Nov. 3, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Northwestern’s nationally ranked passing offense gains an average of nearly 270 yards per game. That will undoubtedly challenge the University of Iowa on Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium.
But as Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly media gathering, “with challenges comes opportunity.”
Iowa, ranked No. 4 in the BCS poll, will have an opportunity to improve to 10-0 overall, 6-0 in the Big Ten Conference when it hosts the Wildcats (5-4, 2-3) on Nov. 7 with an 11 a.m. kickoff. Northwestern has won its last two games in Kinnick — 21-7 in 2006 and 22-17 last season.
“With challenges comes opportunity,” Ferentz said. “That’s football and again, we’re in conference play.”
And with every opportunity is a chance to improve.
“We’re not dwelling on what happens during the game,” Ferentz said. “I don’t think we fixate on those things. We try to just keep getting better with whatever’s in front of us with every opportunity.”
Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka, who left last week’s 34-13 loss to Penn State with a hamstring injury, is expected to play against the Hawkeyes. Kafka leads the conference in total offense (271.4 yards per game) and passing yards per game (243.9). Before Kafka’s injury, the Wildcats led Penn State, 13-10.
“It’s going to be tough,” UI linebacker Pat Angerer said. “Kafka is an unbelievable player. He’s a great leader and a tough guy.”
The top receiving threat for Northwestern is Zeke Markshausen, who is tops in the Big Ten and ninth in the nation with 7.44 catches per game. For the season, Markshausen has 67 receptions for 613 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’re facing a very good Northwestern football team,” Ferentz said. “It’s a team that’s had great success against us, and great success certainly in recent years. They’re a very good offensive football team, leading the conference in a lot of different categories. They throw the ball extremely well, and are very efficient. They’ve done a great job there. I think the biggest thing I would recognize about them a year ago was their defensive improvement.”
The Hawkeyes are 13th in the nation in scoring defense (15.8 points per game) and 19th in total defense (297.6). Iowa is third in the nation in pass efficiency defense and third in the Big Ten in pass defense, allowing 180.1 yards per game.
Following Iowa’s 13th consecutive victory last week and its ninth in a row to start the season, a lot of talk has begun swirling about the loftiness of the Hawkeye’s national ranking. Ferentz emphasized that he couldn’t care less.
“I am so uninterested in that right now,” Ferentz said. “We’ll probably end up where we belong at the end of the day. The drama and the suspense is not killing me. I can assure you it’s not killing me. The suspense about this week, that’s a little more prominent in my thought process right now.”
Ferentz said that junior receiver/kick returner Colin Sandeman is the only UI player who will definitely miss the game against Northwestern. Ferentz is optimistic about the chances of all the other banged-up Hawkeyes — including junior free safety Brett Greenwood. Greenwood was injured at Michigan State and played just one series against Indiana.