Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Look Ahead, a Look Back

Orange

Jeff Rice, Centre Daily Times: Penn State caught all the breaks this season. It hopes to catch one more lucky round against Florida State.

Jim Henry, Tallahassee Democrat: Bobby Bowden is concerned about Penn State's maturity, and for good reason.

Sugar

Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Much was made of Georgia's blinding speed, but the fastest players on the field were West Virginia's Steve Slaton and Pat White.

Jeff Schultz, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia was merely too relaxed, too at home, and dug itself too big of a hole (registration).

Fiesta

Terry Pluto, Akron Beacon-Journal: The focus was on what happens when you give Charlie Weis four weeks to prepare. But what happens when you give Jim Tressel four weeks? (registration).

Jason Kelly, South Bend Tribune: A heavy dose of reality: In the end, Notre Dame finished 9-3, but only 2-2 against Big Ten competition.

Capital One

Michael Hunt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Barry Alvarez secured his legacy long before beating Auburn. He merely added to it with the Badgers' convincing victory.

Christa Turner, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer: Auburn's defense was so worked over by Wisconsin, coordinator David Gibbs was unavailable for postgame interviews.

Cotton

Chuck Williams Columbus Ledger-Enquirer: Even the Texas Tech mascot couldn't watch as a man named Christensen rescued Alabama once again.

Brian Davis, Dallas Morning News: Texas Tech couldn't immediately diagnose why its high-octane offense sputtered and stalled against Alabama (registration).

Outback

Peter Kerasotis, Florida Today: Year One of the Urban Meyer experiment is in the books at Florida. The reviews aren't rave, but they're hardly wretched, either.

Mike Hlas, Cedar Rapids Gazette: Iowa might be screaming about the officiating, but that's what losers do (subscription, so story is in comments).

1 comment:

dawizofodds said...

Despite controversy, Hawks lost

Mike Hlas
Cedar Rapids Gazette

TAMPA, Fla. — The team that played better won. The team that dug itself a 31-7 hole lost.

You could say if the offside penalty to Iowa’s Chad Greenway that cost the Hawkeyes a chance at a game-tying drive with 1:11 remaining was any more of a phantom, it would deserve its own opera.

You could wonder why a bowl with the Outback’s clout, one that pays the Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences beaucoup bucks, couldn’t find officials from a more prestigious league than Conference USA. Like the Big 12 or Pac-10 or ACC or SEC. Or the South Iowa Cedar.

But if you take sentiments like the one that surfaced in a headline on the Iowa City Press-Citizen’s Web site Monday afternoon (HAWKEYES HOSED) too seriously, you’re missing the story of the game — Florida won and deserved to win while Iowa lost and deserved to lose.

Losing is tough enough in itself. Losing is tougher when you pull within one possession of a chance to tie, have the ball in your mitts, and lose it on a call that seemed to lack photographic evidence or agreement from anyone besides that C-USA octet of officials. Florida Coach Urban Meyer said he hoped the refs were right, but you could tell he was skeptical when he said ‘‘To make a call like that, that was a tough call.’’

Yes, if Iowa gets the ball with 71 seconds left and about half the field to drive for a touchdown, you think Drew Tate and company might have had a 50/50 chance to knot the score at 31, especially the way they finally got their offensive attack going in the fourth quarter. But come on. Football logic almost demands that a team that has a punt blocked for a touchdown and gives up a TD on an interception is the loser.

Then you add Florida doing the opposite of what it did two years ago in a 37-17 Outback defeat to the Hawkeyes by silencing Iowa’s supposedly vital ground game. Then you pile on to that with the Gators being surprising adept at running the ball against Iowa, to the tune of 169 yards.

The Hawks lost. The fault lies not with the striped shirts, but with themselves.

While several Iowa players weren’t afraid to admit they didn’t buy into some of the curious calls, you heard what you hear from winners, players deserving of the love they got from their fans after the game despite the result — which was responsibility.

‘‘The opportunities were there,’’ said Iowa quarterback Drew Tate. ‘‘I missed a lot of throws today that I should have completed. You can’t win when you play like that.

‘‘They started faster than we did. They blocked a punt. They took away our run game pretty quick and made us one-dimensional. They figured out how our protections went and started beating us with that. That’s good coaching and good execution by their players.’’

Greenway could have bleated like a lamb. Predictably, he took the lion’s route.

‘‘I think the Gators outplayed us today and that’s why they got the win over us,’’ he said. ‘‘We played hard to the end. You have to give our guys credit for that and I’m sure the Gators’ players are doing that because they’re a classy bunch. You can tell that Coach Meyer has ’em going over there.’’

Iowa’s coach, Kirk Ferentz, spent a significant amount of game time hollering at the refs for explanations that never came for several calls that went against his team. He didn’t pretend to be happy about the officiating in his postgame press conference, saying ‘‘I would just say it was a very consistent performance,’’ as he tried not to bite off his lower lip.

But Ferentz will surely regret his own team’s failures more than those of the officials from Conference USA, or USA Today as Hawkeyes radio analyst Ed Podolak called it during Monday’s broadcast in a Freudian slip.

‘‘I could go back and name real quickly four or five plays in the first half,’’ Ferentz said, ‘‘not to mention four or five in the second half. We just really made it tougher on ourselves.

‘‘We did a lot of things that didn’t look like us, particularly in the first half. That being said, I think our opponent had something to do with that.’’

Iowa returns a pretty marvelous quarterback in Tate, a big reason the Hawkeyes didn’t leave Tampa quietly in the fourth quarter. Also back are tailback Albert Young, three starting offensive linemen, the entire defensive line, and many other useful pieces. There should be just as much preseason excitement for the 2006 Hawks as the ’05 squad, even without the bounce of a bowl win.

Unless, of course, the coach departs. Before and during the game, ESPN rumor peddlers had Ferentz all set to talk turkey with the Green Bay Packers about their coaching job. That set off a round of hand-wringing across Iowa. Ferentz leaving for the NFL remains a doomsday scenario in Hawkdom.

Ferentz, of course, was disdainful of the subject in his postgame press conference. He never says never, though, leaving someday as a permanent option.

‘‘If he was going to leave, he’d have left a long time ago,’’ Tate insisted. ‘‘They (perhaps meaning the Jacksonville Jaguars three years ago) offered him complete control a long time ago.’’

‘‘He’s got great players coming in, great athletes on the field right now,’’ said Greenway. ‘‘And he does such a great job that he could probably be governor if he wanted to.’’

Today, the coach who could be his state’s chief executive were he willing to take a massive pay cut ends a season with a 7-5 record. That’s a distinct comedown from the 11-2, 10-3 and 10-2 marks of the previous three years. After ending those seasons ranked eighth, this Iowa team won’t be in this week’s final polls.

But the last time Iowa went 7-5 was 2001. The following fall, they went unbeaten in the Big Ten and to a BCS bowl. Is that a pattern? Perhaps, if the Hawkeyes can avoid onside kicks. And Conference USA officials.

mike.hlas@gazettecommunications.com