Barring an absolute miracle, we only have two more weeks of 2012 Hawkeye football.  Fortunately, Iowa basketball is stepping up to fill the void.  Plus, Gary Dolphin makes a cameo on Sunday Night Football…with a nod to Gus Schrader, it’s all part of today’s Random Hash.

Hawkeye Football

So disappointing.  By falling to Indiana and Purdue in consecutive weeks, Iowa is pretty much guaranteed to be spending the holidays at home.  This is looking like Iowa’s worst team since Ferentz’ first squad in 1999.  The 2000 Hawkeye team only went 3-9, but they played a very difficult non-conference schedule, and all three of their victories came during Big Ten play.  If the 2012 Hawkeyes can’t stage a rally and win another game or two, a 4-8 record places them below the 2000 squad, in my humble opinion.

Iowa’s offensive woes continue to haunt the team.  In retrospect, the Penn State loss was as damaging a defeat as the Hawks have suffered in years.  The loss hurt, but the season-ending injuries to Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal on consecutive plays had far larger ramifications.  I truly believe that the offensive line was slowly developing into a league-average unit, but when Scherff and Donnal went down, Iowa’s offensive line never recovered.

And what about the running game?  I love Damon Bullock’s effort and heart, but he’s not a game-breaker at this stage in his career.  The attrition to Iowa’s running back corps over the past few years finally caught up to the team.  How dangerous would this team be with Brandon Wegher, who could have been a senior this season?  Or Adam Robinson?  Or Marcus Coker?  That’s even before we consider the losses of Barkley Hill and Mark Weisman earlier in the season.

Fans want to put the lion’s share of the blame on offensive coordinator Greg Davis and quarterback James Vandenberg.  That’s totally understandable…they’re the highest profile members of the Hawkeye offense.  Vandenberg, in particular, is a big part of the problem.  He’s clearly not the talent that Brad Banks, Ricky Stanzi, or even Drew Tate were.  But I do believe that Vandenberg’s 2011 season illustrated that he could be a Nathan Chandler/Kyle McCann type of offensive caretaker, if he were surrounded by the supporting cast those guys had.  Last year, Vandenberg put up very respectable statistics in leading the Hawkeyes to a bowl game.  But this year, he’s getting little protection from his line or support from the running game…and Vandenberg just isn’t talented enough to overcome those obstacles the way that Drew Tate so magnificently did in 2004.

Iowa’s offensive production has hurt them all season.  Defense and special teams share the blame too, of course, but I’ll analyze their shortcomings at another time.  Meanwhile, I’ll continue to hope for a miraculous turnaround against Michigan…but it seems like too much to ask for this team.  I really, really hope I’m wrong.

Hawkeye Basketball

Keno DavisOn the other hand, Hawkeye hoops is off to a solid start.  On Monday, Iowa downed Central Michigan, 73-61.  It was a nice return to Iowa City for Keno Davis, the Chippewas’ head coach.  The 40-year-old Davis spent his formative years in Iowa while his father, Dr. Tom Davis, became the winningest coach in Hawkeye basketball history.  Keno was a graduate assistant at Iowa from 1991 to 1995 as well, so it was nice to welcome him back to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Davis observed that it isn’t his idea to keep coming back to Iowa City.  As the head coach at Central Michigan and previously as the head coach at Drake, matchups against Iowa were already on the schedule before he arrived.  Not that he’s opposed to returning to his father’s old stomping grounds.  “It’s always neat to come back to Iowa City,” Keno remarked.

As a Hawkeye fan, I can say that it’s always neat to have him back.  Of course, Iowa didn’t welcome him back with a win for his Chippewas…that’s going a bit too far.  Central Michigan’s football team already left with a win earlier this year, and just how charitable do you think we Hawkeyes are?

Still, it was a close game until late in the second half.  Although the expectations for Keno Davis’ first season were low, Central Michigan looked like a competitive team.  Give Keno credit…the guy can coach.  And it was great seeing Kevin Gamble back in the house as one of Keno’s assistants, too!

As a DC guy, it’s weird to see Howard next up on Iowa’s schedule.  I just hope the team continues to gel…and, most importantly, WIN while doing it…until (what should be) their first big test on Nov. 27 against Virginia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Gary Dolphin

Hawkeye fans watching Sunday Night Football last weekend were startled to hear a familiar voice doing the public address announcements.  During the Houston Texans-Chicago Bears game at Soldier Field Sunday night, many fans thought they heard Gary Dolphin, the Voice of the Hawkeyes, over the PA system.

Well, you can’t put anything past Hawkeye fans!  That was Dolph.  I asked him how that came about, and he was kind enough to reply.

“That was me,” Dolphin wrote.  “No big deal really.  I worked for the Bears from 1989-99 as their sideline network television coordinator, timing the commercial breaks and serving as the liaison between the officiating crew and broadcasting network.”

I wrote extensively about Dolph’s professional background earlier, but I neglected to mention his work in that capacity for the Chicago Bears.  Dolph still has many friends in the Bears front office, both from when he worked for the organization and from when the franchise pursued him – twice – as a candidate for their radio play-by-play position. 

Dolph continued, “I got a call about a month ago, asking if I might be available to fill in since their regular PA guy, Jim Riebandt, had to miss his first game in thirty some years due to a work commitment.”  Since Dolph didn’t have a basketball game to broadcast Sunday night, he agreed to take the job, even though he had never done public address work before!

All in all, he did a great job, and it turns out that he really enjoyed the experience.  “The fact that it was Veterans Day made it extra special for me in honoring our great men and women of the military,” he wrote.  “Hats off to the Bears and the NFL.  What a spectacular display of  salute and honor.  Being a huge military history buff, I was thrilled to be there.”

Gary Dolphin is one of the hardest working men in the business.  After calling the Purdue game on Saturday, he worked in Chicago on Sunday before racing back to Iowa City for the Iowa-Central Michigan basketball game Monday night.  He confessed to feeling “a little whipped” after his long detour to Chicago, yet he was very pleased to step in and help the Bears.  “It was worth getting home at 3 AM,” he declared.

That’s the great thing about Gary Dolphin…you never know where that signature voice is going to turn up next!  In my time writing books, I’m not sure I’ve met a more supportive Hawkeye than Dolph, so I’m thrilled for his success.  Here to you, Dolph!

More on Duke Slater

One last note…my most recent book on Duke Slater continues to draw media attention.  I recorded an interview recently for the Pat Williams radio show.  (If you don’t know who Williams is, read the attached link…what an amazing man!)

Anyway, more info on this interview is sure to come…so stay tuned!  And as always, thanks for reading!

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