IOWA CITY — Take heart, Iowa fans. On Friday, your Hawkeyes are playing a dysfunctional team that gave up 409 yards rushing to a second-division team last week, then allowed 439 total yards and 42 points in the first half on Saturday.
There’s nothing quite like Nebraska these days to cure an ailing offense.
Now, if the Hawkeyes can just find a punter. And a right cornerback. And if their offensive line can stop looking like five blocks of Silly Putty.
It would be wonderful if they could just dig up that Iowa team that hammered Ohio State 55-24 a mere two weeks ago. What ever happened to those guys?
That team was nowhere to be found Saturday as Iowa went down to its second straight head-scratching defeat, allowing a sub-.500 Purdue team to stroll into Kinnick Stadium and claim a 24-15 victory, turning the annual Senior Day celebration into an angry wake.
There were only little flashes of quality football in this one. Senior linebacker Josey Jewell was his usual wrecking ball self and most of the rest of the defense was pretty decent. The offense actually generated two touchdowns after never even sniffing any sort of success last week at Wisconsin.
But for the most part, the Hawkeyes were a hot mess on a cold day.
Punter Colton Rastetter averaged 29.7 yards on six punts and may not have had a kick that traveled more than 20 yards in the air.
The offensive line allowed six sacks.
Cornerback Manny Rugamba got toasted so badly on the first two drives of the second half that he was pulled from the game.
There were dropped passes, missed blocks, fumbled punts. Purdue’s game-opening scoring drive was extended by a roughing-the-punter penalty.
That sort of set the tone for the whole disheartening day.
No one could quite explain how the Hawkeyes went from world-beaters in that Nov. 4 rout of Ohio State to dead-beaters the past two games.
“Good question,’’ quarterback Nathan Stanley said.
“Great question,’’ added Jewell. “We have to figure out how we got as much momentum as we had in that (Ohio State) game and then ended up on this roller coaster.’’
Running back Akrum Wadley didn’t think the question was good or great.
“No comment,’’ he mumbled.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t think much of the question either. He didn’t want to even try to answer it and never really did, saying only that these past two games were “two different discussions.’’
Uh-huh. He may as well have just said what Wadley did.
Stanley actually might have come close to explaining Saturday’s loss.
“They came out and played a little harder than we did,’’ he said of Purdue.
Yes, but why? This was Senior Day. The Hawkeyes were back home in the friendly confines of Kinnick. Despite the weather, the crowd started out loud and energized. There was no reason to be flat.
Wadley said he thought the Hawkeyes had a good week of practice and were energized themselves when they came out of the tunnel. But somehow it just all came apart.
“We left one out there,’’ he said. “We lost.’’
The good news is that the Hawkeyes have another chance to redeem themselves against a Nebraska team that has lost five of its past six games and allowed 50-plus points in three of those games.
The Hawkeyes (6-5) already have a bowl berth clinched but there are things to play for. There is that Heroes Game Trophy. And pride. And they still have a chance to possibly get to a slightly nicer bowl.
Representatives of the Holiday Bowl were on hand Saturday, but you can bet that opportunity has set sail. Among the likely destinations now are the Foster Farms Bowl in San Francisco and — pinch your nose on this one — the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit.
“I told the guys ‘How do you want to end this season?’’’ Jewell said. “’Do you want to go to Detroit or someplace where it’s kind of warm?’’’
Another victory would make San Francisco much more likely.
“We’ve got one more game left — actually two — but we’ve just got to do things we haven’t been doing,’’ Wadley said.
Yes, but can they do that? Is there any chance that Nov. 4 version of the Hawkeyes might return?
Good question. Great question.