Oct. 15, 2010
- Iowa Football Game Day Central
- Cast Your O’Brien Quarterback Award
- Vote for R. Stanzi as a Premier Player
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
By RICHIE ZAWISTOWSKI
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When the 14th ranked University of Iowa Hawkeyes take on the 24th ranked Michigan Wolverines for the 56th time in history, one glaring aspect will seem different from the previous 55 times.
Through the years Iowa has seen all types of players come and go. But for the most part, the Iowa program and its style has remained consistent. Nearly the entire coaching staff has been together since head coach Kirk Ferentz arrived in 1999. You know what you’re getting when it comes to Hawkeye football.
The can no longer be said for Michigan.
With the hiring of Rich Rodriguez in 2007, Michigan dumped its traditional offensive approach that had garnered their past success. Rodriguez brought with him from West Virginia a spread-option to the Big Ten.
Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson is the main threat in the Michigan spread option. The dual-threat Robinson ranks second in the country in both rushing offense and total offense with 165.7 and 369 yards-per-game, respectively.
“Growing up I’ve been a big Iowa fan and a Big Ten fan,” said safety Tyler Sash, “Seeing the past quarterbacks they’ve had have been pro-style drop-back quarterbacks who can launch it 60 or 70 yards. It’s a little different playing against guys that can do the same thing, but they can also turn around and run the ball and hurt you that way.”
“Growing up I’ve been a big Iowa fan and a Big Ten fan. Seeing the past quarterbacks they’ve had have been pro-style drop-back quarterbacks who can launch it 60 or 70 yards. It’s a little different playing against guys that can do the same thing, but they can also turn around and run the ball and hurt you that way.”
UI strong safety
It’s a battle of unmovable object against the unstoppable force. Robinson and Michigan can move the ball, but Iowa is just as good if not better at stopping teams. Iowa is ranked second in the country in rushing defense, and fourth in total defense.
However, the common theme from Iowa defenders regarding Robinson is containment. The Iowa defense has to keep Robinson contained so he cannot get out into the open field and make plays.
“That’s all we’ve been hearing all week is contain, contain,” said cornerback Micah Hyde. “That’s what you have to do against somebody like that. You’ve got to keep the ball inside and don’t let him get outside because he can create some things.”
Robinson may be the focal point on the offense, but he also has weapons around him to use.
“Watching them on film, they’re really athletic,” said Hyde. Their skill positions are incredible. Their offense is explosive, and at any given time they can bust out an 80-yard run or an 80-yard pass.”
This puts a lot pressure on the Iowa defense that may or may not be without starting middle linebacker Jeff Tarpinian. In his place would be senior Troy Johnson, who made his lone start against Minnesota in 2009 and was named Big Ten defensive player of the week. Johnson also played a role in Iowa defeating Penn State 24-3 earlier this season.
“He came in and played very well against Penn State, until he hit someone too hard and knocked himself out of the game,” said Sash. “But that’s what you like to see out of a guy who can come in and play all three different positions, he’s experienced. “The coaches have the trust in him otherwise he wouldn’t be on the field.”
Johnson has been the utility linebacker for Iowa, backing up all three positions. While he hoped he had been able to see the field more throughout his career, the senior is all about the team.
“Everybody wants to play, but there have been great players in front of me,” said Johnson. “All I can do is just focus on preparing each week and doing what I can do each week to help the team.”
Again, the common theme to help Iowa is the containment of Robinson. Johnson knows it.
“We just have to do a good job of keeping him contained,” said Johnson. “It’s everybody doing their assignment and filling their gaps, and not giving any openings to him.”
This should not be too hard for Iowa, as its defensive philosophy is rooted in sound assignment football.
“The way our defense is, that’s kind of what we do,” said Johnson. “We play assignment football and fill gaps, and make sure everybody is in the right spot. Hopefully we can do a good job of that Saturday.”
If Iowa does a good job, it has to like its chances of a win. Rodriguez has not achieved much success in his time at Michigan against top-tier competition. He is 1-7 against top-25 teams while at Michigan. The Wolverines also have a three-game losing streak against ranked Iowa opponents, including last year’s 30-28 loss under the lights at Kinnick Stadium.
In that game Robinson had 30 yards passing and a fourth-quarter interception, along with 49 yards rushing and a touchdown. He split time with fellow quarterback Tate Forcier, who has played little in 2010 after starting most of 2009. It is Robinson’s team now, and the dual-threat behind center is the focus of the offense.
“We’re going to have to try some different things, and maybe mess up some of his reads, and when we get a chance to hit him, make sure we hit him,” said linebacker Tyler Nielsen.
It’s easier said than done, but if they do, the Hawkeyes look to be flying high in Ann Arbor.