Hawkeyes Just Keep Battling

When the Gophers face the Iowa Hawkeyes tomorrow, they will be looking at a team decimated by injuries but is still finding a way to win. The Gophers may have more talent, but the Hawkeyes have found ways to win while the Gophers have lost that winning feeling.

Talk about making something out of nothing.

That's just what the Iowa Hawkeyes have done this season. Injuries have decimated the team this year — specifically the running attack — but the Hawkeyes continue to find a way to win Big Ten games when other more talented teams — Ohio State, Minnesota and Purdue — fail to meet greater expectations.

As a result of their 5-1 Big Ten record (7-2 overall), the Hawkeyes have once again put themselves in a position to play in a New Year's Day bowl game. There is a chance that Wisconsin and Michigan will both play in BCS bowl games, and that would make the Hawkeyes a contender for the Capital One Bowl or the Outback Bowl if they win one of their final two games.

Last year, the Hawkeyes beat Florida 37-17 in the Outback Bowl.

Iowa faces Minnesota and Wisconsin in the last two regular-season games. Going to Minnesota seemed like a daunting task earlier in the season, but the Gophers have lost four of their past five games and are seemingly coming apart at the seams.

After Minnesota was thrashed at Wisconsin last week, Gopher head coach Glen Mason said he thought his team was "about to be run out of the state of Wisconsin" at halftime.

While the Gophers point fingers and feel sorry for themselves, Kirk Ferentz just gets his team prepared and ready for each game. The previously pedestrian Wisconsin passing game lit up the Minnesota secondary, and Iowa should be expected to use the same philosophy.

QB Drew Tate has thrown for more yards in Big Ten games than any other quarterback — 1,580 yards — and there's no reason to think he can't throw for at least 300 or more against the Gophers.

WRs Ed Hinkel and Clinton Solomon have been very effective. The pair combined for 14 catches against Purdue last week.


SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Fifth-string running back Sam Brownlee is not fancy, but he has been able to stay healthy. Brownlee gained 52 yards on 25 carries against Purdue and he did just enough to keep the Purdue defense honest. QB Drew Tate has been solid and consistent, completing 174-of-280 passes for 1,980 yards with 13 TDs this season.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Hawkeyes rank fourth nationally in run defense, giving up just 68.2 yards per game. Minnesota's Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber will test that unit. Earlier in the season the Minnesota running game looked devastating, but the Gopher offense has slowed considerably in recent weeks. LBs Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge would seem up for the challenge.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've had our share of bumps in the road. I'm not quite sure how we're doing it, but we're finding a way to get it done." — Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz on his team's resiliency.


THIS WEEK'S GAME: Iowa at Minnesota, Nov. 13 — The Hawkeyes are an overachieving unit who have remained near the top of the Big Ten again this season despite a slew of injuries. The Gophers are talented, but they are hemorrhaging after losing four of five games. If the Hawkeyes can slow down the Minnesota running attack, they have an excellent chance of winning their sixth straight Big Ten game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Drew Tate — He has a solid arm, quick feet and has improved in his decision-making every week. He has impressed his teammates with his talent. "Drew Tate's an athlete," WR Clinton Solomon said. "When I first met him, he said he didn't have a lot of speed; he said that if he did, he'd be a wideout. Drew's got great moves. He's a helluva quarterback."

PR Wallner Belleus — Since the Hawkeyes are lacking in the running game, they need a big contribution from special teams. Belleus is an upper-level punt returner who ranks eighth nationally with an average of 17.0 yards per return. He also has one TD.

ROSTER REPORT: Offensive lineman Mike Elgin (ankle) is doubtful for Saturday's game against Minnesota. Fullback Aaron Mickens (concussion) and linebacker Mike Humpal (knee) are questionable. Running back Marques Simmons (ankle) is sidelined indefinitely. Running backs Jermelle Lewis (knee), Albert Young (knee) and Marcus Schnoor (knee), fullback Champ Davis (knee), wide receiver Calvin Davis (knee), tight end Mike Follett (back), offensive lineman David Walker (arm) and defensive back Jonathan Zanders (collarbone) are out the remainder of the season.

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