Hawkeyes aren’t perfect, except for their record
Except their record, of course.
After falling behind by a touchdown in an unimpressive first half at Wisconsin on Saturday, No. 7 Iowa rallied on the road to beat the Badgers, 20-10, and run its record to 7-0 for the first time since 1985. Continuing a theme this season, the Hawkeyes showed plenty of faults but ended up with a win.
“We’re certainly not the prettiest car in the lot,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But that’s OK. We’re having a lot of fun. It was a tough game and my guess is we’ll have five more like this.”
And given the way things are shaping up after Ohio State’s surprising loss to Purdue on Saturday, five more wins will give the Hakweyes a Big Ten championship and a BCS bowl game berth.
College football’s style-points police will note that Iowa squeaked past Arkansas State and Northern Iowa this season, and have fallen behind early in its two Big Ten road games.
But after trailing early at Penn State and Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes found a way to pull both games out.
“We’ve been down before,” tight end Tony Moeaki said. “We’ve overcome some things. We needed a break and we pulled it out.”
And there might have been a lesson in those games, because Iowa’s players now figure their path will be a rough one every week.
“You don’t expect anything to be easy,” quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. “(Wisconsin) came ready to play and played hard. But our coaches did a great job of making adjustments and we executed them. We had answered their intensity in the second half. We didn’t have (that intensity) in the first half.”
Iowa remains unbeaten despite several significant injuries this season and at least two rounds of flu outbreaks within the team.
Ferentz didn’t say how many of his players were sick this week, outside of saying the team had “a lot of guys” miss Tuesday’s practice.
Iowa gave up plenty of big plays in the running game early on Saturday and couldn’t manage much offensive production. They fell behind
10-3 at halftime before tying on Stanzi’s third-quarter touchdown pass to Moeaki, then took the lead early in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard touchdown run by Adam Robinson. The Hawkeyes’ defense shut the Badgers down in the second half.
It was similar to the Hawkeyes’ 21-10 road win Sept. 26 at Penn State, where they fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter.
“Wisconsin was pretty much manhandling us in the first half,” Ferentz said. “They did whatever they wanted to do. In the end result, we’re behind and things aren’t looking too great. But like Penn State, we had some players make some big plays for us.”
Meanwhile, back-to-back losses to ranked teams have grounded the Badgers after their surprising 5-0 start. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema says the season is far from lost.
“We need senior leadership more so now than ever before,” Bielema said. “We’ve got five games in front of us. If we do well in those five games, we’re going to have an even bigger game down the road. There are probably a lot of people that didn’t think we’d win five games this year.”
The Badgers have scored only one offensive touchdown in two weeks, and quarterback Scott Tolzien’s strong early season play has tailed off. Tolzien threw three interceptions Saturday.
“I have to play smarter football,” Tolzien said. “This team can come back from the bye week and play better football. No question.”
We’re a team that ever since Day 1 we bonded and we’re a tight knit unit. This is when we really need to come together as a team.”
Heading into an off week, Bielema is looking to rebuild his young team’s confidence.
“The part that we have to understand and get across to our players in the next two weeks that you’re a very good football team,” Bielema said. “You’re a 5-2 football team that has done some good things. Unfortunately we’ve played two very good opponents, we didn’t play well in the second half, and that leads to (losses).”