Pregame Intel: Iowa Hawkeyes

There is a lot on the line for both Northwestern and the Iowa Hawkeyes Saturday. Both need a win to put themselves in a position to head to a bowl game in December. Both need a win to set up at least a .500 season. The Wildcats strive to get one week better each week and both teams are coming off a tough loss to Michigan. NU has a lot of Leaders leaving this year - and this is their last home game in the NU spotlight.

Yes, they're coming off a bye week too...
They are the 5-3, coming off their bye week after losing to Michigan, Iowa Hawkeyes.
"It was nice to get some time off," running back Albert Young said [in The Hawkeye]. "I'm rested, I feel good. But it's time to get back to playing."

"The bye week helped us, I think," linebacker Chad Greenway said [Hawkeye]. "But it's time to get back to work. It's time to get focused again."
And the Hawks are not only getting back in gear, they're dealing with a really good bulletin board headline [for NU] in the Des Moines, IA paper referring to NU's defense as "sliced cheese."]
"I know no one in here had anything to do with that," Kirk Ferentz said at Tuesday's press conference. "That kind of mentality isn't good. It's kind of frightening, that kind of thinking. That kind of thinking can get you in trouble."
It was one partisan reporter's take on the Wildcat's low ranked defense, but Ferentz didn't want to get those Cats riled up...
"It's important in every game, but particularly when you play a team that's as explosive as Northwestern. If you don't take care of the ball, you might look up and - boom - you're down by 20," Ferentz said, noting that Penn State, Purdue and Michigan State all put themselves in a hole early in their games against the Wildcats.
And there's that pesky take-away stat, something the Hawkeyes are worried about. They've given up 33 points off turnovers so far this season. Iowa state, for example, scored all 23 points against the Hawks on the 5 turnovers - 3 fumbles and 2 interceptions.
"Taking care of the ball is also big in big, important games, and each of the three we've got left on our schedule fall into that category. They're all big. They're all important," he added.
Defense
Times have changed in Hawkeyeland, last year their defense was ranked second in the NCAA with 32 takeaways. This year they've got 11 so far, while NU is ranked 7th in turnover margin.

As the folks at Hawk Talk Online note:

The Hawkeyes replacing their defensive front four from a year ago certainly has played into the drop-off so far this season.

"With more pressure, it hurries throws," Iowa Linebacker Chad Greenway said. "The tighter coverages create more interceptions. But a lot of it really is luck and guys just being careless with the football and fumbling it and things like that.

So take the luck out and why have the Hawks at times struggled on defense?
"There have been situations where there was a play to be made and we didn't make it," Javon Johnson said "Being in a bad situation in terms of body position and things like that goes along with it. There have been plays out there where we needed to make plays. We still got to be able to go out and execute."
But a few Hawkeye defenders still hold on to that "luck" principle -
"People are going to catch passes, but eventually that's going to run out," said linebacker Abdul Hodge,
OK that's the take on the D, now...
Offense:
The Hawkeyes offense is on record as not looking past the game with Northwestern.
We need to take it a week at a time and this week is Northwestern. Getting bowl eligible. This week is about us winning. Offensively, we know that we are going to try and put up some points" [Hawkeye Nation]
All of the Hawkeye's main offensive weapons are available - including TE/WR Scott Chandler [6-7 245] and Chandler has made the most of the opportunities as he has become Drew Tate's "go to" guy after WR Ed Hinkel broke his arm.
"With his size, we hope to get some favorable matchups and give him an opportunity to catch some footballs. He's done a good job of that." [Kirk Ferentz DesMoines Register]
But the Hawkeyes are not as big across the front line as Michigan - Tackle Ben Gates [Sr 6-6 286], Guards Mike Jones [Jr 6-5 299] and Mike Elgin [Jr 6-4 277] and Center Brian Ferentz [Sr 6-3 282] are all listed as under 300 lbs. In the "up front" matchup with the Wildcats, NU's tackle tandem of Barry Cofield [6-4 305] and Trevor Schultz [6-2 295] may find it a little easier to put pressure QB Drew Tate up the middle.

That size difference up front may be why their running game has dropped to 67th from 2nd.

Even so, they're ranked first in the NCAA as the team with the fewest penalties [under 4] and second in penalty yardage per game [32]. The record did break down against Michigan - they were flagged 11 times against the Wolverines. [They don't shoot themselves in the foot a lot]
Injuries:
  • Linebacker Chris Brevi - his foot injury hasn't healed the way the Hawkeyes expected, and it will need surgery. Brevi had 4 tackles this year.
  • DB Ma'Quan Dawkins, torn anterior cruciate ligament, will have surgery later this week>
  • WR Ed Hinkel, 3rd on the receiving list for Iowa, is on the rehab road, but he will not play Saturday against Northwestern.
  • Defensive lineman Alex Wilcox will also miss the game with a shoulder injury - he's got 13 tackles on the year,
Other Notes:
Northwestern is the last team to have returned a punt on the Hawks - Hudhaifa Ismaeli did it in November of 1995.

Another team looking to make a bowl?
Antwan Allen: It's definitely a 3 week season. There is no bowl unless we can get eligible
[He sounds like that Purdue guy a few weeks ago]
and the Final Word from Ferenz on NU in the Michigan game?
"They were very impressive that night and have been very impressive all this season."

What the Cats Have to Do:
  • Shake off the loss last week - Bad stuff can happen and last week it did.
  • Take care of the ball - I think coach Walker has probably drilled this into the running backs.
  • Keep your hands inside - remember that when NU is concerned, not all the Big 10 refs understand the new blocking rules...
  • Play D - Drew Tate is a top QB, but we have shut down a few top QBs this season.
  • Don't wake up their running game: Iowa has had a good rush offense for many years. Its down this year, but the last thing the Cats need to do is let them get started.
  • No more 3 and out for the Offense
OK, Randy Walker will tell everyone who listens that Iowa is a "great football team." He considers Kirk Ferentz a top line coach - who's had his program running well and his assistant coaches on his staff for 7 years.

According to Walker, Iowa is well coached and fundamentally sound and represents a really big challenge. Walker also talks about playing for something meaningful in November every year - hiving "something on the line" every week.

This year there are two "meaningful" things on "the line": Becoming Bowl Eligible, and guaranteeing a .500 season.

Both can be accomplished by Northwestern on Saturday.

The Game is on ESPN with Ron Franklin (play-by-play), Bob Davie (analyst) and Holly Rowe (sideline) starting at 11;00 PM [Wildcat Time] and will also be on WGN and WNUR
Dave Eanet and Ted Albrecht are the radio guys.
We'll be chatting at the same spot

You can send your comments or "back door" information
to Coach Roy
Go Cats
Beat 'em All!
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