IOWA CITY – They’ve handled Ohio State and been hammered by Wisconsin.
Now 10 games into the season, the Iowa football team still searches for some consistency.
“The roller coaster, we need to get off it," defensive tackle Nathan Bazata said Tuesday. “We need to get back to playing our game the way we’re capable of playing it."
The Hawkeyes will get that chance Saturday, hosting Purdue in a 2:30 p.m. home finale at Kinnick Stadium.
Bazata said the attitude on the practice field following a long bus ride home from Wisconsin remains workmanlike, with players mostly concerned with fixing issues that led to the Hawkeyes’ 38-14 loss to the Badgers.
Defensively, tape revealed players trying to do too much and not sticking to their responsibilities against Wisconsin. That impacted gap integrity and created different fits which created issues for Iowa linebackers.
“One thing led to another," Bazata said. “We have to stick to our responsibilities. If we do that, do our jobs, things will work out."
Offensively, quarterback Nate Stanley laid it all on one thing.
“Execution," he said.
The Hawkeyes followed a 487-yard performance against Ohio State with 66 total yards at Wisconsin, the fewest yards Iowa has gained in a game during coach Kirk Ferentz’s 19 seasons.
Stanley believes the Hawkeyes didn’t handle the “pretty hostile environment" that greeted them at Camp Randall Stadium, something that led to inconsistencies that resulted in the most dismal offensive performance of the season.
“You have to handle the environment," Stanley said. “It’s another mental thing you have to prepare for and we obviously need to learn from it."
Stanley said that starts by maintaining a minimal focus centered on one play at a time and nothing more.
That didn’t happen against the Badgers, illustrated by Iowa’s 0-for-13 success rate on third-down conversions.
“On offense, especially, little things kill you," Ferentz said. “It’s a matter of trying to sustain drives, put things together, move. Everybody has got to be working together and when you do that with cohesion and good execution, you give yourself a chance."
Ferentz pointed to false-start penalties and missed assignments as points where Hawkeye problems on offense began against the Badgers.
“All those things can really disrupt things," Ferentz said. “A guy can blow something on defense and if he’s not at the point of attack, nobody may ever know, but pretty much everything on offense impacts everything."
Ferentz said the disruptions proved to be more than Iowa could handle Saturday.
“We never established any rhythm and part of our deal, we typically play better when we’re balanced," Ferentz said. “… We weren’t up for the challenge. We executed a little bit better the week before against a good football team, but it wasn’t there for us (at Wisconsin)."
That leads to where Iowa is today.
“That cohesion, that’s a challenge and we’ve shown that we’re capable," Ferentz said, reflecting on the Ohio State performance. “Now the big challenge is can we show consistency?"
With two games remaining in the regular season, including a Nov. 24 game at Nebraska following Saturday’s match-up with the Boilermakers, running back Akrum Wadley sees that as the Hawkeyes’ primary goal for the rest of the season.
“We can still get to nine wins, but we’ve got to bring some consistency if we want to get there," Wadley said. “We can’t be up and then down. We’ve got to bring it every game. This up and down stuff, that’s got to change. That’s on all of us. The tape doesn’t lie. We’ve all got room to get better."
HOOKER QUESTIONABLE: Sidelined for the Wisconsin game by a bruised knee, safety Amani Hooker has not practiced this week and remains questionable for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game against Purdue.
“That thing hasn’t moved as well as we had hoped, so we’ll see," coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He has a chance to play, but he hasn’t done much now in eight, nine days, so I think the likelihood of that is dropping off a little bit."
Senior Miles Taylor, who started in place of Hooker against the Badgers, shares the top line on the depth chart at strong safety with Hooker this week.
JACKSON WAITS: As he indicated earlier, Josh Jackson repeated Tuesday he plans to wait until the season ends to think about his future.
Five interceptions in Iowa’s last two games and seven on the year have led to plenty of questions about the possibility of an early exit for the junior cornerback, who said he is on track to earn an undergraduate degree in May.
FIRST TIME CAPTAIN: Iowa’s game captains this week include quarterback Nate Stanley, the first time the sophomore has been selected for that role.
He’ll join seniors Josey Jewell, Nathan Bazata and Kevin Ward as captains for the final home game of the season.
ROOM, THEN BOOM: Iowa officials will say only that “lots" of tickets remain for Saturday’s home finale against Purdue, the final game before the north end zone grandstand at Kinnick Stadium is torn down next week to make way for a new facility.
Today is the deadline for fans to order club seats in the new north end zone. About 300 remain.