October 23, 2010

TES - 2010 Hawkeye Football Game Notes Week 7

Iowa’s Record:  5-1, 2-0 Big Ten
Iowa’s Rankings
AP: #15 (768 votes)
USA Today: #12 (785 votes)
BCS: #15

2010 Iowa Football Schedule (times Eastern)

9/04/10 Eastern Illinois WIN 37-7
9/11/10 Iowa State WIN 35-7
9/18/10 @ Arizona Loss 34-27
9/25/10 Ball State WIN 45-0
10/02/10 Penn State WIN 24-3
10/09/10 Bye Week
10/16/10 @ Michigan WIN 38-28
10/23/10 Wisconsin 3:36 PM, ABC/ESPN (Regional)
10/30/10 Michigan State 3:36 PM, ABC/ESPN
11/06/10 @ Indiana TBD
11/13/10 @ Northwestern TBD
11/20/10 Ohio State TBD
11/27/10 @ Minnesota TBD

Coverage Maps for 10/23:

October 23rd, 2010: Iowa Hawkeyes v. #13/#10 Wisconsin Badgers 6-1, 2-1 Big Ten
Prior Games: 85, Iowa leads 42-41-2
Last Game: 2009: Iowa 20, Wisconsin 10

Hawkeye Stat Pack:

Turnover Margin: +8
Big Ten #2, NCAA #5

Current Line: Iowa -5.5

Scoring Defense 13.2, Pass Def 205.0, Rush Def 83.8, Interceptions 9, Total Defense 288.8
Big Ten                 #1                       #5                          #1                          #4                           #2
NCAA                   #6                     #52                                     #7                         #18 tie                     #13

Scoring Offense 34.3, Pass Offense 253.2, Rush Offense 166.0, Total Offense 419.2
Big Ten                #5                            #3                                 #7                                #7
NCAA                  #26                          #30                               #46                              #39
Depth Chart for this week:
Game Watch: ‘The Best Game Watch Outside Of Kinnick.’
Opal Bar & Restaurant, 251 East 52nd St. Corner of 52nd and 2nd, 212 593-4321

Getting There:
6/E (no V on weekends) trains to 51st/Lexington Ave. Walk 2 blocks east, 1 block north to the bar.
M15 Bus – downtown on 2nd Ave, uptown on 1st Ave.
M50 Bus from the west side.
Several parking garages are in the area, but we strongly encourage you to take cabs or mass transit to our game watches!

Last Week: Michigan

Well my friends, that was a bit more on the scary side than it probably should have been, but then again, it’s a win in the Big House, of which we don’t have many, and must cherish them when we get them.

Yes there are things we need to clean up, as the road ahead is certainly challenging, but the way we won this game gives us good reason to think we have a legit shot in all of them.  Why? Well, the win came down to mistakes by Michigan and the general absence of them by Iowa. There it is again, execution and fundamentals. 

Of course, it didn’t quite start out that way.  All kinds of options after DJK took the opening kickoff to the 22, only to be taken down via facemask, that’s ball at the 37.  As the Hawks lined up, the overhead shot showed 8 men in the box, with the two safeties barely 10 yards behind the line.  I think we hoped that when Ricky came to the line and saw this, he would audible out of the planned play and attack downfield.  Nope, two straight handoffs to Adam, those gain 0 and -2 yards.  On 3rd down there is nothing downfield, so Stanzi dumps it off to Adam in the flat, and he almost gets the 12 yards needed, but is forced out of bounds after 10.  The punt is not a good one – from our 45, it sails out of bounds at the Michigan 25.

Denard hands the ball off to start this drive, and the tailback promptly nets 11 yards.  DRob then (wow are there a lot of Robinsons in college football these days) for 4 more, on the play the Michigan center is hurt, the ESPN guys comment that this could impact the Wolverine shotgun hurry up offense.  Nope, no such luck.

