Jovon Johnson tries avoiding thoughts that he's close to making Hawkeye history. The cornerback knows that could compromise his effectiveness. Blocking it out completing, though, would be too much to ask when you consider its magnitude.
With two more interceptions, Johnson would tie the immortal Nile Kinnick and Devon Mitchell for the most picks in more than 100 years of the program.
"I try not to think about it," the senior from Erie, Pa, said. "I think about it every once in a while. It's not something that I take into a game. I don't want to go into a game thinking I need two interceptions for the record. At the same time, every time a make an interception, it kind of clicks in my mind about how many more I need. I think about it, but I try not to as much as I can."
Johnson shared with the media his desire to achieve this record way back when he was a true freshman in 2002. He intercepted four passes that season before adding six as a sophomore, four more as a junior and two this season.
When he experiences a near miss of a pick, that sticks in Johnson's mind of an opportunity wasted in reaching his goal.
"There have been numerous times where I've got my hands on balls that I almost got interceptions on," he said. "Even last week (against Indiana), I had one in my hands that was just a little bit out of reach that I couldn't get to. There have been situations where the opportunity is there."
Johnson rationalizes those passes that have eluded grasp by reminding himself the difficulty in intercepting a ball. There is a reason only two players picked off 18 balls in the history of Iowa football.
"It's hard as a defensive back to make plays on balls when you're going full speed one way and the ball is coming directly at you," Johnson said.
Four regular season games and likely a bowl game remain for Johnson to pick off at least two more passes or three for sole possession of the record. He keeps the faith that the balls will find their way into his hands.
"They'll come," Johnson said. "I've taken my time and tried to be patient. I don't want to be too aggressive and try to jump things and then get beat. I've just got to let it come to me."
TAMING THE WOLVES: Iowa has beaten this week's opponent, Michigan, in two of the last three seasons. To make it three out of four, Hawkeye linebacker Abdul Hodge knew what responsibility the defense carried.
"If we expect to play good on defense and keep them off of the scoreboard, the one thing that we have to do is stop the run," Hodge said. "They're a very balanced team. They can throw the ball and they can hurt you in the running game. But we need to stop the run and try to make them one-dimensional."
Michigan Tailback Michael Hart suffered through some injuries earlier this year, but the true sophomore looked back at full speed when he ran for 108 yards against Penn State last week.
"The guy is a phenomenal player," Johnson said. "He's young, but he plays like a veteran. He's just such a hard runner.
"I've seen games where he gets hit by one guy and still drives his feet. He ended up breaking a tackle against Penn State. He keeps his feet moving. He runs with a low center of gravity. You've got to hit him and wrap him up and take him down or he'll make you pay for it."
Michigan usually boasts one of the conference's best receiving corps as well, and this year is no exception. Steve Breaston and Jason Avant lead the team in all-purpose yards, and true freshman Mario Manningham is tied with Hart and Avant for the team lead with five touchdowns.
"Michigan is a team where you've got to be on your Ps and Qs the whole game," Johnson said. "At any point in the game, their receivers can change the game on us. We've got to be out there ready to go on each play, every down, every minute of the game; even overtime if we have to."
Iowa has gone to a 3-4 defense at times during the last two weeks to match up with pass-happy Purdue and Indiana. The Hawkeyes have prepared for a much more traditional offensive attack from the Wolverines, who come into the game having run the ball 285 times and passed it 240.
"Michigan doesn't change much," Johnson said. "Every year they're still the same Michigan team that you've seen the year before. I've watched film on them. They're still the same guys. They've shuffled a couple of players around, and put new guys in, but they still do the same things that they did last year. They're still a running team, but they can pass if they want to. They're going to come into the game confident, so we've got to be ready."
IN-HOUSE HONORS: Each week the Iowa Football Coaches select offensive, defensive and special teams MVPs from the previous Saturday's game.
Young, a RB, carried the ball 26 times for 125 yards with two impressive touchdown runs. The sophomore also caught two passes for 63 yards.
Shada started in place of injured senior Antwan Allen at cornerback. The true sophomore piled up 13 solo tackles, intercepted a pass and broke up two others.
Johnson stepped into the punt returning position after Ed Hinkel broke his arm a weel earlier at Purdue. The senior returned three punts for 54 yards, including a 31-yarder.
EXTRA POINTS: Iowa has defeated Michigan 10 times in 53 meetings, but its won two of the last three. The Wolervines had won seven in a row before that…Iowa has outscored its opponents 70-0 in the first quarter of four home games this season. The Hawkeyes are averaging 41.6 points in those contests…Michigan (+6) boasts the best turnover margin in the Big Ten, while Iowa is ninth (-3)…Wolverines head coach Lloyd Carr will be seeking his 100th win at the school…Iowa RB Albert Young averages 5.9 yards per carry. Michigan's Hart averages 4.8…All four of Michigan's Big Ten games have been decided in the closing 24 seconds or overtime…