Purdue drove for a touchdown on the game's opening drive against Iowa on Saturday. The scene gave Hawkeye linebacker Chad Greenway flashbacks of his team's first two 2005 road trips – lopsided losses at Iowa State and Ohio State.
"We gave up that first drive, and it was like a "here we go again" type thing," Greenway said during Tuesday's weekly press conference.
Greenway returned to the sidelines and cheered mightily as his team's offense took the field. The Hawkeye unit responded with a 78-yard touchdown pass from Drew Tate to Clinton Solomon. Iowa would not trail for the rest of the afternoon.
Something clicked for the Iowa team that had been missing through the season's first five games, Greenway said. It reminded him of how the Hawkeyes have rallied together in October and November the last two years after slow starts.
"That's when I could feel it as a player," Greenway said. "It was like, "we can do this. We can kind of hang in there and take some punches." We come back and go three and out on defense to give them the ball back and that was really when we kind of became a lot closer together as a team. It was almost like we had each other's back type of a thing."
Iowa has cranked up its level of play during October and November since the start of 2002, owning a 21-2 record during that time, which includes a 2-0 record this month.
"I think over a period of time, the things that we mess up on, we get it corrected," Iowa linebacker Abdul Hodge said of the trend. "Coach (Kirk Ferentz) always says to correct the mistakes and get better week in and week out, and we have been."
Even when Ferentz was installing his system in his first three years, the Hawkeyes improved as the season advanced. In '00, Iowa went 3-9, and all three victories came in October and November, including a win at Penn State and another over a ranked Northwestern team. A year later, it won three of its last four games during a 7-5 campaign.
"It's just the fact that when you have problems, you need to keep practicing better and better and better," Greenway said. "If you continue to do that, you're going to be pretty good by the end of the year. It's just a deal with our coaches finding things that we need to work on that have been hurting us and improving those things."
Greenway also pointed to Iowa's strength and conditioning program under Chris Doyle as being a key to success later in the season.
"We don't stop training when the season starts," he said. "We continue to push through, and we do more explosive things. We continue to do things we do during the off season in the season, which makes it tough. A lot of times you don't have the energy you need for workouts, but you know it's going to help you out. Some other teams aren't doing those types of things, and they fall off a little bit."
Iowa's two losses during this stretch came in 2003. The Hawkeyes fell, 19-10, at Ohio State on Oct. 18 and at Purdue, 27-14, on Nov. 8 of that year.
And it's not like the Hawkeyes have been pounding on creampuffs during this time of year. During the 21-2 stretch, they've beaten Purdue, Wisconsin and Minnesota each three times, Michigan twice and Ohio State. That doesn't include two consecutive bowl wins against SEC powers Florida and LSU.
"There is a similarity being around here for a few years," Hodge said about things starting to click for the team. "We always start out slow, and now we are playing as a team and picking it up. Things are going well."
Since the start of '02, Iowa has posted a 12-6 record in games played before October. By comparison, these were the records of several Big Ten foes during that time: Minnesota (18-1), Michigan State (13-5), Purdue (11-4) and Wisconsin (17-1).
And as we've said, the Hawkeyes won 21 of 23 games played in October and November since the start of '02. Here were the records of the same opponents mentioned above during that time: Minnesota (10-13), Michigan State (8-14), Purdue (13-12) and Wisconsin (11-13).
Successes of the past, don't guarantee success for the rest of this season, Greenway said.
"It's a danger that we assume anything," he said. "Whoever else can assume whatever they want, but the danger is us as players believing that there's a streak coming without us doing the work."
Saturday's game against perennial Big Ten doormat Indiana at Kinnick Stadium could be viewed as a classic letdown game. Iowa can't fall off if it wants to continue thriving in October.
"We're in a position where we can handle that now," Greenway said. "We have such a great coaching staff that's going to keep us on the up and up and on what we need to do to beat Indiana and play our best game. We know it's not going to be a letdown game because we've seen them on film, and we've seen what they can do."
Iowa running back Albert Young was impressed with the 21-2 mark. And he had a goal in mind for the rest of the season.
"If we keep that at two losses, we'll be alright," Young said.
HAWKEYES A.G.H.: After seeing it take time for a new defensive line to mature this season, Hawkeye fans might wonder what life will be like A.G.H. (After Greenway/Hodge). Many folks probably will expect a drop-off when those seniors leave after this year.
"That's not true," Greenway said. "Abdul will tell you. We learned from the guys above us, and (Iowa's backup linebackers) came in and studied us like no other. They're going to be very good players."
"Athletically, they're very gifted," Greenway said. "You probably couldn't find three bigger freaks on the team right now than those guys. They work hard. And that's a scary combination. And they want to be good. There's not going to be much of a falloff after us. I promise that."
YES, IT WAS A 3-4: Iowa used a 3-4 defensive front on several third downs in which it looked like Purdue would pass. Humpal and Klinkenborg alternated at the extra linebacker position.
"It's something we've done in the past," Greenway said. "We started it at Texas Tech my true freshman year. That was the first time I saw it. We have the linebackers to do it right now. We're so deep with Humpal, Klink, Gabelmann and all of those guys. Those guys are a wrecking crew behind us and just waiting to get on the field.
WORKING OUT THE KINKS: Every wonder what Sunday practices are like at Iowa. Mostly players spend time in the weight room and running, which entails 12-18 sprints of 55 meters.
"It just kind of works our nicks and knacks and bruises," Greenway said. "It makes you really feel a lot better. You're not really stiff anymore."