Iowa CITY, Iowa - Sometimes a team outplays the opposition and bad luck keeps it from victory. That wasn't the case for Iowa on Saturday.
Ferentz credited the Chippewas for outplaying his guys. Agreed. But the Hawkeyes self destructed against a school that had won two of its previous nine games and was the preseason pick to finish last in the MAC.
Officials whistled Iowa for nine penalties that cost it 106 yards Saturday. Three of them were personal foul calls, the last of those being on senior Joe Gaglione. It came on a third down during the game-winning, field-goal drive for Central.
"It was bad judgement on my part," Gaglione said.
He wasn't alone. The heads of many of his teammates were not where they needed to be on this day.
Gaglione was retaliating after being tangled up on the ground with a Chippewa offensive linemen. It was apparent early on that the visitors were going to mix it up with the Big Ten squad to show they wouldn't be intimidated. Play was scrappy all afternoon.
"You have to play disciplined and not let them get in your head," senior corner Micah Hyde said. "You just have to be smart."
Iowa did the opposite. It was tough to swallow when you consider its the fourth game of the season. The youthful, inexperienced excuse only goes so far into the year.
We hear it time and time again. It's a developmental program. As a result, there isn't a big enough margin for error to allow for repeated brain cramps.
"It's uncharacteristic," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "I'm sure we've done it before; just can't remember a game where we've had seven penalties that were, you know, major penalties. If we had a really sloppy week of practice, I could see that coming, but I didn't see that."
Since the 2000 season, Iowa has lost two non-conference games in a season only twice. It happened in '07 and it's occurred this month.
The '07 Hawkeyes were inexperienced and undisciplined. They didn't make the postseason, the only time that's taken place around here since '00.
The Iowa players spent a lot of Saturday's post-game press conference towing the company line of putting this loss behind them and improving. It was understandable considering how disheartening Saturday's loss must have felt.
While the Hawkeyes collected mistakes, Central limited its self-inflicted wounds. The Chippewas did not turn the ball over and picked up their first penalty of the season in the third quarter on Saturday. They finished with four penalties for 25 yards on the day.
"Our team kept believing and we limited our mistakes," Central Coach Dan Enos said.
Iowa looked like the team that lacked confidence in key moments at the end of the game. The Hawkeyes were on their heals defensively when CMU drew within two points of the lead on a touchdown with 1:33 left in regulation. They responded on the two-point conversion pass attempt broken up by Hyde, but their momentum was short lived.
Iowa returned to its shell on the onside kick. C.J. Fiedorowicz fell on Central's first attempt but the visitors got another chance because of their own procedure penalty.
On the second try, the Hawkeyes looked like they were standing in cement. Central blew past them to recover the ball at its own 42.
"We just looked like we were frozen out there and they got the ball," Ferentz said.
That's not supposed to happen to the Big Ten team playing at home in Week 4. There is no excuse for lacking discipline and there certainly isn't a reason why the Chippewas should be more aggressive on the second onside attempt.
While it's not time to throw in the towel on 2012, the Hawkeyes stand at a crossroads. They'll lug a .500 record into conference play for the first time in 12 seasons (Western Michigan loss in '07 was in the season finale). Iowa is 10-11 in its last 21 games dating back to a disastrous November of '10.
"We have got a lot of work to do right now, a lot of things to improve upon and we are going to have to do it fast because we have another game next week," Ferentz said.
Minnesota comes to town riding a two-game winning streak against the Hawkeyes. You have to wonder if working hard to improve this week will be enough for this group.
One thing is for sure - if Iowa lacks the focus that it did on Saturday, Floyd of Rosedale likely will be headed back to Minneapolis. And as the coach likes to say, the Hawkeyes will leave the stadium knowing they got exactly what they deserved.