Another handoff gains 3 yards, and here is the 3rd down opportunity we need to stuff.  But Denard rolls out after faking the handoff, and this extra time allows him to find his favorite target Hemingway 18 yards down the sideline, 1st down Michigan.  Another tailback run, right up the middle goes for 7, but then Clayborn stuffs the next run for just 1, and Ballard stuffs the 3rd and 2 for one yard, so Michigan was presented with a 4th and 1.  Well, they went for it, and we did have DRob behind the line, but he escapes, and goes for 6 and the Wolverine 1st down.  Another rollout pass gains 6 yards, then a handoff gets another 6, and this has been too easy, 1st and goal Michigan.  The 1st down run is stopped for no gain.  On 2nd down, Denard gets the snap and goes immediately to the zone read fake, but he forgets the ball, which is now on the ground, he gets it back and tries to fire into the end zone, but Hunter jumps up to kill the pass.  3rd down now, and linebacker Troy Johnson has the slot receiver – but he falls behind him on the slant route, and Denard has all the time he needs for the 8-yard touchdown strike.  Hawks trail, 7-0, and the Big House was rocking.

Hawks needed a response, and it sure looked like we had one when DJK took this kickoff to the near sideline and got all the way to the 44.  Stanzi hit Sandeman on a 10-yard stop route, he had it, but was immediately drilled by two guys, and the pass falls incomplete.  Ricky tries a slant to McNutt, this pass is tipped and floats dangerously close to Wolverine players, but it hits the turf.  We now toss in a false start, and Ricky has no choice but to dump the ball off to Reisner on the 3rd and 15, this only gains 5 yards.  This time the punt looks true, it bounces at the 8 – but there is no one there to down it, so Michigan started at the 20 after the touchback.  

Denard starts this drive with a 7-yard scamper, but after the play, Michigan is called for a personal foul, and they are not able to overcome the resulting 2nd and 16.  The drive dies, and Colin takes the punt at the 15, but can’t go anywhere from there.

Now the Iowa offense found their footing.  Adam goes right up the middle, 14 yards.  McNutt catches an 11 yard pass on the far hash, and then Adam again, 8 yards up the middle, he almost breaks it as he tries to cut it back outside – only one man to beat, but he gets Robinson’s legs.  He gets it again, and gains the 1st with a 4-yard carry.  Ricky drops back, but the downfield reads aren’t there, so he dumps it to Adam in the far flat.   He snags the ball just over the line of scrimmage, and is able to build up all the speed he has – 3 Michigan defenders converge after 8 yards, but Adam plows right through them to pick up 3 more and a Hawkeye first down.  Hawkeyes surging now, Adam gets the ball again, and quickly finds the gaping hole off-tackle left, the key block to blow it open provided by fullback Rogers (Morse with out with a sore back), ARob is in the secondary, and he is not stopped until he has lugged the ball 19 yards, Iowa ball at the Michigan 16.

Stanzi tries Reisner on the near hash, but he gets taken down before the ball arrives, that’s pass interference.  Adam gets nothing on the next play, and then on the 2nd and 10, Ricky and DJK get their signals crossed, and this pass to the near pylon is nearly intercepted for a pick 6.  But it’s not, and the Hawks live again for the 3rd and 10.  DJK is on the right at the snap, as he crosses the field to the left, Ricky comes off his deep read and dumps it down to him, the pass is slightly behind DJK, but he makes the adjustment to grab it, and then regains his footing to streak to the far pylon and stretch the ball inside it as he gets knocked out of bounds.  The official steps up and raises his arms for an Iowa touchdown, 7 all, here we go.  DJK’s day was just getting started.

Our kickoff lands at the 4 and is returned to the 26.  This drive certainly looked threatening at the start.  Denard, keeper for 8 yards right.  One more, 9 yards.  Now a handoff, this gains 2.  A quick pass to the right gains 3, and the 1st quarter ends with Michigan facing a 3rd and 5 from the 50-yard line. 

After the time out, the Wolverines are called for a false start, so now they are facing the 3rd and 10.  Denard drops back and seems to have time, but the pocket quickly collapses and he chooses to heave the ball deep down to the far sideline.  Two problems with this, first, there are 3 Hawkeyes down there, and 2nd, the ball is badly overthrown.  Well, the Michigan wideout can only flail at the ball as it settles into Sash’s hands at the 16, finally, career pick number 12, he follows his blockers all the way across the field and is taken down at the Michigan 48.

