IOWA CITY, Iowa — Desmond King tried to play the good soldier and give the kind of answer expected after a 30-3 bowl loss, when someone doesn’t want the end of a season to be about how it, well, ended.
“It’s a goal that you want to win a bowl game,” King said. “But, just being here for the four years I’ve been here and not winning (0ne), it’s not about the score. It’s about, in each and every one of those games, we gave it our all and we stuck together.”
The Hawkeyes, losers of five straight postseason contests, need to face their bowl ineptitude head on. It’s not so much embracing the situation, but accepting the reality. Iowa earned the label as a team that struggles to win a bowl game. No, the Outback Bowl loss won’t define King’s legacy, but it’s part of a trend that is a defining the program.
Iowa last won a bowl game in 2010. It’s not a good look, regardless of how many times the Hawkeyes were favored to win. It doesn’t help that the last three bowl games became one-sided contests. At this point, it doesn’t matter why Iowa lost. The bottom line is the Hawkeyes did, and the last several were about as pretty as an offensive lineman bellyflopping into a pool. A one-sided bowl defeat can take the luster off a good season, whether it’s a 12-0 regular season like in 2015 or the strong finish to this past year.
It’s tough to swallow, but Iowa needs to own the lack of postseason success. To coach Kirk Ferentz’s and his staff’s credit, it’s what they did last season. Ferentz went about altering Iowa’s postseason schedule after the 45-16 Rose Bowl loss to Stanford. The Hawkeyes spent less time in Florida for the Outback Bowl than in California the year before.
It didn’t produce a different result. The only difference was the Rose Bowl was bad from the start. The Outback Bowl got worse the longer it went.
“This game didn’t turn out the way we wanted to,” Ferentz said, “but I’m not so sure just right now what I would change this month. I think the guys really did a good job with our preparation. I thought our game plan was good and there were just some things we didn’t execute.”
There is no question C.J. Beathard’s hamstring injury impacted the game. But that’s not the reason why the Hawkeyes failed to capitalize on two Florida first-quarter turnovers, failed to convert and fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line or let the game get away like it did.
Ferentz is right, Iowa didn’t execute. But the Hawkeyes are in a position where the final result matters as much as the reasoning behind a bowl loss. For Ferentz, the process does matter, though. The right setup is a requirement for the postseason victory that keeps alluding the Hawkeyes.
“We’ll take our time and think about it and talk about it and all that kind of stuff,” Ferentz said, “Get feedback from our players, feedback from our staff, we’ll talk to other people too. But, again, as I stand here, I feel really good about the way things went.”
It will be interesting to see what Ferentz thinks about the bowl prep come March. The one thing everyone saw was the Outback Bowl performance. Where, yet again, a harsh truth was revealed: Iowa is having trouble winning bowl games.
The Hawkeyes can’t ignore it. The only way to change the perception of the program is to win one.
Then players won’t need to say the final score doesn’t matter anymore.