IOWA CITY — Carl Davis couldn’t help but notice.
Walking into the Iowa locker room this summer, the defensive tackle spotted multiple pictures of finish lines hanging on the wall.
“All we’ve heard about since the end of last season is finishing,’’ Davis said Tuesday. “We’ve heard a lot about how we need to finish and how we need to cross the finish line.’’
The Hawkeyes haven’t reached that destination yet.
Iowa has led at halftime of each of its seven football games this season, but the Hawkeyes have only a 4-3 record to show for it, including losses in their last two Big Ten games.
“We’ve got to find a way to keep people off the board in the second half,’’ Davis said. “We saw it again last week. We didn’t finish the way we needed to at Ohio State to secure the win and we ended up with the loss.’’
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz finds no common thread between the second-half struggles the Hawkeyes have endured, pointing to differences in the way losses to Michigan State and Ohio State played out.
Against the Spartans, the Hawkeyes became one dimensional against the Michigan State rush defense and never got anything going offensively. Last Saturday, the Hawkeyes converted once on four third-down conversion opportunities against the Buckeyes after moving the chains on seven-of-nine chances in the first half.
“Every game is kind of its own situation,’’ Ferentz said. “I don’t think our team has a problem finishing. I don’t see that being the issue here. We played a pretty good team the other day and they had a lot to do with it, too, although we didn’t get it done and they did. We have to see what we can do this week to play a 60-minute game.’’
Iowa has been outscored 13-3, 16-0 and 24-7 in the second half of losses to Northern Illinois, Michigan State and Ohio State this season.
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Ferentz believes a blend of issues contributed to the Hawkeyes’ problems in those games, from the inability to sustain drives on offense to untimely defensive breakdowns. He sees room for improvement on both sides of the ball and senses that his own team has had as much to do with the outcome as any halftime adjustments which may have been made by an opponent.
“Adjustments are part of the game of football,’’ quarterback Jake Rudock said. “If they put a goose egg on the board in the first half, there probably won’t be many adjustments. There are plays every opponent doesn’t want to see again in the second half. But, at the same time it’s really just execution for us. We’re not finishing drives. That’s a lot of it and that’s on us.’’
Iowa has turned the ball over more than its opponent only three times this season, all in the setbacks to three opponents which have a combined 20-1 record.
All but one of the seven interceptions Rudock has thrown have been thrown in the second half, including four in the second half of the three losses. He sees eliminating mistakes as part of the solution.
“It’s all about being smarter, understanding a little more, seeing what defenses are trying to do to you,’’ Rudock said. “A lot of it comes down to us, how we come out and play after halftime. We have gotten off to decent starts, but we need to work to sustain that momentum.’’