Mistake Michigan, we needed to make them pay.

Ricky rolls right but finds nothing; he tosses the ball out of bounds.  Now a screen to Adam, the blocking is in front, 15 yards later he is brought down.  Now Adam gets a handoff, and he gains 3, to bring the Hawks to the Michigan 31, we call timeout to discuss the plan of attack from there.

After the break, Ricky fakes the handoff and drops back – he has enough time to check in on the Texas/Nebraska score while DJK runs a post – then corner route, and Stanzi fires it up over the top, where DJK grabs it and gets one, maybe two, feet down before stepping out of bounds.  It’s reviewed; he’s in, touchdown Iowa, 14-7, Michigan’s first mistake, and we have cashed it in.

But it sure seemed like they were going to respond.  Denard, option run, 7 yards to the right.  Him again, a garden variety QB draw, 7 more.   Now he drops back and dumps a screen down, that goes for 20, and they are already at the Iowa 46.

Two more Denard runs get 4, then 3 yards.  On this 3rd and 3, he hits his tight end for 13, and another Michigan 1st down.  He runs it once more, but just gains 2, and on the next snap, Michigan false starts, so they are pushed back to the Iowa 20.  DRob tries a sweep right, but the Hawks have it covered and Binns drills him for a one-yard loss.  On 2nd down, he has time to survey the field, and come back to the left to fire a shot for an apparently wide open receiver at the Iowa 5 – but then out of nowhere, Johnson flies in, and his lunging dive is just in time to tip the ball and have it fall to earth.  3rd down now, the Wolverines complete a pass to the left, but it comes up short, and they are called for illegal formation on top of that – which Iowa declines, bringing up the 4th and 16 from the Iowa 20.

Kicking woes maybe, but RichRod isn’t going to go for this 4th down; so the field goal unit takes the field.  Seems perhaps he should have gone for it.  The snap is fine, the grab is fine, the spin is fine, but the blocking up front is not.  It’s Clayborn that gets his hand on the ball, though Binns was in there as well and ESPN gave him the block at first.  Regardless, the ball flies forward and rolls down toward the end zone, the Michigan players are all just standing back at the line of scrimmage with dejected looks on their faces, looks soon replaced by horror as Sash has picked up the ball at the 5, and is now running down the far sideline with it, with a line of blockers leading the way.  Finally Michigan realizes what is happening, and Sash has once again taken a Wolverine mistake all the way back to the their 48 yard line.

Make them pay.  Adam, 4 yards.  Michigan blitzes on 2nd down, and Ricky quickly finds McNutt on the far sideline, 15 yards, 1st down.  Stanzi drops back again and is soon under pressure, he scrambles to the right, but can’t get the corner and runs out of bounds for a 4-yard loss.  Mistake, he should have thrown it away.  Now he tries Adam in the flat, this pass is just off, and the Hawks take a timeout before facing the 3rd and 14 from the Michigan 32.

After the break Michigan comes out in the pass-defense dime – KOK anticipates this, so he has Ricky hand the ball off to Adam in a classic draw.  You could drive a combine through the hole that emerged up the middle, so Adam was at full speed when he was once again met by Michigan defenders short of the yellow line – but they cannot bring him down at the point of contact, and after he has blown them up, he falls down for 15 yards, and an Iowa 1st down at the Wolverine 17.  As the camera quickly pans the Michigan sideline, the look of resignation is clearly evident.

Adam now, 5 yards, and then 3 more, bringing up a 3rd and 2.  Ricky rolls right, but then fires it back to the left; DJK makes a diving catch at the 4 for a Hawkeye 1st and goal.  Once more to ARob, after grabbing the handoff, he starts right – but there, he bounces off the pile of bodies, and he cuts it back left to find nothing but open space, he could crawl in, Hawkeye touchdown, 21-7 lead.  The camera now finds the Michigan student section – you get the feeling they don’t much like losing to Iowa.

