The 2016 Rose Bowl came down to the quality of two teams’ rosters, and one clearly showed its superiority.
By Charlie Green
PASADENA, Calif. — No. 5 Iowa lost in every facet of the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl, a 45-16 beatdown at the hands of sixth-ranked Stanford. By the end of the first quarter, the game was out of hand. By halftime, it was over.
Players had no excuses afterward. They lived up to being thoroughly whacked around from start to finish.
“We just didn’t play the way we normally play; we just weren’t together and weren’t playing smart football,” running back Jordan Canzeri said. “We had a lot of mental errors and a lot of penalties, and when you have all that against an all-around great team like Stanford, it’s hard to produce.”
But there’s an even greater bottom line to Iowa’s disappointing finale to this season: The team simply lacked the talent, and particularly the depth, to knock off a top-tier college team. In other words, it might just not be good enough.
On Jan. 1, it was on display for the nation to see in what is considered by many college football’s most historic stage. They lost the battle upfront as the pocket routinely collapsed before quarterback C.J. Beathard could get through his reads and make a safe throw.
An injury to Boone Myers forced the Hawks to shuffle the line and start Cole Croston at tackle. Both he and impromptu tackle Sean Welsh got burned off the edge more and more as the Hawks fell into a deeper hole — one they would have liked to pass their way out of.
The Hawkeyes became trapped in a situation they weren’t built to be in, and Stanford refused to let them even inch their way back toward the light.
The line looked outmatched, exposing the flaws of a group fighting youth, inexperience, and instability.
The players only told part of the story in their performance.
“We’ve done that before, I mean the Northwestern game was the same exact lineup that we started with today,” center Austin Blythe said. “And we ran the ball fine, passed the ball fine, and protected in that game. It was just a funky night.”
The talent and depth shortage doesn’t stop at the offensive line. The receivers and tight ends got little separation, even when the line did protect Beathard or he scrambled to buy more time. Offensively, few made plays when they were needed.
On defense, it was more of the same, Christian McCaffrey and quarterback Kevin Hogan gave ESPN ample material with highlight-reel jukes, cuts, and every video-game move under the sun. Linebackers got caught lost in coverage. The defensive front got little penetration or pressure.
Against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship, the Spartans wore Iowa down, and the Hawks didn’t have a strong enough second unit to effectively spell the starters. On Jan. 1, the starters were beaten by better players not fatigue.
The team overcame injuries throughout the year en route to finishing unbeaten in the Big Ten West. But head coach Kirk Ferentz may have said it best after the game — partly.
“We ran the ball fine against Northwestern using that same lineup,” Ferentz said. “So today, they just outplayed us. They outplayed in every turn, and credit goes to them.”
Give all the credit to Stanford. It’s just the better team.
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