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Drive of the Week: Iowa's Late Game Struggles

Clutch (Adjective): done or accomplished in a critical situation: a clutch shot that won the basketball game.

The Iowa Hawkeye's have been the anti-clutch team this year when it comes to end game situations. Embroiled in close games against Pitt and Northwestern, the Hawkeyes systematically blew leads, turned the ball over, and showed ineptitude in the red zone. So when Iowa stopped Michigan State this Saturday and got the ball, down three points with 7:40 left in the fourth quarter, I knew the ensuing scenario would be The Rivalry's Drive of the Week.

Drive Analysis

Score: Michigan State 16, Iowa 13

1st and 10 at MSU 45, 7:40 left in the 4th Quarter.

Shonn Greene has 140 yards rushing against the normally stingy Spartan defense, so Coach Ferentz has to feed the rock to this human wrecking ball, right? Right - Greene is stopped for no gain on first down, so quarterback Ricky Stanzi throws a 9 yard pass to DJK and Iowa picks up an easy third and one.


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The Iowa fans (at least the ones on BGHP) are calling for more running plays, due to the fact that Shonn Greene has been looking like an NFL caliber back the whole year. I would rather see a run fake at this point - there are 8 Spartan defenders in the box to stop Greene. Ferentz listens to the Iowa fans instead and is rewarded; Greene follows the right side of the line for 15 yards on the next three plays. On one play, the 235 lb. running back plows over an offensive lineman who happened to get in the way

Needless to say, the Iowa line has been opening holes for anyone running behind them. This is one of the Big 10's best O-line's; one fan from BGHP called it the "best Iowa line since 2003." The outstanding unit is led by Seth Olsen, a Nebraska boy, and Bryan Bulaga, an absolute roadgrader.

Iowa power rushes three times for nine yards, setting up a 4th and 1 from the MSU 21. Ferentz calls a timeout to survey the situation. The field goal attempt would be 38 yards for Trent Mossbrucker, an accurate kicker who is 8-9 on FG attempts, with a season long of 39 yards...

You probably know what happened: Green gets a slow developing handoff, MSU LB Adam Decker makes a tackle in the backfield and Iowa loses another close game against a Midwest opponent.

Drive Analysis: Coaching...Decisions?

Iowa has played three solid teams to a standstill, proven it can run the ball against anyone, and showed the defensive wherewithal to stop Javon Ringer. How do these strengths allow for a three game losing streak? The aforementioned drive illustrated some of the elements that have led Iowa to the bottom of the Big 10.

It's clear that the Iowa coaches fear throwing downfield in pressure situations. Just prior to this drive, Stanzi (an accurate thrower for all intensive purposes) had hit Andy Brodell with a beautiful pass for a long touchdown. And at the start of the possession, Stanzi threw a ball to DJK for 9 yards. This pass was followed by 8 runs in a row. Ferentz failed to show confidence in a quarterback who had a 70% completion percentage for the game.

Ferentz has also failed to settle on an offensive identify. He called a timeout on a game-altering 4th and 1 and proceeded to run up the middle. There was no trickery, misdirection, or any kind of run fake. A respected coach at a BCS Conference school should have a varied playbook with motion; many times, the Iowa coaches have the offensive mentality of a Junior Varsity Power I team.

Iowa faces Indiana next week, a team very suceptible to strong running teams. Can Greene and Co. score early and blowout the Hoosiers, or will Iowa's late game struggles be exposed once again?