Clock is at 4:15 of the 2nd when Michigan starts the 10-play drive that gets them to the Iowa 45.  This is the drive where they tried fooling us on the punt formation – run up into regular formation, but we don’t fall for the offsides bait on this 4th and 4 play.  So they do indeed punt, and it’s downed at the Iowa 1, where Ricky just sneaks it forward to bring an end to the 1st half with a 21-7 Hawkeye lead.

I think Hawkeye fans are feeling pretty darn good all across the country at this point.  We have been able to contain Robinson, when forced to pass he has often been off, and we have played smart football.  No turnovers, nothing to give the Big House crowd energy, and we had reason to think we could still score a lot more points.

A half with some misleading stats – total yards, Iowa 192, Michigan 223.  One turnover Michigan, zero Iowa.  And penalties: Iowa 1 for 5 yards, Michigan 6 for 46.  Those hidden yards, once again in our favor.

As is always the case with the halftime lead, killing the opening possession of the 3rd is critical, and this week, the Hawkeye defense does it, and forces a quick 3 and out.  We have the ball back at our 29 after the punt.  

Had we scored on this possession, that mental hurdle might have been too much to overcome.  Well, we don’t, this drive best known for Prater shellacking the Michigan punt returner the very second he catches the ball, after Ryan’s 51-yard punt.

Michigan begins the drive from the 16, and on 1st  down, Denard rolls out to the left, and then takes of with it.  He gets 12 yards, but lands awkwardly on his shoulder – an injury he seems to have suffered the week before, but we didn’t know anything about it.  Regardless, he is not popping back up, he in fact is still lying there on the turf, not seemingly in terrible pain or anything, but still with a concerned look on his face.  Over on the sideline, our old buddy Tate Forcier is warming up, and sure enough, Denard comes out and Tate takes the field for the balance of the possession.

This starts with a quick pass for 8 yards, and then a handoff for 5 more.  Tate runs it for 5, but the Hawks then stuff the 2nd down handoff for no gain.  Under heavy pressure, Forcier dumps off a pass into the near flat – it looks like the ball is trapped, but ESPN’s crappy production values pop up again, there is no good view of the play from any angle, so the review upholds the 4 yard catch.  All right, now 4th and 1 from the Michigan 49, we should be able to stop this and kill the drive – but, Michigan lines up in a traditional I formation, and the change seems to throw off our thinking, the run goes for 15 yards right up the middle.  First down Michigan, at the Iowa 36.

Hawks stop two straight passes to the right, so 3rd and 10 comes up, and Tate hits his favorite target Stonum over the middle for 8.  Another 4th down, this time Forcier rolls out to the right, and somehow finds his man 12 yards downfield in the midst of 4 Hawkeye defenders.

Finally, someone on the Hawkeye defense makes a play.  Michigan hands the ball off to the tailback Smith, and he doesn’t even get past the line of scrimmage when Klug drills him from the side – the ball pops out, bounces once or twice, and then Lebron Daniel falls on it!  Fumble!  Iowa recovers at the 14, disaster averted for the moment.

But we are unable to do anything with the ball this time, on 3rd down Ricky did have DJK wide open down the near sideline, but the pass was underthrown and falls incomplete.  Punt to the Michigan 35, 47 yards, and no return.

Clock is at 5:12 of the 3rd, the cameras show that Denard is standing along the sideline as if ready to come back in, but he stays there as Forcier takes the field again.  His 1st down pass is tipped by the wide out but dropped, and then a handoff gains 5 on 2nd down.  On the 3rd and 5, Tate drops back to pass – he finds nothing, and dances around a bit in the pocket as the pressure starts to mount – finally, he scrambles to the far side of the field, and once near the sideline, throws up a an ill advised pass – there is the Forcier we know and love – and Hyde snags it for an interception, and he carries it back across the 50. Michigan mistake, we have got to make them once again.

Sadly, on the runback after the pick, Prater gets a little too feisty as the play comes to an end, and he is called for a personal foul – Kirk pulls out his little notepad, and the Hawkeyes start back at our 37.

