Howe: Monkey Off Back

Even though their words were as calculated as usual, the Iowa players took great joy in knocking off nemesis Northwestern Saturday night at Kinnick.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - Tyler Nielsen wasn't too proud to admit it. Victory felt especially good Saturday night.

"It feels good to beat these guys," the Iowa senior linebacker said. "They've been bullying us for a few years.It's good to finally get a win, especially on a night like tonight."

"These guys" were the Northwestern Wildcats. They came into Kinnick Stadium Saturday night with a three-game winning streak against Iowa. They had also won three in a row at this venue and five of the last six meetings in the series.

The Haweye coaches and players do a good job towing the politically correct line. Bulletin board material is as scarce as a cab in downtown Iowa City on a Saturday night.

While they kept their comments in check for the most part Saturday night, the celebration on the field after the game and the releived look on players' faces after the game told the story behind a 41-31 win against nemesis Northwestern.

The Hawkeyes wanted this one on Saturday. After looking a step slow last week in a 13-3 loss at Penn State, it was obvious from the start Saturday, that Iowa was extremely motivated.

"It definitely was a must-win," Hawkeye Senior Defensive End Broderick Binns said. "We played really bad at Penn State. It's a monkey off our back, losing to these guys three years in a row."

It would be tough to count the stories written this week about what Wildcat quarterback Dan Persa did to Iowa last year in Evanston. Every where an Iowa player turned, he was reminded of Northwestern's hold on the Hawkeyes.

One could say it's just another game and that they're all important. But not to have a little extra hop in your step to shut people up would be ignoring the obvious. Competitors don't like to hear about being "owned" by an opponent.

"It does," Binns said. "We heard all about Persa picking us apart running and passing, getting first down after first down. This year we were motivated to keep contain and get some hits on him."

It might sound crazy, but Iowa did do a good job of containing Persa and backup quarterback Cain Colter despite the Wildcats nearly putting up 500 yards of offense. The defensive line created enough pressure at the right times to stymie the Wildcats in the red zone.

Iowa came out clicking. The Hawkeyes jumped out to a 17-0 lead.

Northwestern showed the peskiness of the past by scoring the game's next 17 points. The Hawkeyes fans had seen this horrow show before in the Wildcats' recent run of success in the series.

With the season possibly slipping away, Iowa dug deep. With relacements all over the field covering for injured regulars, the Hawkeyes refused to cave to Northwestern yet again.

"I think it showed character," Iowa Quarterback James Vandenberg said. "We knew we needed to pick it up and we did. We came together."

The Iowa coaches run a tight ship. They're not going to hint how they motivate players in practice. You can bet they talked plenty this week about the Wildcats's run recent run against them.

The Hawkeye underclassmen said on Saturday that the win was for the seniors, who hadn't beaten Northwestern. Really, the victory was for everyone in the Iowa locker room, every fan and everyone affiliated with the program.

The irritating questions about Northwestern's domination go away.

"It's big," Binns said. "Now, we hope this can catapult us in the right direction. We proved a lot to ourselves tonight."

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