Nov. 10, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — After 10 weeks, nine wins and hours of national face time, it boils down to this for the University of Iowa football team: Win at Ohio State on Saturday and it’s off to the Rose Bowl.
The 13th-ranked Hawkeyes (9-1 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) have conquered the odds all season, and they have another upset opportunity at Ohio Stadium — a place they last tasted victory 18 years ago. As of Tuesday, Iowa is viewed by many so-called experts as shuffling 17 points behind the No. 8 Buckeyes (8-2, 5-1).
That’s fine with everyone in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have thrived all season in the role as hunter.
“I don’t know that we’ve been underdogs by this much, but that seems to be our lot in life at least when we go on the road,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said at his weekly chat with media Tuesday inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “We’re underdogs. We’ve got them right where we want them. That’s the way I’m looking at it, so it’s perfect.”
Two of the top 14 defenses in the nation will be on display. Ohio State leads the Big Ten and is sixth in the country in total defense, allowing 254.1 yards per game. The Hawkeyes are 14th in the land in the same category, surrendering 291.7 yards per game. Ohio State is third in the nation in rushing defense (85.4), fourth in scoring defense (11.2 points per game) and 11th in pass defense (168.7).
“It’s pretty simple. They’re an excellent football team,” Ferentz said. “They are very, very talented and they’re really playing well the last three games. They seem to have hit their stride and hit a rhythm. It will be a great challenge for our football team.”
Ferentz said that quarterback Ricky Stanzi, injured early in the second quarter last week against Northwestern, had surgery on his ankle Monday. He is out for the Ohio State game, possible — but not probable — for Minnesota, and “very realistic for a bowl game.”
“He’s disappointed, but other than that, he’s doing fine,” Ferentz said. “He’s on the comeback trail, so we’ll push forward.”
“It’s going to be exciting. It’s a great atmosphere, they’re a good team and it should be a very exciting place to play. That’s what you dream about. I have to make sure I’m on top of the ball on everything now. Now I’m in the light and it’s my job to get prepared as much as I can.”
UI freshman quarterback
UI redshirt freshman James Vandenberg will make his first collegiate start after throwing for 82 yards in three quarters against Northwestern on Nov. 7.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Vandenberg said. “It’s a great atmosphere, they’re a good team and it should be a very exciting place to play. That’s what you dream about. I have to make sure I’m on top of the ball on everything now. Now I’m in the light and it’s my job to get prepared as much as I can.”
Vandenberg will receive an assist from Stanzi, who will make the trip to Columbus and serve as a team captain for the 11th time this season.
“Rick’s role this week, besides rehab, turns into helping be a tutor,” Ferentz said. “He’s another guy that can talk with James and John (Wienke), so he’s been active already. It will help him keep involved, too.”
Ferentz had some fun with reporters when asked who the Hawkeye third-string quarterback would be.
“I don’t know if we have one right now. We have (quarterback-turned- wide receiver) Marvin McNutt. Maybe we’ll put the wildcat in,” joked Ferentz, in reference to the trendy offense where a skill player takes a direct snap from center.
Ohio State and Iowa have not played since Sept. 30, 2006 — a 38-17 win by the Buckeyes in Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes last played in Columbus during the 2005 season.
“It’s a big game. There’s a lot on the line here,” UI offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “Even though we lost last week, we put ourselves in a position earlier in the season to be in this situation right now. We have to come prepared and ready to play for this game.”
Ferentz has confidence in his young quarterback.
“The guy’s a good quarterback,” Ferentz said. “He throws the ball well. Probably the biggest flaw he had when he came in here…when we recruited him he weighed about 170 pounds. That scared me a little bit the first time I saw him. But Chuck Long looked like that when he got here and James has worked really hard physically. The biggest issue now is getting him experience, getting him caught up to speed and brining him along.”
Long, the other lean signal caller, went on to throw for 10,461 yards and 74 touchdowns for the Hawkeyes from 19981-85. UI fans might remember that his first collegiate start was a 42-7 loss at Nebraska, yet things turned out just fine. Vandenberg and the Hawkeyes didn’t rally for a win against Northwestern last week, but Saturday will be a new day.
“You measure people over the course of the race, not just every lap,” Ferentz said.
Kickoff is scheduled for 2:36 p.m. (Iowa time). The game will be televised to a national audience by ABC.
IOWA-OHIO STATE SERIES RESULTS (SINCE 1991)
|9-30-06||Iowa City||Ohio State 38, Iowa 17|
|9-24-05||Columbus||Ohio State 31, Iowa 6|
|10-16-04||Iowa City||Iowa 33, Ohio State 7|
|10-18-03||Columbus||Ohio State 19, Iowa 10|
|10-21-00||Iowa City||Ohio State 38, Iowa 10|
|10-30-99||Columbus||Ohio State 41, Iowa 11|
|11-14-98||Iowa City||Ohio State 45, Iowa 14|
|10-4-97||Columbus||Ohio State 23, Iowa 7|
|10-26-96||Iowa City||Ohio State 38, Iowa 26|
|10-28-95||Columbus||Ohio State 56, Iowa 35|
|10-31-92||Iowa City||Ohio State 38, Iowa 15|
|11-2-91||Columbus||Iowa 16, Ohio State 9|