Sunday, September 19, 2010
Iowa sacked in crushing loss to Arizona
By Adam Rittenberg
Three sacks in a row.
How does that happen?
To "Mr. Clutch" Ricky Stanzi and No. 9 Iowa, no less.
Iowa reclaimed the fourth-quarter magic that had defined last year's run to the Orange Bowl championship. And then, just like that, it all went away in a 34-27 loss to No. 24 Arizona in the desert.
It was Arizona quarterback Nick Foles -- the Michigan State transfer -- who played the role of hero Saturday night against Iowa. Foles channeled Stanzi, brushing off a pick-six to lead an incredibly impressive game-winning drive against an Iowa defense that seemingly had regained its swagger.
Iowa had one last chance, but Stanzi couldn't get out of his own backfield as the offensive line melted down.
Iowa's two biggest concerns entering the season -- offensive line and cornerback -- were exposed in the loss to Arizona. An inexperienced offensive line really missed last year's starters, and Iowa certainly could have used cornerback Amari Spievey tonight as Foles carved up the secondary. Although the defense looked great for chunks of the second half, I expected a better performance tonight.
Special teams was the weakness no one expected to hurt the Hawkeyes, but Iowa essentially handed Arizona two touchdowns because of miscues in the kicking game. And after regaining all the momentum, Trent Mossbrucker has the go-ahead PAT attempt partially blocked. It was poor execution all around.
Would things have been different if Iowa had come all the way back to take the lead? We'll never know.
But a team can't expect to live on the edge as much as Iowa has and not tumble over the edge from time to time. Iowa played a miserable first half, and while it recovered well, there wasn't enough consistency for the win.
This is a tough blow for Iowa, which boasted a senior-laden team with legit national title aspirations. There will be a drop in the polls later today.
The good news is the Hawkeyes still can make some noise in the Big Ten and get back to a BCS bowl.