KOK comes out firing.  Ricky drops back, and then finds McNutt flashing open over the middle – Stanzi fires it downfield, and he drops it right into Marvin’s hands before he gets drilled – he hangs on, 34 yards!  Stanzi drops back again, but can’t go downfield, so he dumps it off to Rogers, and he breaks a tackle as he picks up 10 more.  Voila, the Wolverine red zone, at the 18.  Adam runs for 3 yards, then Ricky hits Davis for 4 yards, and the Hawks face a 3rd and 3 from the Michigan 11.  At the snap, the Hawkeyes are in our own I formation, and the ball goes to Adam – on the far side, a Michigan cornerback is blitzing, but Rogers pancakes the guy, and Adam follows that lead – the left side is sealed, the corner, possessed, 11 yards, and Adam steps inside the pylon as 3 Michigan defenders can just watch helplessly.  Touchdown Iowa, score 28-7, clock at 1:45 of the 3rd.

Things are looking really good as Michigan takes the kickoff out of the end zone, and the Iowa coverage team stuffs the guy at the Wolverine 15.  They begin with a false start, but then Tate converts passes of 11, then 10, and then 14 yards to get the ball out to the 44.  A handoff nets 4 yards, and then another rollout pass gets 7 more and a 1st down.  This brings the 3rd quarter to an end, Michigan 1st down at the Iowa 45.

The 4th quarter begins with 2 more passes, but these are both incomplete, so the Hawkeyes force the 3rd and 10. Well, the pass is an underneath dump off, the Hawkeye defense has it stopped after 8 yards, but can’t get the guy down, and he finally falls after getting 3 more and another 1st down.  Another pass, this time a slant left, gains 10.  The tailback Smith gets the ball and the Iowa defense should have him bottled up for nothing, but again, he breaks out of two tackles and picks up 6.  The next pass is no good, but the yellow hankie flies, and Hyde is called for holding.  1st and goal from the Iowa 5, it takes Michigan 2 carries to stuff it in, touchdown Wolverines, score 28-14.

Well, the Big House is rocking, but the Wolverine kicking team does all they can to kill the momentum by booting the kickoff out of bounds, Iowa ball at the 40.

Ricky hands the ball to Adam to begin the drive, and he gets hit right at the line, but he blows through the tackle and soon finds open ground, it goes for 20 yards, plus 15 more for a facemask call as he is brought down.  Boom! We are at the Michigan 25.  Adam again, 1 yard.  One more time, he gets the corner to the left, 5 yards.  3rd and 4 from the 19, Michigan blitzes, and Ricky drops back into the 3 step, fires, and hits DJK on a slant – it’s perfect, he catches it, and there is no one there in the middle of the field as he carries it into the end zone, touchdown Iowa!  35-14 is the score, and with that catch, Darrell Johnson Koulianos surpasses Tim Dwight for the Iowa all-time yardage lead for a wide receiver.

The Big House buzz has been silenced, and the clock reads 11:37 left in the game.  What happens next leads us to our primary reason to quibble about this game, that is, the way that Forcier is able to pass his way back into it, with the Iowa defense neither really able to get pressure on the front end, and we are not compensating by using either the nickel or dime on the back end.  Michigan is 3 possessions down – and even if they can score twice, they have to stop us twice, which they haven’t shown they can do with any consistency. 

So, after the kickoff is returned to the 25, Tate drops back, and hits an 18-yard pass down the near sideline.  Another short side pass nets 8, and then a run gains 3 for a Michigan 1st down at the Iowa 45.  From here, Tate drops back and heaves it down to the near corner – it’s over Hyde’s head, and caught, touchdown Michigan, 45 yards, 35-21.  How you let someone get behind you there, I’m not sure.  Michigan kickoff, touchback.

Ok, we just need a few 1st downs – Adam gains 4 yards, and then 5 more.  3rd and 1, we can get this, easy.  But no, Ferentz forgets the snap count; everyone else on the line moves, but he doesn’t snap the ball.  That’s a false start, it’s now 3rd and 6, and Adam is only able to get 2 yards as Michigan puts everyone in the box.  Donahue punt, Michigan ball at the 31 after the return.

