Commentary: Time management costs Iowa

BY J.T. BUGOS | OCTOBER 25, 2010 7:20 AM

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Julian Vandervelde called it “orderly chaos.”

But Iowa’s final drive on Oct. 23 against Wisconsin was anything but.

With 14 seconds remaining in the game and trailing by one point, the Hawkeyes faced a fourth-and-1 on the Badgers’ 42-yard line with one time-out still at their disposal.

Ricky Stanzi’s quarterback sneak gave Iowa a first down, but then confusion set in.

Stanzi motioned frantically to teammates who lined up for another play — seemingly to spike the ball and stop the clock. But a time-out came from the sidelines, halting play with 12 seconds on the scoreboard.

One play later, and the game was over. The Hawkeyes failed to even get an opportunity for a game-winning field goal.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said the plan the whole time was to burn the time-out and “go from there.” But his communication with Stanzi wasn’t up to par, and instead the Hawkeyes ended up squandering an opportunity to beat the Badgers.

The Hawkeyes lost, 31-30.

Ferentz pointed out that the missed spike wasn’t a turning point in the game — and he is certainly right. The time mismanagement didn’t cost Iowa the game. Other errors — mainly special-team gaffes — can be blamed for that.

But there’s no doubt the Hawkeyes’ confusion in the final seconds cost them an opportunity to win the game.

Stanzi’s inclination to spike the ball following his sneak should have been the call. That would have saved the time-out for after the next play, and there wouldn’t have been the need to rely on getting out of bounds to save time for a field goal.

That call made the most sense — save the time-outs for as long as possible.

What’s most surprising about the situation is that Ferentz didn’t make that call. The 12-year head coach and his staff have typically made level-headed and correct decisions during games that LSU fans wish their coach could make.

And combined with Stanzi’s experience, it seemed the only thing that would limit Iowa from attempting a game-winning field goal was actually making the plays to get in range — not the potential for time mismanagement.

Stanzi admitted to the confusion, and Vandervelde said he wasn’t sure what the plan was, either — though he clarified that offensive lineman aren’t privy to much information.

The lack of communication between coaches and players and the decision to not spike the ball stole the spotlight from special-team miscues that truly cost the Hawkeyes the game.

But burning that final time-out became the defining play of the game — a play so simple, and reserved only for the waning moments when a team is bordering on reckless abandon.

It’s easy to forget Iowa made plays to get close to field-goal range. And yet none of it mattered. Through seven games, the dramatic finishes of a year ago stay in the past — the magic of 2009 failing to materialize this season.

Maybe Iowa’s allotment of comeback victories has been depleted, but it doesn’t take magic to manage time effectively. On Oct. 23, Iowa coaches and players failed to make the correct calls to put themselves in a position to swipe a game from a rival.

“You just have to live with whatever decision you make,” Stanzi said following the contest.

How hard it is to live with the wrong decision is something the Hawkeyes will now find out.

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