Iowa's lackluster offense exposed in 20-17 home loss to Iowa State

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Once again, Iowa failed to run the ball as it has in the past.

But the Hawkeyes couldn't throw it either.

The result was another disheartening loss to rival Iowa State and lingering questions about an offense that can't get untracked.

Iowa (2-1) scored just 17 points for the second week in a row on Saturday, losing to the Cyclones by three on Cole Netten's 42-yard field goal with two seconds left.

The Hawkeyes gained only 275 yards and were held without a touchdown in the second half.

"To me, that seemed to be the story of the game. We did a decent job in the first half. Second half we just never got in the traction. Part of that is self-inflicted and part of that is just good play on their part," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Iowa, which traditionally builds its offense around the running game, made a point of trying to establish the run after a pair of so-so efforts in wins over Northern Iowa and Ball State.

The Hawkeyes ran on 27 of 40 plays in the first half, mostly on carries for 240-pound senior Mark Weisman and draws for quarterback Jake Rudock.

The effort yielded just 70 yards. But a pair of short TD runs by Weisman and Rudock gave Iowa a 14-3 lead.

The Hawkeyes rushing attack was marginally better in the second half.

But that's when their passing game fell apart.

Rudock finished with 146 yards passing — and just 43 in the second half — with no TDs and a pick in what was by far his worst game of the year.

"We'll have to see what they were doing different. They gave us some different looks on certain packages we had," Rudock said.

Iowa's inability to scare opponents with its vertical passing game appears to be crippling its entire attack.

Defenses seem to believe they load the box to stop the running game without worrying about the Hawkeyes beating them deep.

Iowa couldn't make the Cyclones pay for such a strategy.

Rudock's 33-yard pass to tight end Ray Hamilton was by far the longest pass of the day for the Hawkeyes. Rudock only completed three passes that went for more than 10 yards, and starting wideouts Tevaun Smith, Kevonte Martin-Manley and Jacob Hillyer combined for just 59 yards.

Iowa now ranks 93rd nationally with 6.2 yards per passing attempt.

"To me it was more of a team function, if you will. It seemed like we were just kind of muddled there and Jake held the ball a little bit longer, and credit goes to Iowa State. They played really good team defense," Ferentz said.

What makes Iowa's struggles on offense even more troubling is that, for the most part, it's a veteran group.

The Hawkeyes brought back their top three receivers, their top four running backs and most of their line — and Saturday's start was the 16th in a row for Rudock.

Iowa next heads to unbeaten Pittsburgh (3-0), which is allowing just 15 points a game.

If the Hawkeyes don't fix their offense fast, things could get ugly in a hurry.

"We got outplayed in that second half and it doesn't feel very good obviously. We'll go back (Sunday) and see if we can't improve here in the next six days," Ferentz said.


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