For the second straight game to open this season, Iowa had the ball late and needing to score to avoid a loss.
Unlike last week's Houdini act against Northern Illinois, the Hawkeyes couldn't get it done Saturday against Iowa State in a painful defeat. Not only was it the second straight loss to rival Iowa State -- at home, no less -- this one exposed some potentially serious problems for Kirk Ferentz's team going forward.
Iowa had to score a late touchdown to beat NIU, and that was the only touchdown it mustered in Week 1. Against Iowa State, the offense failed to reach the end zone in the 9-6 loss. Once again, the passing game looked anemic in continually settling for short passes and not getting much at all going downfield.
James Vandenberg finally seemed to find a rhythm on his team's final drive, leading the Hawkeyes down to the Iowa State 32 in the final 90 seconds. But then the senior quarterback made a terrible throw across the middle that the Cyclones' Jake Knott intercepted to seal the game.
Vandenberg and his receivers just haven't been able to build much cohesion so far this season in an offense that misses Marvin McNutt dearly. Vandenberg completed only 20 of his 42 pass attempts and averaged fewer than six yards per completion. New offensive coordinator Greg Davis is sure to come under heavy criticism for his play-calling, which has featured a whole lot of short throws and not much success. Some of the blame also has to lie with the receivers. C. J. Fiedorowicz and Don Shumpert dropped extremely catchable balls to short-circuit Iowa's penultimate drive.
Iowa State didn't let Damon Bullock play the hero for a second straight week, holding the sophomore running back to just 53 yards on 22 carries.
On the plus side, the Iowa defense did about all it could have, causing four turnovers and repeatedly stiffening near its own goal line. The Cyclones turned it over three times inside the Iowa 11-yard line and missed a field goal, or else this game wouldn't have even been all that close.
The defense allowed the Hawkeyes an opportunity to create some late-game magic, but it didn't happen this time. Iowa is lucky not to be 0-2 right now. We talked about how the schedule could allow this team to get off to a great start, but now it looks like every week will be a fight. Next week's opponent, Northern Iowa, certainly won't be a pushover if it played as well as it did at Wisconsin in the opener.
This won't be a fun week to be an Iowa player or coach, as the fan base will not easily accept losing to Iowa State two straight years. The Hawkeyes have a lot of problems to fix, especially on offense, if they want avoid a long season.