Missed opportunities cost Hawkeyes chance to upset Wisconsin


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As I sat in the press box on the afternoon of Nov. 2, watching Iowa lose to the Wisconsin Badgers with fellow members of the media, I noticed a single piece of gold confetti flying through the air.

I was oddly transfixed by this piece of confetti. I watched it lazily drift through the air, down toward the field. It seemed like it was going to land on one of the players’ helmets or even on the artificial turf.

But right as the confetti seemed as if it would land on the ground, it got picked up by the wind and did a single loop-de-loop in the air before starting to drift down toward the ground again.

Another gust of wind picked it up. It looped again, and ultimately failed to move out of the stands.

It was fitting to see this little piece of confetti go through numerous chances to reach the field while Iowa was simultaneously presented with numerous opportunities to beat the Badgers in the game.

The longest drive Iowa faced in the first quarter started at its own 44. That means that the other three Hawkeye drives in the quarter started past the 50 — 30 yards fewer than the team has to drive following a touchback.

And yet Iowa was only beating the Badgers 3-0 at the end of the first quarter. This was before the fourth quarter, when Iowa’s defense was still stopping James White and Melvin Gordon from running the ball down its throats.

Then there was head coach Kirk Ferentz’s decision to punt in Wisconsin territory in the first quarter, with the wind at his team’s back. When asked about it during the postgame interviews, Ferentz said that the “percentages weren’t there,” and that his team was playing the field position game. Sure, the field-position game worked there, but the attempt cost the team a chance for points. And when you’re playing to win games, you need to score points.

That was the first chance for Iowa — its first loop-de-loop through the air, just like the piece of confetti.

Somehow, entering the fourth quarter, the score was only 14-9, thanks to a 43-yard gain from running back Jordan Canzeri that sparked the team and the crowd and set up a field goal. Mike Meyer had just converted a kick late in the third quarter to bring the deficit to 5 points, and Iowa had another chance to drive down the field and either score a touchdown or at least score another field goal to make it a 2-point deficit.

Backup quarterback C.J. Beathard, in for an injured Jake Rudock, made the best pass of his short career to Don Shumpert, who made the best catch of his short career. It looked like a possibility. Three plays later, Beathard’s throw bounces off the helmet of Andrew Donnal and into the hands of a Wisconsin defender. Unfortunate luck, for sure.

A Joel Stave completion here, and a James White rush there, and all of the sudden it’s 21-9. Poof, game over. Loop-de-loop No. 2.

It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if things had gone differently in this game: if Kevonte Martin-Manley had caught more passes, if Rudock hadn’t been injured, if the ball hadn’t bounced off Donnal’s helmet.

But the opportunities were there. The Hawkeyes just couldn’t capitalize. And now, instead of a bowl bid, there are more questions to be asked about the state of the Iowa football program instead of what bowl the Black and Gold might attend.

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