Oct. 13, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The first half of the college football season has been recorded and the University of Iowa is a perfect 6-0. A spotless record was obtained because of a steady, disciplined approach, and that’s how head coach Kirk Ferentz will proceed during the final six weeks, beginning with a road game at Wisconsin on Saturday, Oct. 17.
“Week by week and inch by inch,” said Ferentz when asked the secret to winning 10 consecutive games. “That’s what we need to do from here on, is just try to take it week by week. Most of those clichés are pretty true.”
Wisconsin will be the sixth team this season that has entered its game against the Hawkeyes with zero or one loss. The combined record of the seven Iowa opponents on the date the game was played is 16-4 (80.0 winning percentage).
The schedule certainly doesn’t let up for the Hawkeyes, now that they are locked into Big Ten Conference play. Ferentz, who drew the largest round of laughter at his weekly press conference Tuesday when he said that this time of year makes him “enjoyably miserable,” knew that nothing would come easy, even way back on Sept. 5.
“Everything worried me, starting with the first game,” Ferentz said. “Every part of the schedule is going to be a challenge. This is certainly a different challenge. We’re playing two very good teams the next two weeks — we’re playing two games on the road. We’re like a baseball team. We just had a two-game home stand and now a two-game road trip. We got through the home stand OK and now we start the next segment of the schedule.”
Wisconsin is the top rushing team in the conference and 22nd in the nation, averaging 200.7 yards per game. The Badgers are led by John Clay, the Big Ten’s leading rusher at 106.8 yards per game. He also averaged more than a touchdown per game. Last week against Michigan, the Hawkeyes allowed a season-high 195 rushing yards.
“They come into this game it seems like every year where they’re leading the conference in rushing,” Ferentz said. “It’s 10 years of reference point there, but it goes back certainly since I think (former head coach) Barry (Alvarez) went up there. They made that a priority.”
“Wisconsin has an excellent football team. They are having a great year right now and they’re playing well in all categories.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
The Hawkeyes enter the contest 6-0, 2-0 in the league; Wisconsin is 5-1, 2-1. Last week Iowa defeated Michigan 30-28 and despite gaining twice as many yards (368 to 184), the Badgers were defeated by Ohio State, 31-13. Wisconsin has won its last seven home games and since the start of the 2004 season has compiled a record of 34-3 at Camp Randall Stadium.
“When you see a record like that it means it’s a tough place to play,” Ferentz said. “More importantly, you’re playing a tough team every time you go in there. We’ve already hit a couple of those this year, so if there’s a good thing there, we’ve been on the road in two tough environments already.”
The Hawkeyes are 2-0 away from Kinnick Stadium this season, winning at Iowa State (35-3) and at Penn State (21-10).
Here is a look at some of the statistical highlights: Iowa leads the Big Ten in pass defense (171.0 yards per game), pass efficiency defense and turnover margin (plus-9). Wisconsin is tops in red zone offense (21 of 23, 91.3 percent) and time of possession (33:20 compared to 32:26 by the second-place Hawkeyes). Individually, Hawkeye strong safety Tyler Sash leads the conference in interceptions per game (five in six games) and Wisconsin’s O’Brien Schofield is first in sacks (6 ½) and tackles for loss (14 ½).
“Wisconsin has an excellent football team,” Ferentz said. “They are having a great year right now and they’re playing well in all categories.”
Ferentz opened the press conference with disheartening news that junior wide receiver/kick returner Paul Chaney, Jr., will be lost for the remainder of the season because of an ACL injury. Chaney, one of several on the squad in line for a Comeback Player of the Year award, caught seven passes for 50 yards (7.1), ran the ball five times for 64 yards (12.8), returned eight kicks for 161 yards (20.1) and retuned eight punts for 41 yards (5.1).
“That’s really unfortunate,” Ferentz said. “He was working hard, having a good year and doing a lot of good things for us. It’s a tough loss. I know he’ll get back and come back strong and have a great senior year.”
Iowa won the Heartland Trophy in 2008 with a 38-16 win against the Badgers. The last time the teams met in Madison, Wisconsin escaped with a 17-13 victory.