Hawkeyes win despite red zone struggles


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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — After Iowa's all-too-close 18-13 win over Indiana on Nov. 6, Kirk Ferentz uttered a word he doesn't say often: Finally.

Finally, the Hawkeyes scored a touchdown. Finally, they put the Hoosiers away. Finally, they didn't have to settle for a field goal. After spending much of the afternoon driving down the field on Indiana's defense only to score chip-shot field goals, Iowa scored a touchdown with 2:50 remaining in the game.

Marvin McNutt broke through the Indiana secondary for a 52-yard score.


"We finally came up with a big play — something we hadn't been able to do all day," Ferentz said.

Coming into the game, the Hawkeye offense had scored a touchdown on 25-of-33 (76 percent) of their red-zone possessions. Against Indiana, Iowa was unable to get in the end zone in its four trips inside the 20-yard line.

Instead, the Hawkeyes settled for field goals. Michael Meyer made kicks from 23, 27, 27, and 42 yards; he missed a 22-yard try.

And that's why Iowa was unable to gain separation from Indiana, which fell to 0-5 in the Big Ten after the loss.

"That's very frustrating," Stanzi said. "We're putting good drives together, and then we just didn't — for whatever reason — do a good job in the red zone today."

Ferentz said simply, "[They] rendered us pretty much ineffective."

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The Hawkeyes were without starting running back Adam Robinson against Indiana. Robinson — who suffered a concussion against Michigan State on Oct. 30 — has scored a team-leading 11 touchdowns this season.

Nine of those 11 scores came from six yards or closer, meaning the Hawkeyes were without their most viable red-zone threat against the Hoosiers. True freshman Marcus Coker made his first career start in replacing Robinson in the backfield.

Coker has yet to score a collegiate touchdown. And although he rushed for 129 yards on 22 carries, he only had six rushes inside the 20-yard line.

Offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe instead relied on senior quarterback Ricky Stanzi to finish off drives. Of Iowa's 15 plays inside the red zone, nine were passes from Stanzi. The quarterback was 3-of-9 on those passes, including three incompletions on fade patterns.

When asked how much his team missed Robinson inside the red zone, Ferentz deflected the question, saying, "We missed him everywhere. Adam's an outstanding player in my opinion. The thing about him is that he's so good in so many ways."

Perhaps more so than Robinson's absence or Stanzi's incompletions, the Hawkeyes' red-zone chances were adversely affected by penalties, of all things. Through eight games, Iowa averaged just under five penalties per game.

The Hawkeyes had nine penalties on Nov. 6, three inside the 20. There were the back-to-back infractions — a delay of game and a false start — in the third quarter as Iowa was trying to break a 6-6 tie. And then there was Julian Vandervelde's false start midway through the fourth quarter.

All of these put the Hawkeyes in longer down-and-distance situations, forcing Stanzi to throw in the red zone, which is typically the hardest part of the field to complete a pass.

Iowa will get a remedy for its red-zone woes next week when it travels to Northwestern, which is 78th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in red-zone defense.

"What we have to be able to do if we're going to win in this conference consistently is when we get down in the red zone, we can't shoot ourselves in the foot," Vandervelde said. "We can't commit stupid penalties. We just have to go out, and do our job, and do it flawlessly."

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