Here we go again.  Forcier still in, a pass underneath to the left, caught, 13 yards.  Another one that way, 10 more yards.  Finally one is overshot, no good, but then once again another throw to the left, 10 yards, 1st down.  All those passes, either over or in front of Hyde.  Now Tate goes into the deep drop, and he throws a moon ball down toward the far corner of the end zone – it’s up there forever, and we have both Sash and Prater on the scene, but the ball ends up being underthrown, and the receiver is able to make the move backwards to snag it, and the Hawkeye defense can’t.  31 yards, 1st down Michigan at the Iowa 4.  It just takes one Forcier carry to cross the goal line, and suddenly it’s 35-28, and the Big House has exploded with such noise and fervor, you could almost feel it across the airwaves.

Ok.  Clock at 6:55.  If we are going to be a team the measures up to our potential, it’s times like this that our training and work ethic will be the difference. 

Michigan comes out to kick the ball off, and I guess the noise bothers their kicker as well, as he once again boots the ball out of bounds, a fantastically horrendous mistake, thank you, we’ll take the ball at the 40 once again.

KOK figures that Michigan is going to bring the pressure, so he very smartly has Ricky roll out away from it, and he hits Reisner for 24 yards.  Big House, quiet.  But, a flag is back there in the backfield, and we are called for an illegal formation, only 5 men on the line of scrimmage.  A brain freeze on us.  Ok, 1st and 15, let’s run – the same play!  It works for 10 yards this time, so now it’s 2nd and 5.  Adam gets the ball, but runs smack into a Michigan run blitz, he’s dropped for a 4-yard loss, now we have a 3rd and 9, and the noise level explodes once again.  The Wolverines bring the heat at the snap, but Ricky gets it out quick, and drills the ball right into McNutt’s chest – the quick slant, QB and receiver thinking as one – it’s caught!  17 yards, 1st down Iowa! Now Adam tries the right side, but only gains 1 yard.  Hawks call a timeout, and that’s followed by a Stanzi roll out; he pulls it down, but can only gain a yard on the run.  Another 3rd down, this time 8 yards to go, from the Wolverine 40, the Michigan faithful are doing all they can to unnerve the Iowa offense.

At the snap, Ricky drops back, but quickly realizes Michigan has the deep patterns covered, so be brings it back down to Adam on the left side of the line.  ARob makes the catch, and as he turns the corner upfield, it looks like a Michigan cornerback has him – but…no!  Don’t bring that weak ass arm tackle in here!  Adam in the open field, 5 yards, 10 (1st down), still going, he’s hit at the 30, but spins out of the tackle, hit again at the 25, but they can’t bring him down, DJK and McNutt are down there, alternately shoving Wolverines out of the way, and pushing Adam forward!  Finally they get a hold of him around the 20, but he refuses to go down for 6 more yards, taking 3 Wolverine defenders with him as he falls to the turf at the Michigan 14.  They play of the day – with the game on the line, the Iowa offense has stepped up, now, we must finish it.

Adam left side, 2 yards.  Michigan forced to burn at timeout.  ARob once more, both hands on the ball, left side, 2 more yards.  Michigan timeout.  Ricky drops back on 3rd down, but ends up throwing the ball away in the end zone under heavy pressure.  No Murray, no Mossbrucker, the true freshman Meyer comes on to face the 30-yard field goal that will put Iowa up by 2 possessions.  The angle is a bit sharp, but it doesn’t matter.  The snap, perfect, the hold, exactly, the kick, straight and true, right through the center of the uprights.  38-28 Hawkeyes, clock melting down to 2:53 left.

Michigan now, desperation setting in.  The kickoff is brought out to the 37, Tate then tries a deep pass left, but it’s overthrown, no good.  2nd down, he never really gets set on his drop back when Clayborn arrives – that’s a sack, nine yard loss.  3rd down now, he is once again under heavy pressure when he flips the ball downfield, but it’s nowhere near a Michigan receiver, just Troy Johnson, that’s an Iowa interception – Hawkeye ball at the Michigan 43.

