Oct. 17, 2009
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MADISON, Wis. — Kirk Ferentz and his staff have to be very patient men. Just consider what they did – or, more importantly, didn’t do – Saturday afternoon in Camp Randall Stadium on the University of Wisconsin during the Hawkeyes’ 20-10 victory over the Badgers, Iowa’s seventh win in a row in 2009 and 11th overall.
UW running back John Clay solved the Iowa defense to the tune of 69 yards on 14 carries while helping the home team build a 10-3 lead during the game’s first 30 minutes. And, quite honestly, that score wasn’t indicative of just how dominating the Badgers were while the UW students were still finding their way to the stadium.
However, instead of panicking or throwing out the game plan, Iowa’s coaching staff stayed on task – executing and evaluating – and made a few adjustments while the UW Marching Band was entertaining the Homecoming crowd of 75,000-plus at halftime. The end result: Iowa’s defense became the dominator and Clay gained just 11 yards in the second half. And, when the Badgers’ ground game disappeared so, too, did its offense.
Here’s another example. Iowa’s running game was stuck in neutral for the majority of the first half, collecting just 23 yards on 14 attempts. Again, the Hawkeyes didn’t panic. Instead, the stayed on task, made a few adjustments, buckled the chinstraps and gained 64 yards via the ground game in the second half, 10 of which coming up the Wisconsin gut to paydirt by Adam Robinson at the 13:15 mark of the final stanza, a score that gave Iowa its first lead in the game.
It probably should be noted, too, that Robinson outgained Clay – the Big Ten’s top rusher entering Saturday’s action – 91 yards to 75. His per carry average was also better by a full yard, 4.6 yards per rush compared to 3.6.
“Obviously we’re thrilled to get the victory here today. It was a very hard fought game from both teams. Both teams really competed hard,” Ferentz offered afterward. “They really controlled play and dominated in the first half and then we were able to get a grip on things and play a little better in the second half.
Need more evidence of Iowa’s patience? How about waiting until the second half to call Tony Moeaki’s number?
Clearly a big piece of Wisconsin’s defensive game plan was to limite the impact of Iowa’s talented tight. So, instead of forcing the action, the Hawkeyes didn’t turn to Moeaki until after Amari Spievey’s first of two second-half interceptions gave Iowa possession on its own 46.
Passes to Moeaki book-ended Iowa’s 9-play, 54-yard touchdown drive that put the game into a tie at 10-all. The first Stanzi to Moeaki pitch covered just four yards. The second was a thing of beauty: A 24-yard spiral that dropped in the senior’s hands just inside the right back corner of the endzone.
“It was a game of big plays. We did a good job of moving the football and getting points after that (interception). We were able to survive our turnovers, defensively with three big stops, then, when we got one, the offense took the ball and drove it. That sequence right there is probably where the game turned,” said Ferentz.
“Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. There’s five weeks in the season and I guarantee there are twists and turns out there that we haven’t even begun to think of.”
Need one more? How about waiting for placekicker Daniel Murray to extend is range? Know as Iowa’s “short placekicker,” Murray must have been slowly and surely giving the Hawkeye coaching staff confidence in his ability from long range because Saturday, when asked to nail a 48-yarder to put Iowa up by two scores, the Iowa City native responded with a kick that many think would have been good from 55 yards.
That kick gave Iowa 20 straight unanswered points and possession of the Heartland Trophy for another year. It also probably helped to push Iowa higher in the weekly Top 25 polls and, most likely, a position among the Top 10 in the first Bowl Championship Series standings that will be released Sunday afternoon.
“Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves,” Ferentz told the Hawkeye Radio Network’s Gary Dolpin and Ed Podolak after handing Wisconsin its second Big Ten Conference loss in two weeks.
“There’s five weeks in the season and I guarantee there are twists and turns out there that we haven’t even begun to think of,” he added.