Iowa Quarterback Nate Stanley calls out the defense during a game against Purdue University on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. At halftime, the Hawkeyes lead the Boilermakers 9 to 7. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Hawkeyes searching for offense after Senior Day loss

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Iowa’s offense went missing for the second game in a row, this time in the seniors’ final game in Kinnick.

By Adam Hensley | adam-hensley@uiowa.edu

Iowa’s quest to find its ever-so-elusive offense continued on Nov. 18 in Kinnick in its 24-15 Senior Day loss to Purdue.

Picking “up” just where it left off against Wisconsin on Nov. 11, the offense just could not gain any feasible momentum in Iowa’s fifth loss of the season.

The Hawkeyes surpassed their 66-yard outing in Madison, Wisconsin, with a 258-yard performance in Kinnick. However, it was a story of too little, too late.

By the time quarterback Nate Stanley found tight end Noah Fant in the end zone in the game’s final quarter, the remaining Kinnick crowd was a shell of its former self, just like an offense that went from scoring 48 points and racking up 487 yards against Ohio State to one that put up 13 points and 324 yards in its last two games combined.

“It’s all pretty obvious — there’s nothing really good to take away from [Purdue],” head coach Kirk Ferentz said.

The defense had its breakdown moments, but it got the job done at times and gave the offense plenty of opportunities to take command of the game.

For the second-straight week, offensive woes haunted the Hawkeyes in yet another winnable game.

Purdue sacked Stanley six times, coming into the pocket unblocked numerous times.

“[Purdue] is high pressure,” Ferentz said. “We knew that, just under 40 percent with pressure, so that’s a challenge in itself. But a couple of them were mental errors where we cut guys loose. A couple more were guys getting beat … we’re not going to win football games when you cut guys loose.”

While Stanley struggled with time in the pocket, he didn’t have much help from his pass catchers.

Drops, drops, and more drops plagued Iowa’s offense like a bad cold. Arguably the biggest of them all came when Stanley floated a deep dime to Ihmir Smith-Marsette. The freshman receiver dropped the pass, inducing a groan from the Kinnick crowd.

In the running game, Akrum Wadley’s 78 yards on 22 carries proved to be his second-best performance (yards-wise) in the past four games. However, his 3.5 average yards per carry didn’t result to much help to set up offensive rhythm.

James Butler proved a spark on offense with 38 yards on only 7 carries, but take away his 25-yard scamper in the first quarter, and he’s looking at a 6-carry, 13-yard day.

“We weren’t finishing,” Wadley said. “We’re not playing really good complementary football.”

Looking on paper, the time of possession results would indicate a different final score. The Hawkeyes held the ball for 33:43, almost seven minutes more than the Boilermakers.

But Purdue scored quickly — of its three scoring drives, the two after halftime took 57 seconds and 66 seconds — and Iowa could not match that.

Execution, or the lack thereof, was the word tossed around by almost every player on the team after the loss in Iowa’s final home game of the season. Ferentz said that the past two weeks aren’t necessarily comparable, given that Wisconsin was one of the best defensive teams in the country, but nevertheless, a loss is a loss.

The Hawkeyes have a short week to prepare their road trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, on Nov. 24, which means a short time to find a spark offensively that has been elusive most of the fall.

“We want to do a better job and help out the defense more than we have,” Stanley said.

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