Nov. 9, 2010
- Iowa Football Game Day Central
- Cast Your O’Brien Quarterback Award
- Vote for R. Stanzi as a Premier Player
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Northwestern, this week’s opponent for the University of Iowa football team, has a quarterback who is second in the Big Ten Conference in total offense and passing yards per game, a wide receiver that is first in receiving yards, a cornerback who is first in pass breakups and a defensive end who is second with six sacks.
And although those are all noteworthy indicators, the key for the Hawkeyes remains the personnel wearing visiting white uniforms rather than home purple.
“We have to give ourselves a chance to win against a good team,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly sit-down with the media. “We need to focus on making sure we play clean.”
Clean as in maintain possession of the football.
“Not to discredit Northwestern, but in this series, it starts with us,” Ferentz repeated. “In 2006, we showed up like fat cats, and they showed up like hungry cats and just nailed us (21-7). We deserved it. The last two years, we didn’t protect the football very well.”
Last season, both teams were forced to use two quarterbacks, but the big difference in the 17-10 win by Northwestern was four Hawkeye turnovers — two interceptions and two fumbles. One of the fumbles was recovered by Marshall Thomas in the end zone on a play where Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi was injured. In 2008 — a 22-17 win by the Wildcats — Iowa turned the ball over five times, four by fumble.
It is Senior Day on Saturday for Northwestern (6-3 overall, 2-3 Big Ten). No. 13 Iowa enters the game 7-2, 4-1 and looking to end a two-game losing skid to the Wildcats. Ryan Field is expected to be filled to capacity (47,130), the most fans for an Iowa-Northwestern game since 1985 when the Hawkeyes won, 49-10.
Wildcat quarterback Dan Persa relieved Mike Kafka in the most recent meeting at Kinnick Stadium and ran for a game-high 67 yards on 17 carries and completed 5 of 9 passes for 37 yards and a touchdown. He is second in the league in passing yards (251.4) and total offense (303.6) and is obviously a chief reason Northwestern is first in the league in third-down conversion rate (51.9 percent) and third in passing offense.
“I can’t say enough about him,” Ferentz said. “He’s a tremendous competitor. He’s not in awe of anything. He just plays very well and he’s a guy that throws the football well, but also can run it and that’s going to be the difference from last week in terms of attack.”
Northwestern allows 388.8 yards of offense a game, but it has some of the top defenders in the conference. Cornerback Jordan Mabin has 10 pass breakups in nine games and defensive end Vince Browne is second in the Big Ten in sacks (six), third in forced fumbles (two) and fourth in tackles for loss (1.28 per game).
Iowa is the only team in the Big Ten with an unblemished mark (2-0) on the road; Northwestern has not won at home (0-2). The last win by the Hawkeyes in the series was 2007 in Evanston, 28-17, when Iowa trailed 14-7 at halftime. The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series 46-22-3, but Northwestern was won four of the last five.
“If you look at recent history, Missouri was fortunate to beat them two years ago (in the Alamo Bowl),” Ferentz said. “Last year, Auburn, which is in national title contention talk right now, beat them in overtime (in the Outback Bowl); two overtime games in bowls. They have had good football teams and the last two years at least, they have out played us.”
The Hawkeye offensive backfield received a boost at Indiana from true freshman Marcus Coker, who gained 129 yards on 22 carries. Sophomore Adam Robinson (172 carries-806 yards-10 touchdowns), the team’s leading rusher, is expected to play Saturday.
“As far as I know, he’s practicing (Tuesday) and he’s trained; Sunday he ran, lifted and all that stuff, so he’s fine to go,” Ferentz said.
Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker returned home Friday and has returned to the Hayden Fry Football Complex on a limited basis. It is unknown whether he will accompany the team to Evanston.
“It’s just good to have him; I know he feels good about being home,” Ferentz said. “Like anybody in that situation, he’s got a lot of ground to cover right now from endurance and strength.”