Tuesday’s roundup: Iowa faces major crossroad

Associated Press

Iowa City, Iowa — Iowa entered September as the prohibitive Big Ten West Division favorite and, if everything went right, perhaps even a dark horse national title contender.

The Hawkeyes opened October in a tailspin.

Iowa’s loss to North Dakota State on Sept. 17, which appeared to be an anomaly at the time, was actually the start of an unexpected downturn. Iowa (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) then barely beat Rutgers, and last week lost at home to Northwestern.

This weekend’s game at Minnesota (3-1, 0-1) was supposed to serve as Iowa’s first major road test. It has instead become an apparent turning point for the season.

“What we’re focusing on this week is getting back to playing Iowa football,” tackle Boone Myers said. “Tough, hard-nosed football. Doing your job. Doing it well and finishing games.

“That’s what we did last year, and that’s what we’ve got to get back to.”

Iowa’s inability to do the little things well has led to some big issues.

The Hawkeyes can’t stop the run, ranking 87th nationally in rush defense.

Lately, the Hawkeyes can barely run the ball either, averaging less than four yards a carry in its last three games after an encouraging start.

Iowa’s passing game hasn’t been able to bail out the offense, and it can be argued the Hawkeyes MVP through five games is punter Ron Coluzzi.

“I don’t think any of us are playing perfect or coaching perfect, so we’re all frustrated right now,” Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said. “There’s not a person in our whole organization who can’t do a better job.”

But the biggest problem is the Hawkeyes are allowing 183 yards on the ground. The Wildcats had 198 yards last week and they’re still 13th in the Big Ten overall.

The main issue, according to Iowa defensive tackle Nathan Bazata, is that not everyone has been where they need to be when they need to be there.

“We have to play our assignments. We’ve seen that a lot this last week, and if a couple of guys aren’t doing their job it really can create a hole for them to run through,” Bazata said.

Many of the veterans who played key roles in last season’s 12-0 regular season are still starting. Their two losses have come by a combined nine points, and overall Iowa is scoring 12 points more than its opponents.

Extra points

Penn State coach James Franklin said he’s proud of kicker Joey Julius for how he’s dealt with an eating disorder that kept him out of spring practice and led him to being admitted to a clinic for treatment this summer.

Julius said in a Facebook post this week he was in therapy at McCallum Place Eating Disorder Center in St. Louis from May 9-July 26.

“We’re here to support Joey in every way possible,” Franklin said.

... The four suspended players on Minnesota’s defense have been reinstated.

Golden Gophers coach Tracy Claeys said cornerbacks KiAnte Hardin and Ray Buford, safety Dior Johnson and defensive end Tamarion Johnson returned to practice but stopped short of confirming they would suit up for Saturday’s game against the Hawkeyes.

... With Hurricane Matthew approaching, the South Carolina-Georgia game is still on for Saturday night even though Gov. Nikki Haley says she “can’t imagine” the game being played as scheduled at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.

Charleston Southern officials canceled their game Saturday against Albany State.