Commentary: Iowa’s identity unknown to virtually everybody


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MINNEAPOLIS — The man in charge is blaming himself because that’s where all of this starts. But even that doesn’t begin to answer all the questions.

Kirk Ferentz sat at the postgame press conference wearing a black hoodie with a Tigerhawk logo on the left side. He looked pissed off. His words screamed frustration, but they were candid, and kudos to him for that. Honesty is the first step in recovery after your team’s been stripped of its dignity.

“We’ll find out,” he said, answering a question about whether his team has the mental toughness to bounce back from a 51-14 humiliation. “That’s the thing about the season; you play 12 games, you find out a lot as it goes.”

But what have we really found out? Nine games into the season, and I find it really hard to answer that question.

Nine games is more than long enough for a college-football team to establish an identity, yet Iowa seems to be the one team in the country without one. The Hawkeyes’ style of play has provided some clues, but without any legitimate consistency, it’s hard to truly say what kind of team we’re dealing with.

The Hawkeyes played well, but not great, against Northern Iowa, did just enough to get by Ball State, gave the game away to Iowa State, came back to beat Pittsburgh, played poorly against a truly bad Purdue team, exploded offensively over Indiana, lost a rough one to Maryland, played damn-near perfectly against Northwestern, and then laid an egg this past weekend against Minnesota.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find any team in the country that’s played nine different games this year, yet that’s exactly what Iowa has done. The erratic play has given fans fits and caused stress among the players.

“One week, we’re all the way on the top. The next week, you never know,” middle linebacker Quinton Alston said. “We need to find that consistency, and we need to find it now.”

There are a lot of different issues at play, of course. Some are bigger than others, but perhaps the biggest of them all is the coaches don’t seem to know what, exactly, they want this team’s identity to be — especially offensively.

In the preseason, the offense had the potential to be one of Ferentz’s most talented. He finally had a fleet of healthy running backs, an explosive group of receivers, an experienced quarterback, and an offensive line that was, arguably, one of the nation’s best on paper.

What they’ve shown, though, is that the bulk of these players aren’t built for the offense they’re trying to execute. Recall that it’s only Greg Davis’s third season. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that most of these guys were recruited to carry out former offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe’s playbook.

The game plans each week lack coherence. They’re sporadic and, at times, unbelievable — both of the good and bad variety. The most-recent outing just so happened to be Iowa’s worst of the season.

When the game officially ended and Minnesota players ran to grab the Floyd of Rosedale trophy, Iowa players quickly shuffled into the visiting locker room. No words were spoken. Complete silence. It remained that way the whole ride home.

The players chosen to talk about the loss did so with despondent tones and glossy eyes, some on the verge of tears. They talked about needing to practice harder, to execute more efficiently, to simply play better football.

We hear that every week, though, so perhaps it’s no surprise that we never know what to expect next.

And, in a way, neither does the team.

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.

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