Howe: Another Disastrous Day for Defense

Much of the public's focus for the next two weeks will center on Iowa's quarterbacks. According to HI Publisher Rob Howe, the Hawkeyes better concentrate on fixing what's broken on defense.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Well, that didn't last long. After a brief hiatus, the quarterback controversy returned.

Pace yourselves, Iowa fans. You have the rest of the month to engage in the Jake Rudock-C.J. Beathard debate with your Hawkeyes off until their Nov. 1 home date with Northwestern.

"I'm sure there will be plenty of that talk in public," a snarky coach Kirk Ferentz said here Saturday after his team's 38-31 loss to Maryland.

Ferentz fueled the fire. Yes, C.J. Beathard was available. No, there was no plan to use him against the Terrapins. The coach made it sound like his backup never came close to seeing the field.

Beathard played three series against Indiana last week. He led the Hawkeyes on their lone second-half scoring drive. Ferentz said Tuesday that we would see him against Maryland then reversed field.

Ferentz indicated that he and his staff would discuss using both quarterbacks against Northwestern. They've talked about it every week. He didn't seem overly concerned about the play of his quarterback.

So, there you go. That's where it stands. There's your ammunition if you choose to spend the next two weeks tangling with others on the QB argument.

Playing Beathard could have jump started a sluggish offense Saturday. After two quick touchdowns, it performed poorly, for the most part, outside of some cosmetic fourth-quarter points. Maryland built a 17-point lead with five minutes left to play.

Beathard could have better escaped the constant Maryland pressure with which Rudock struggled. Maybe he doesn't toss the Pick-6 that the starter did.

It's conjecture, really. We don't know. Beathard's good. He's not a miracle worker.

Iowa lost because it played bad, in every phase. Offense, defense, special teams, they all stunk. And that's the biggest issue heading into the bye week.

The coaches will discuss the quarterbacks, sure. But they're not missing tackles, fumbling and being whistled for hair-brained penalties, all ugly aspects of the Maryland loss.

"If we think we can play like that and win, we better change our schedule," Ferentz said. "That's probably not possible at this date so we have to coach better and play better."

Ferentz, his assistants and players were embarrassed by Saturday's performance. Uncharacteristic mistakes stung the most.

"The things were known for doing when we play well, I can't think of one of those things that we did well today. We have a reputation as a team that's going to block cleanly, we didn't do that today. We tend to defend the run and tackle well. We didn't do that today. Throw in some special teams errors. Throw in, by my count, five major penalties. You do those kind of things and try to overcome them, it puts a lot of pressure on you," Ferentz said.

Sticking out above the litany of miscues and missed opportunities was Iowa's inability to stop the run for a second week in a row. The Terrapins rushed for 212 yards (4.6 per carry) after Indiana put up 316 last Saturday.

"Defensively, that's very unacceptable," senior tackle Carl Davis said. "That starts with me. I have to do a better job up front and get off blocks."

Maryland and Indiana made the Hawkeyes look like they were playing in snow shoes. The team speed contributed to Iowa missing tackles and taking poor angles. The Terrapins spread out the defense and just won race after race.

Quarterback C.J. Brown gashed the Hawkeyes for 99 yards on 21 carries. Those numbers remained after four sacks for negative 21.

Iowa knocked Brown out of the game in the third quarter. His back-up, Caleb Rowe tore his ACL this week. No matter. Third-stringer Perry Hills ran three times for 15 yards and completed five passes for 86 yards and a touchdown until Brown returned later.

The Hawkeye defense carried the team through the first five games. The offense covered up for it last week against Indiana. They shared each other's misery Saturday.

Iowa coaches and players can chalk it up to experiencing a bad day. They move forward and work on their errors. That's what they do.

"It's not like there's a chronic issue here," Ferentz said. "At least I'm not ready to pronounce it as chronic."

Two bad weeks on defense doesn't make it an epidemic. It could be the start of one, however. There are reasons for concern.

Maryland was averaging 140.3 yards per game rushing coming into Saturday. Unlike Indiana, who's run on everyone, the Terrapins became healthy against Iowa.

The Hawkeyes can tie everything together. If the defense returns to its dominating form and the offense finds consistency, look out. That's kind of what we've all been waiting for.

That's wishful thinking for a team that through seven games hasn't played a complete game and has continued to find ways to hurt itself, however. It's late in the season to still be searching for the formula to win a championship. The time is now.

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