Iowa Opens Legends Play Against `Cats

Oct. 11, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — One week after opening the Big Ten Conference season, the University of Iowa football team opens Legends divisional play against Northwestern on Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium. Kickoff is 6:01 p.m. (CT) with the game televised by the Big Ten Network.

There will be at least one resemblance to the Hawkeye preparation this week compared to last. Like the game at Penn State (with Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin), they are expected to defend against two Wildcat quarterbacks, Dan Persa and Kain Colter. The quick and elusive Persa has been slowed ever since rupturing an Achilles tendon 11 months ago. Although Persa has a net rushing total of negative 8 yards in games against Illinois and Michigan this season, he has completed 72.4 percent of his passes for 454 yards and four touchdowns.

“(Persa) played as well against us last year as the quarterbacks that we have faced, if you go back 12 years; he really played excellent against us a year ago,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I would expect he’s going to be ready to do the same thing this year. So it’s going to be a big challenge for us. We have played some really big quarterbacks in the last decade and Persa is right up there.”

Fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes will once again have the opportunity to “stripe” historic Kinnick Stadium for the enjoyment of a prime time television audience Saturday when Iowa entertains Northwestern on BTN.

If you’re going to Kinnick, the same rules apply: Even numbered sections wear GOLD, odd numbered sections wear BLACK, and UI students in the student section wear BLACK.

Go Hawks!

Iowa sacked Persa four times in 2010, but when he managed to avoid the Hawkeye rush, Persa completed 32-of-43 passes for 318 yards and two touchdowns. The final game-winning scoring toss came with 82 seconds left in the game.

An added luxury at quarterback for Northwestern is Colter. He leads the team in rushing attempts (56), rushing yards (294) and rushing touchdowns (five). Colter has completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 427 yards and a touchdown…and he has been on the receiving end of three passes for 50 yards.

“(Colter) can run, too, he can really run,” Ferentz said. “The other day, he was a guy to throw the ball to. So they are taking advantage of his athleticism and he did a really nice job filling in when he was called upon. It’s not like you can take a coffee break if they would pull Persa out. You’d better be on your toes because he has really, really played well for them.”

Iowa looks to extend its home winning streak to four games. Saturday’s game is the fourth that Northwestern will play away from Ryan Field; it is also the second of three straight night games for the Wildcats. The Hawkeyes enter the game with a record of 3-2 overall, 0-1 in the Big Ten; Northwestern is 2-3, 0-2 and has lost three games in a row.

The days of the winless 1981 Wildcats are over. Fast-forward 30 years to a Northwestern program that has been to three straight bowl games and…Northwestern is one of the few opponents to have success against Iowa since 2005. The Wildcats have won five of the last six games in the series, including three in a row and three straight in Kinnick.

“I think that that sometimes there’s a perception in this state that we are still playing the team from `85,” Ferentz said. “But last year, both of us came out of the game 7 3. The year before that, they finished up 8 4, lost to Auburn but three points I think in the Outback Bowl who went on to win the National Championship the next year. The year before that, I think they were 9 3 at the end of the year and lost to Missouri in overtime (in the Outback Bowl). These guys have played well the last three years.”

As for the recent history between the teams, Ferentz says you can slice it, dice it and sprinkle some injuries, but the bottom line is simple: “They have played better all three games and they won. Our objective this week is to play better than them.”

Turnovers have been instrumental in Northwestern’s success over the Hawkeyes the last six years. In Iowa’s five losses since 2005, the Hawkeyes are minus 6 in turnover margin. Both teams threw an interception last season.

For the second week in a row, there could be a Hawkeye returning from the injured list to the participation list. Fullback Brad Rogers made his first appearance of the season at Penn State and Ferentz said that sophomore cornerback B.J. Lowery will return to practice today with protection on his wrist.

“He hasn’t practiced in pads since August,” Ferentz said of Lowery. “He was practicing well, he did a good job in the spring and that’s good news. But the reality is, he has not practiced with the pads on or a helmet on for basically two months. So at least it’s a start back and we can get him going and get him back with the football team and maybe he can help us out depth wise and we’ll just keep bringing him along.”