Oct. 29, 2010
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By RICHIE ZAWISTOWSKI
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The mentality adopted by University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and the rest of those within his football program is simple — one game at a time; don’t focus on other games down the road. And certainly don’t fret about past contests. Just put your effort into the upcoming game and cross the rest of the bridges when you get there.
After a heartbreaking 31-30 loss to Wisconsin on Oct. 23, the Hawkeyes now have a chance to redeem themselves as they host the No. 5 ranked, undefeated Michigan State Spartans — a team they defeated on a last-second touchdown in 2009 to move to 8-0. Now, Michigan State is the team sitting undefeated at 8 -0.
“It’s a new team, a new week,” said McNutt, the final hero in last season’s thrilling UI victory. “We can’t look back to last year. We know what’s ahead of us. We want to put our emphasis on practice this week and make sure we’re out here working extremely hard to execute everything we can down to the T.”
The Hawkeyes recognize the importance of tomorrow’s contest. A win over Michigan State puts them back in the hunt in the top of the Big Ten, where a return trip to a BCS bowl could still happen. And what better way to overcome a loss the week prior than to match up against an undefeated top-5 team?
“Yeah, it’s exciting,” said UI senior offensive guard Julian Vandervelde. “It kind of puts you in a good mood knowing that, yeah we lost, but we have that urge to get back out there on the field, to really show that we can improve and that we’re better than that. And what a better way to do it than with Michigan State coming to down, undefeated and top of the Big Ten and all that stuff. It’s a really great opportunity for us, and we really have to be able to put Wisconsin behind us at this point and put all of our attention into Michigan State and focus on this week.”
“It’s a new team, a new week. We can’t look back to last year. We know what’s ahead of us. We want to put our emphasis on practice this week and make sure we’re out here working extremely hard to execute everything we can down to the T.”
UI wide receiver
“You don’t want to play a winless team or something like that after last week,” added linebacker Tyler Nielsen. “You want to prove that you’re one of the best, and playing against a team like Michigan State is a great challenge for us.”
When Nielsen looks around on the field Saturday against the Spartans, he will see a depleted Hawkeye linebacker unit because of injury. Jeff Tarpinian is likely out for a second consecutive week and Jeremiha Hunter sustained a knee injury against Wisconsin. Bruce Davis is out for the season with a knee injury.
Against a team like Michigan State, which has proven it will pull out all the stops with trick plays, whoever the Hawkeyes have on the field needs to be on their toes. The Spartans won against Notre Dame by scoring a touchdown on a fake field goal, and they had a successful fake punt last week against Northwestern. A fake punt by Wisconsin helped the Badgers score their final touchdown against Iowa last Saturday.
“You definitely have to be ready for everything,” said UI senior linebacker Troy Johnson. We have to prepare for all the things we see on film, be ready for all the tricks and everything.”
This is not to suggest Michigan State is a trick-play, gimmick-type team. In fact, it is a tough and talented team, as evidenced by 193.5 yards per game on the ground, and scoring 34.5 points per game. The Spartan defense ranks fourth in the Big Ten in scoring defense, surrendering an average of 17.9 points — two spots below Iowa, which is second at 15.7 per game.
“They’re very physical,” said UI defensive tackle Mike Daniels. “Basically it’s knuckle up, that’s what kind of game it will be.”<>
“Yes,” he quickly responded. “When you come to a place like Iowa, you come because you like to be physical, and you like to play in physical games.”
In a battle of two physical teams, Saturday promises to be a great contest between the two, in Iowa’s latest edition of one-game-at-a-time.
“It’s going to be a challenge, it’s going to be fun,” said UI defensive tackle Christian Ballard. “It’s going to be a game that will be a good test. They’re a tough, physical team and that’s how they’ve always been. It’s a game we’re looking forward to.”