Oct. 29, 2013
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- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
IOWA CITY, Iowa — November is the time of the year where things become clearer.
The University of Iowa football team (5-3, 2-2) begins the final month of the regular season facing No. 24 Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1) on Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium — the first meeting between the two schools since 2010.
The Badgers are in the first season under head coach Gary Andersen, but the program looks eerily similar to Wisconsin teams of the past.
“They play very well,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly news conference inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “On both sides of the ball and their special teams are well-coached. They play hard and are a disciplined football team. That’s been a characteristic of their teams there for quite some time.”
The Badgers’ offensive identity has long been its rushing attack. Sophomore Melvin Gordon and senior James White are carrying on the tradition. Gordon has 1,012 yards and 11 touchdowns on 107 attempts, giving Wisconsin a 1,000-yard rusher for the ninth-straight season. White has 672 yards on the ground with seven scores.
“James White is kind of the forgotten guy in some ways,” said Ferentz. “Gordon has great numbers, and rightfully so, but White has been an outstanding player. They’ve had a good 1-2 punch for quite a while, and those two are a good pair.”
Wisconsin’s offense ranks third in the Big Ten and 11th nationally, averaging 513.6 yards per game. The rushing offense leads the conference and is eighth in the nation at 296.9 yards per game, while Gordon’s 144.6 average is a Big Ten best and is fourth nationally.
Ferentz says Wisconsin is going to challenge the Hawkeyes on both sides of the football.
“These guys are very different than the offensive teams we’ve played the last few weeks,” he said. “They’re very different defensively, too, with the 3-4 scheme.”
Ferentz praised the play of senior linebacker James Morris, who earned the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honor for the second time this season for his play in the 17-10 overtime victory over Northwestern.
“James works extremely hard on the practice field, and he’s unbelievable in terms of preparation away from the field, away from the building,” said Ferentz. “He’s a great leader and role model to be on the football team.
“We’ve had two other guys that had the same distinction — Adrian Clayborn and Jonathan Babineaux. That’s elite company. Those are pretty good players, and that’s a good club to be involved in there.”
Ferentz said senior defensive end Dominic Alvis will miss his second straight game because of injury, putting Mike Hardy in line to make his second-consecutive start. Hardy finished with three tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack against Northwestern.
“I thought Mike played his best game on Saturday,” said Ferentz. “Nate (Meier) got thrown in there for a little bit more exposure and did a good job.
“To be a good football team, we need to have somebody ready to go. That’s true at every position. Hopefully we won’t get tested in too many spots. We have total confidence, and those guys have to play hard and well.”
The Hawkeyes are 5-3 overall this season with the three losses coming to teams (Northern Illinois, Michigan State and Ohio State) with a combined record of 23-1.
“The three teams that beat us, we felt good going into the game and that those teams were really good,” said Ferentz. “We’re playing another one this week that has two losses and you could argue they’re a one-loss team.
“They’re a good football team, and we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”
Saturday’s match-up will be the 87th all-time with the series tied 42-42-2. Wisconsin won the last meeting, 31-30, on Oct. 23, 2010, in Kinnick Stadium. The winner of the contest earns the Heartland Trophy.
Kickoff is set for 11:06 a.m. (CT), and the game will be televised on ABC with a reverse mirror on ESPN2. Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman and Shannon Spake will call the action.