Adam gets the ball and totes it 3 yards; Michigan is then forced to use their final timeout.  Once more with feeling Adam, 11 yards, that’s a Hawkeye 1st down, two Victory Formation plays later, the fat lady starts singing (the beer song, obviously).

Turns out that field goal gave us the most points ever scored by the Hawkeyes in the Big House.  Previous best, a 37-14 win by Evy’s squad in the Rose Bowl season of 1959.

Just as at halftime, if you only looked at the stats, you wouldn’t have much of an idea of how this game transpired.  Heck, Michigan outgained us 522 to 383 in total yards.  It was, of course, Michigan’s 4 turnovers that made the difference, and like the veteran, fundamentally sound team that we are, we had none.

In games like this one, you need your playmakers to step up and lead the way.  And ours did.  Stanzi is your Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after his 17-24, 248, 3 td day.  All of those tds to DJK, the first time he has made the trifecta in a game.  He had 4 snags for 70 yards; he had needed 66 to break the record.  McNutt, 4 catches, 78 yards.  And the real MVP of the Iowa effort, Adam Robinson, with his 31 carries (career high) for 143 yards, 4.7 per touch.  Don’t forget to toss in his 4 catches for 61 yards.  Quite a day for the Iowa offense, and just in time, they were able to overcome the subpar day from the Iowa defense. 

So, we have surpassed a major road test, and after it was over we got to sit back and watch the craziness that unfolded around football last Saturday.  Ohio State, audios.  Nebraska spends the entire offseason talking about paying back Texas – and then the Huskers Heisman worthy QB got benched for his awful play and the Longhorns won again.  When it was all said and done, the road to the Big Ten title was rerouted right through Kinnick Stadium.  There are three Big Ten teams ahead of us in the BCS rankings.  All of them must visit the pink locker room in 2010.  Keep winning, and something more than just a Big Ten title could once again be in play.

This Week: Wisconsin

It all begins this week inside the friendly confines, and for a refreshing change of pace, there won’t be the need to chase around any quarterbacks for the next couple weeks.  Nope, the Badgers use tights ends, pro style I formations, and fullbacks.  They are who we think we are.

Wisconsin is off to a 6-1 start, with wins over UNLV, San Jose State, Arizona State, the mighty Austin Peay, and in the last two weeks, the Golden Rodents (who have hit bottom and are coach hunting) and then last Saturday, the formerly #1 Buckeyes.  The Badgers fell in their Big Ten opener, 34-24 at Michigan State.

How did the Badgers beat the Buckeyes?  Well, for starters, they took back the opening kickoff 97 yards for a td, and then their very big offensive line took over for the balance of the first half, and they had a 21-3 lead over Ohio State at halftime.  But the Buckeyes made it interesting in the 3rd, getting the score back to 21-18, before Wisconsin iced it with 10 points inside the 7:00 minute mark of the 4th. 

Much of the Badgers success was due to their high-powered rushing attack; it racked up 184 yards against the Buckeyes, the first team to top the century rushing mark against OSU in over 2 seasons.  John Clay is back, the 6’1 255 tailback is averaging 5.9 yards a carry on the season, with 11 rushing touchdowns to date.  For a change of pace, Wisconsin inserts freshman James White, who is at 7.0 yards per carry, and has 9 rushing touchdowns of his own. 

By comparison, the Hawkeye defense has allowed 10 total touchdowns to date (actually, 8, the pick 6 and kickoff return at Arizona were not on the defense).

The rushing attack is fueled by a very big, and very experienced offensive line, that averages in the neighborhood of 320 lbs.  When those guys fall on you, you feel it.

Senior Scott Tolzien returns at quarterback, and as you might expect with such a rushing attack and big offensive line, the Badgers will try to lull you to sleep with the running game, and then play-action pass the ball over your head.  But he has only thrown 7 td passes in 7 games, so it’s not quite the threat you would think for such a powerful rushing team.  Still, we are going to need a better game out of Hyde, in particular, though we should not see as many underneath type passes this week – more of them into the teeth of our secondary.  Sash, you have broken the seal on the 2010 season – it is time for you to start snagging them in bunches, as you have done in the past.

