Hanisch / USA Today)