BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - The day started with a delay. In retrospect it was more like a stay of execution.
Iowa did just enough to win Saturday in a 24-21 loss to the Hoosiers. It also did just enough to lose.
And now the 2012 season is truly on the brink.
Let's begin essentially where it ended for Iowa. Trailing by three with just under five minutes remaining in the game, the Hawkeyes faced a 4th-and-inches call on their own 28. The thought of rushing to the line and trying a sneak was briefly entertained but when play was stopped for a booth review the decision was made to punt.
“The play got stopped to review the spot,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That kind of changed the complexion.”
Indiana took possession of the ball with 4 minutes and 43 seconds left on the clock.
"We've got 4:43, so as you might imagine we were hoping to get a good punt...and we're playing for a stop at that point," Ferentz said.
There would be 18 precious seconds remaining when Iowa got it back.
Too little, too late. Especially on a day when the Hoosiers shredded the Iowa defense for 473 yards of total offense, including 406 through the air. Thirty of those yards came early in the fourth quarter when IU quarterback Cam Coffman hit Cody Latimer for what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown.
“We saw that their safeties were low, we thought we could take a shot and Cody had been hot making plays for us like he always does,” Coffman said. “Safety was low so we just threw it over the top and Cody made a good catch.”
Latimer and Kofi Hughes each surpassed the century mark in yardage Saturday as Indiana defeated Iowa for the first time since 2007.
Enough about the Hoosiers. Let's talk about the Hawkeyes, who now face the daunting task of finding two wins on their schedule between Purdue, Michigan and Nebraska in order to become bowl-eligible. If the margin for error was razor thin entering Saturday afternoon it's now virtually non-existent.
“The way we see it, we’ve got three and possibly four chances to play in the black and gold ever,” said Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg, who was 21 of 34 for 249 yards in a losing effort. “We’re going to take it one game at a time and throw as many punches as we can.”
Saturday's game started well for the Hawks after an hour delay due to severe weather in the area. Vandenberg connected with Kevonte Martin-Manley for a 24 yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter to give the Hawks an early lead. One play later linebacker Christian Kirksey snared a Nate Sudfeld pass and raced 18 yards to the end zone.
That 14-0 lead was as good as it got for the Hawks, who led 14-10 at the half. Despite Indiana allowing a staggering 222.5 yards per game on the ground this season, Iowa managed just 96. Damon Bullock's 25 carries for 83 yards included a fourth quarter touchdown run of four yards that gave Iowa a short lived 21-17 lead.
“We aren't putting the flag up...I thought we improved this week, I thought we were a better football team today than a week ago, so that's our mode of operation,” Ferentz said. “We are trying to improve.”