You might recall last year’s game in Madison, the Badgers jumped ahead 10-0 on the strength of the rushing attack, but then we knocked Clay out of the game, and from there, they couldn’t do much on the ground.  And when they couldn’t do much on the ground, we teed off on Tolzien, and picked him off 3 times, and generally made him miserable for the 2nd half, as we rallied to win 20-10.

As you could guess, it’s going to be key for the Hawkeyes to sustain our drives and score touchdowns when we get close.  It won’t be an easy task up against this Badger big offensive line, so the defense is going to need rest.  Our D-line speed should be able to get off blocks and get around their size, but they will need all their energy to do it. 

When we do have the ball, the O-line must contain star Badger defensive end J.J Watt.  A junior, he is definitely draft material, and he is the kind of high energy player that can fuel a whole team when he is playing well, as he did last week with two sacks of Pryor.

The Badgers give up about 115 yards on the ground, so Adam should be able find space and keep our drives moving.  Ricky is still #3 nationally in the key pass efficiency stat – provided he plays smart, he should once again find his receivers and tight ends in space down the field. 

As with any intense rivalry game, the special teams could play a factor.  Even with the return last week, Wisconsin’s return guys are ranked below ours for kickoffs  - DJK is averaging 25.1 yards per return, the Badgers are at 21.5.  So, that was a one-off return against the Buckeyes, but to be sure, the coaching staff is going to be highlighting that in practice all week.

Here is an interesting tidbit – punting.  After having some issues last week, I think Donahue won’t have any shanks now that he is back in Kinnick and knows the wind.  To date, Ryan has punted 29 times, and on those punts, teams have managed 59 return yards.  That’s 2 yards every time they actually get to run with it.  But Wisconsin’s punt team has kicked the ball 23 times, and had return yardage of 108 yards.  That’s 4.7 a return.  Now, I know that does not seem like much – but as is the case with returning punts, it you can get by that first wave of gunners who arrive with the ball – you may just be able to hook up with your blocking and find open space.  Colin, that’s you. 

There is a legitimate question on just how flat the Badgers will come out – of the last 7 teams to defeat a #1 at home and then go on the road the next week, 4 have lost.  But I don’t think that will be the case for any Hawkeye players.  I’m sure the defense is sick of hearing how good the Badgers tailbacks are.  I would totally expect the offensive line is all fired up to open up gashes for Adam in an effort to out-rush the Badger offense. 

This is another trophy game, this time for the Heartland, and it’s the last time this trophy will be up for grabs until 2013.  That’s right, the new Big Ten divisional rotations have the Badgers moving off of our schedule in 2011 and 2012.  Never mind that fact that on paper (above), this is the best rivalry in the Big Ten – and, the NCAA.  But beyond the extreme closeness of the all time results, I think this has been the most intense rivalry in the country over the past 5 seasons.  I have no actual evidence to back this up, but can you think of a series where more guys (on both sides) have to leave because they are banged up, or worse?  I can’t.  That’s not to glorify cheap shots or injuries, it’s just a testament to the fact that there are no secrets between our programs, it’s just classic line ‘em up and stop it football.  Which, to an old timer like myself, is a thing of beauty. 

If started on one of the Iowa message boards, but now it’s made it’s way into the vastness of the internet, and even gained approval from the Iowa Sports home office.  Hawkeye fans who are in Kinnick are encouraged to chant ‘NORM’ on every Badger 3rd down.  Bring signs too, if you feel like it.  Sounds like he won’t be coaching this week – his return for the Spartan game is looking more solid.  But if Kinnick and all the rest of the Hawkeye Nation are chanting ‘NORM’, I’m sure he will hear it!

On the road at Michigan State, the Badgers were unable to contain the balanced Spartan offense, and a nearly 13 minute advantage in TOP enjoyed by Michigan State was the difference.  So will be the case Saturday – the Hawkeye will get Adam going, and that will allow Stanzi to go down field.  The Iowa defense will atone for the yardage allowed at Michigan, and force 3 Badger turnovers that we convert into 14 points.  The brass bull stays in Iowa City until at least 2013.  Badgers 17, Hawkeyes 31.



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