IOWA CITY (AP) — Iowa isn’t giving up on Kirk Ferentz despite a third straight season of diminishing results.
The Hawkeyes simply have to hope that the well-respected coach who has twice revived the program has another turnaround in him.
Iowa (4-6, 2-4 Big Ten) is on course for its worst season since 2000, when it went 3-9.
The Hawkeyes have lost four games in a row and will need to beat Michigan and Nebraska to qualify for a bowl game.
The frustration is growing for many fans who have seen the Hawkeyes struggle to compete in the Big Ten despite a schedule that, compared with other seasons, hasn’t been nearly as taxing. Getting rid of Ferentz isn’t a likely option, not with a buyout of some $20 million, and athletic director Gary Barta has publicly supported the coach he gave a 10-year extension before the 2010 season.
On Tuesday, Ferentz tried his best to keep his focus on Saturday’s trip to Michigan (7-3, 5-1). The future will have to wait.
“We’ve lost four straight games, and we’re 4-6 right now, and that’s where we’re at. That’s what I’m worried about right now,” Ferentz said. “Really the only thing I can worry about right now or be concerned with is beating Michigan.”
Iowa’s problems are, in many ways, a bad mix of talent and luck.
The Hawkeyes have fallen a bit short in each area.
Purdue outgained the Hawkeyes 490 yards to 264 last week in a 27-24 win that snapped its five-game losing streak. If it weren’t for three fumbles and 10 penalties, the Boilermakers likely would have cruised to a much easier win.
Iowa couldn’t run the ball, couldn’t throw all that well and its defense couldn’t do enough to make up for the woes on offense.
“The key is -- because everybody is good at pointing out what’s wrong. But the key is to try to find solutions that are workable and realistic and short-term and long-term,” Ferentz said. “That’s been the approach, and we’ll just go from there.”
It could be argued that the Hawkeyes are also among the nation’s unluckiest teams. After all, they’ve played in six games decided by three points or less and lost four of them.
But in all those defeats, Iowa can point to specific mistakes that hurt.
Late interceptions from struggling senior quarterback James Vandenberg played big roles in losses against Iowa State and Indiana. Central Michigan and Purdue each drove down the field in under a minute — at Kinnick Stadium, no less — to set up game-winning field goals.
“If you’re hanging around waiting for luck, you probably should get in a different profession or do something else,” Ferentz said.
Injuries haven’t helped either.
The loss of tackle Brandon Scherff and guard Andrew Donnal in the first half of an ugly defeat to Penn State has hurt a lot more than many thought. That and the absence of running back Mark Weisman, who isn’t expected to play against Michigan because of a leg injury, and fullback Brad Rogers has rendered Iowa’s running game nearly nonexistent.
The Hawkeyes rushed for just 74 yards on 31 carries against Purdue — which entered play as the worst rushing defense in the Big Ten.
The upside of having a relatively light class of impact seniors is that the Hawkeyes will bring back a ton of starters in 2013. Many appear to have a chance to be strong Big Ten players.
Ferentz also has a history of reviving the Hawkeyes. They won a share of the Big Ten title in 2002 and, after finishing 6-6 in 2007, won the Orange Bowl following the 2009 season.
But for now, all Ferentz and the Hawkeyes can really do is try to keep the distractions caused by their poor play to a minimum.
“All you can do is you try to be as smart as you can, as prepared as you can and all that,” Ferentz said. “But you also have to know you’re not going to be perfect, and it’s the same as being a player. They’re not going to be perfect out there.”