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IOWA CITY, Iowa – This was supposed to be the year that Iowa flourished under offensive coordinator Greg Davis.
Three games in, the Hawkeyes look inept.
Iowa (2-1) scored only 17 points against Ball State and Iowa State and is 102nd out of 128 FBS teams in scoring at 21.7 points per game.
What is troubling about those numbers is that the Hawkeyes basically brought back their entire offense, and Davis is now in his third year calling plays.
Coach Kirk Ferentz reiterated his support for Davis on Tuesday as the Hawkeyes prepare for their toughest test yet, a date with unbeaten Pittsburgh (3-0) on Saturday.
"Greg is an outstanding teacher. He's an outstanding human being. He's a solid person," Ferentz said. "But if you're in it long enough, you're going to get your tail kicked. That's just the way it goes. That's part of the deal. If you can't deal with it, you probably have to do something else."
If there is one thing that is clearly lacking at Iowa, it is big plays. The Hawkeyes aren't making any.
Iowa has completed three passes that went over 20 yards. To put that number in perspective, national-leader Western Kentucky has 21.
There appear to be a number of issues holding Iowa's vertical attack back.
Iowa's receivers aren't turning the short passes, favored by Davis, into drive-sustaining gains. Quarterback Jake Rudock and his receivers often seem to be on different pages on longer routes, and the line allowed four sacks against the Cyclones.
Iowa also has a pair of potential solutions on the bench in explosive redshirt freshman Derrick Willies and senior Damond Powell, a junior college transfer in his second season with the Hawkeyes.
Neither caught a pass in last week's 20-17 loss to the Cyclones, which ended with a 42-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.
"They're young guys. Derrick is young chronologically. Powell, as you remember, he's been here for a year basically," Ferentz said. "Nothing against either of those guys. It's just where they're at right now. They've got growth to make."
Part of the reason Iowa's passing game is struggling is that its running game is also struggling.
Iowa is averaging just 3.6 yards a carry. None of the four backs in its rotation have reached 100 yards rushing for the year.
The decision to rest Mark Weisman to keep him fresh for the second half of games and the second half of the season has resulted in a career-low 3 yards a carry for the senior.
The Hawkeyes were intent on establishing the run against Iowa State last weekend, but they were largely ineffective. The Hawkeyes scored just three points after halftime.
Iowa ran for 129 yards on 44 carries — and Rudock had 12.
"We haven't found the right rhythm, right tempo," Ferentz said.
Iowa doesn't need to suddenly become an offensive powerhouse for the program to have a successful year, largely because the Hawkeyes have been outstanding on defense.
But the Hawkeyes simply have to start scoring more points if they hope to compete in the Big Ten West.
Given how bad the league has looked so far, even marginal offensive improvement might be enough to make Iowa a contender.
"We're doing it in practice. We just need the opportunity to make them in a game. Hopefully, we'll get those chances this upcoming week," senior wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. "We feel like if the ball is in our hands, we can make those plays."
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