Many at this point of the season think the Hawks are struggling badly. However, I don't quite see that point. The Hawks have kept themselves in every ball game, something they haven't been able to do the past few years, but what the Hawks have struggled to do is close the deal and gain some victories against key opponents. Yes, the coaching staff does have to take some fault for these losses, but I'm not even close to throwing in the towel on this staff.
Over the past weeks, whether its been sitting outside tailgaiting at Kinnick or doing some chatting online or through email with Hawk fans, many said this was the perfect year for the Hawks to have a breakout season. The BigTen is down and we have senior leadership. All those points do have some truth behind them. Ohio St. could be singing the same tune as there hopeful breakout season hasn't quite played out the way they would have liked. What Kirk Ferentz has done, and what more Hawk fans should take notice of, is put the team in a position to win the game late. You look back to last weekend against Wisconsin, there was reason to blame to Ken O'Keefe for not running the ball with 8:34 left in the 4th quarter. However, the pass patterns that we were running weren't proving to be ineffective, we had an inexperienced QB behind the helm, who like any other guy was having nerves and was playing "rushed." Brad Banks deserves to be the starter and gain more snaps as finish the season, but the staff did the right thing by letting him stay in there during the 4th quarter and fire away. We come to this same situation down the road this season or next season, Brad is going to be much better prepared.
When you look at our defense, injuries have killed us again this season. Losing CB Matt Stockdale was a big reason Michigan was able to comeback for victory, and this past weekend when Bob Sanders went out, Wisconsin was able to control the clock by running the ball outside. Bob Sanders is our most effective run-stopper and will often force teams to run to the inside, where when Jerry Montgomery and Derrick Pickens are healty, we might be the best in the Big Ten. Jared Clauss is going to be a solid performer for the Hawkeyes the next two seasons, and is gaining valuable experience right now. We are still lacking speed on defense, particulary at LB and DE. The future is promising, however, with players like Howard Hodges, Derreck Robinson, Jonathan Babineaux, Abdul Hodge, Matt Roth, and Chad Greenway ready to take much larger roles come next season.
In addition, let's think about the issue of recruiting and how this season is going to impact the efforts. The staff was able to bring in one of the best classes in the history of Hawkeye football last season after a 3-8 record, mainly because of one reason and that was the strong finish they had. Iowa is 1-4 in the last five ball games, however, by winning these next three ball games, they will have shown marked improvement and a strong finish.
I remember speaking to Blake Larsen and Matt extensively during the weekend of the spring game last April, and both of them said that after the Northwestern game when they saw the Hawkeyes dominate the Wildcats, that was the telling point to them that Hawkeye football is back. Rightfully so, Hawkeye football is back and by finishing this season with a record to earn a bowl, you can guarantee that recruits will know that coming to Iowa City will mean the chance to compete in a bowl game. Next season, the hope for marked improvement will be contending for the Big Ten title, but before we jump too far ahead of ourselves, lets all remember that there are three ball games left to be played, and the support given by fans could be very instrumental in getting prospects to become Hawkeyes.