Lack of finishing touch dooms Iowa yet again
Iowa could still be in the Big Ten race if it made a few plays that, given their talent and experience, the Hawkeyes should have made.
But they didn't, and now their highly anticipated season is just a disappointing one.
No. 24 Iowa fell to 7-4 and 4-3 in the Big Ten after losing to Ohio State 20-17 on Saturday. The loss was eerily similar to its other three defeats, as the Hawkeyes put themselves in position to win if they could just make one or two more plays in the fourth quarter.
But it's clear that Iowa simply hasn't finished off opponents.
Terrelle Pryor cut through its defense for a 14-yard gain on fourth-and-10 with about four minutes left, and Dan Herron's 1-yard TD run with 1:47 to go sealed the win for the Buckeyes.
''I don't know that they could have played any harder. Our guys couldn't have. We didn't do some things well enough to win,'' Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Iowa's lack of finishing touch has been puzzling all season.
The Hawkeyes fell at Arizona, 34-27, in September after letting the Wildcats go on a long touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. It happened again against Wisconsin, whom Iowa had pinned deep in its own territory before allowing the Badgers to convert two key fourth downs - including a brilliant fake punt - and score with just over a minute left.
Last week, Northwestern drove 85 and 91 yards in the fourth quarter to stun the Hawkeyes 21-17.
Perhaps nobody should be stunned that the Buckeyes were able to do the same.
Iowa's defense forced Ohio State into a 48-yard field goal try midway through the fourth quarter. But as good team do, the Buckeyes converted it to pull within 17-13.
Iowa's offense, which has gone from productive to pedestrian the last three weeks, followed with a three-and-out that put Ohio State in position for the win.
Even DeVier Posey's stunning drop of a touchdown pass from Pryor in the end zone couldn't stop the Buckeyes, as Pryor used his athleticism to slice through the Hawkeyes' spread-out defense for a first-down run that'll haunt this team long into the winter.
''It's just something where our best players have to make all the plays we possibly can,'' Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater said. ''You just have to play perfect. If you have a chance to make a play, you have to, because this conference is just too tough.''
Iowa heads to scuffling Minnesota next week for the season finale.
In August, many thought the Hawkeyes might be headed in Minneapolis hoping to tune up for a trip to the Rose Bowl. Now it's a matter of finishing the regular season 8-4 or 7-5, neither of which will live up to the expectations most had for the Hawkeyes this year.
That's a somewhat stunning development for a veteran team picked ninth in the nation and second in the Big Ten in the preseason. Frankly, there's little for the Hawkeyes to play for than pride now, and they'll likely play Minnesota without star running back Adam Robinson, who was flattened by the Buckeyes on Iowa's futile final drive.
''He got dinged,'' Ferentz said. ''If that's the case, he'll be out next week. If there's any good news, (the bowl game) will be weeks away. So hopefully we'll have him back for the last game.''
Iowa will use the offseason to figure out what went wrong in 2010 and try to rebuild a team that'll lose a number of senior stars, including quarterback Ricky Stanzi and defensive linemen Christian Ballard, Karl Klug and Adrian Clayborn.
But it might just be that the breaks haven't gone the Hawkeyes way this year.
After winning four games by three points or less in going 11-2 last season, Iowa has lost four games this season by just 15 points.
''You definitely look back and think what could have been and what should have been,'' wide receiver Marvin McNutt said. ''Everything happens for a reason.''