Aug 27, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — One team has won 12 regular-season games in a row, the other has won 12 straight season openers.
For one team, the 2012 season was a fairy tale, for the other, a nightmare.
One team has a Heisman Trophy candidate under center, the other has a quarterback waiting to take his first snap.
What do all of these numbers mean? Nothing, once the ball is kicked off Saturday when Northern Illinois travels to Kinnick Stadium to face Iowa in a 2:42 p.m. (CT) start.
“Any time we can get an opener in Kinnick, that’s what we want,” said UI senior free safety Tanner Miller. “We always stress being able to defend Kinnick, so getting our first win at home and getting off on the right foot is going to be big for us.”
Iowa was 2-5 at home last season, but the Hawkeyes started on the “right foot” with an 18-17 win against Northern Illinois in Chicago’s Soldier Field. From there, Iowa went 3-8 while the Huskies rattled off 12 wins in a row and played in the Orange Bowl.
Northern Illinois’s success was due in large part to quarterback Jordan Lynch, who became the first player in NCAA FBS history to pass for more than 3,000 yards (3,138) and run for more than 1,500 yards (1,815) in a season. He finished seventh in the 2012 Heisman Trophy voting.
“Any time we can get an opener in Kinnick, that’s what we want. We always stress being able to defend Kinnick, so getting our first win at home and getting off on the right foot is going to be big for us.”
Hawkeye free safety
“You can’t let him lull you to sleep because you might think he is running and the next thing you know the ball is thrown over your head,” said UI sophomore cornerback Jordan Lomax, who will start for the first time as a collegian Saturday. “He is a great quarterback, and we have to watch out for him.”
No team did a better job of slowing Lynch last season than the Hawkeyes. He did most of his damage with his feet, rushing 18 times for 119 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown that gave Northern Illinois a 17-9 lead with 9:43 left in the third quarter. Lynch completed 6-of-16 passes for 54 yards.
“A key is keeping him in the pocket, making him a passer,” said UI senior linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who had eight tackles against the Huskies in 2012, four coming on Lynch rushing attempts. “He is going to make plays, so you have to be able to live with those and bounce back. As long as we execute the things we have to do and run the plays that (defensive coordinator Phil) Parker calls, we should be alright.”
From a defensive perspective, the Hawkeyes want to be disciplined, with focus on their tasks and their tasks only.
“As long as everybody does their job, reads their keys, and we’re on the same page and nobody tries to do too much, we will be fine,” Lomax said. “We can’t try to do someone else’s job.”
UI defensive end Dominic Alvis compiled three solo tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss against the Huskies a year ago.
“Assignment football is what it comes down to,” he said. “Every play you have to be mindful that you have an assignment and you have to take care of it, otherwise 70-yard touchdown runs that happened last year will happen (again).”
If any of the 52,000 in attendance at last year’s battle in Soldier Field predicted 2012 would unfold like it did after Sept. 1, they would be telling a fib bigger than Carl Davis.
When Saturday arrives, it could be apparent if either of the teams are stuck in 2012. Will the Huskies remain rolling, or will they have a celebration hangover? Will the Hawkeyes snap a six-game losing streak, or will questions and head-scratching persist?
“I’m very ready (to turn the page on 2012),” UI linebacker James Morris said. “We will have our own identity this year. We are the 2013 defense, and we’re worried about playing good Iowa football.”
During Iowa’s 12-game season-opening winning streak, seven of the “victims” have been from the Mid-American Conference: Kent State (2001, 2004), Akron (2002), Miami, Ohio (2003), Ball State (2005) and Northern Illinois (2007, 2012).
The Hawkeyes have played Northern Illinois eight times, with eight victories. The last two meetings were in Soldier Field, with Iowa’s average winning margin being seven points. In six games in Kinnick Stadium, the Hawkeyes’ average margin of victory is 33.5 points.
Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock will start a game Saturday for the first time since Dec. 17, 2010, when he led his St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) team past Plant, 29-7, for the Florida Class 5A high school state championship.
Saturday’s meeting between Iowa and Northern Illinois is the annual “Be Bold, Wear Gold” game. Single-game tickets for all seven Hawkeye home contests inside Kinnick Stadium are available on hawkeyesports.com.