Monday, October 12, 2015

B1G West Spotlight: #17 Iowa @ #20 Northwestern at Ryan Field on Saturday

Dan Vitale at Michigan
The 2015 Northwestern Wildcats will celebrate Homecoming in Week 7 of
the College Football season by hosting Big Ten West rival, the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Evanston, IL -- The #17 Iowa Hawkeyes (6-0, 2-0 B1G West) will travel to Ryan Field to face the #20 Northwestern Wildcats (5-1, 1-1 B1G West) in a key conference game on Saturday with an 11 a.m. kickoff on ABC. The Wildcats will be celebrating Homecoming, as well as the twenty year anniversary of their 8-0 Big Ten championship in 1995. The Wildcats plan to wear new Under Armour throwback jerseys celebrating the 1995 championship season.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald was one of the members of the 1995 Big Ten championship team, as his former coach Gary Barnett will return to serve as honorary captain for Saturday's Homecoming game. While there will be no celebration on Saturday, the Iowa Hawkeyes won the Big Ten thirty years ago. The Hawkeyes thirty years ago arrived with a similar 6-0 record for a game at Ryan Field, known then as Dyche Stadium.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz during
the 2012 game at Northwestern.
The Wildcats won over the Hawkeyes
28-17 in route to a 10-3 season,
the best year under NU's Pat Fitzgerald.
Iowa holds a 49-24-3 advantage in the series that began with a 12-6 Iowa win in Evanston in 1897. Iowa has won three of the last four meetings, including a 48-7 decision a year ago in Kinnick Stadium. Iowa holds a 23-15-3 advantage in Evanston, but has not played at Ryan Field since 2012. Iowa has lost on its last two visits to Ryan Field, with its last victory in Evanston coming by a 28-17 score in 2007.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is 7-7 in the Northwestern series, as he enters his 17th season as head coach of the Hawkeyes. The dean of the Big Ten will face, the second most active coach, in the Big Ten, when the Hawkeyes and Wildcats meet. Fitzgerald has a 5-4 record vs. Iowa, now in his tenth season at his alma mater. Ferentz is 2-4 in Evanston.

Injured CB #27 Matthew Harris at
Iowa last year, as he reaches to
tackle Iowa RB #25 Akrum Wadley.
Wadley had a career high 15 carries
and 106 yards rushing in Iowa's
48-6 win over the Wildcats.
On Saturday, in Ann Arbor, junior CB Matthew Harris was carted off the field during the 'Cats 38-0 loss to Michigan. The starting CB has broken bones in his face and will be out for the foreseeable future. "A good time to ask me (about his return) will probably be right after the bye week (at the end of the month)," said Fitzgerald during his Monday press conference with the media.

Iowa Offense vs. Northwestern Defense
Iowa averages 31.7 points per game, the second best scoring offense in the Big Ten. Northwestern allows only 12.2 points per game, third best in the conference. Iowa faced a similar match up in the Big Ten opener at Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes won 10-6 in a four quarter slobber-knocker.

Iowa and Northwestern are tied for second in the league in red zone defense. Both teams have allowed nine scores on 13 trips to the red zone (69.2 percent). Iowa has allowed six touchdowns, while Northwestern has surrendered four.

Northwestern is the least penalized team in the Big Ten.

Iowa and Northwestern ranks fourth and fifth, respectively, in turnover margin. The Hawkeyes are plus-five with a Big Ten-best eight interceptions. Northwestern is plus-three.

Northwestern has no Iowa natives on its roster. Iowa’s roster includes 14 Illinois natives, more than any other outside state. Iowa is coming off a 29-20 win over Illinois, so back to back games vs. Illinois teams for the Hawkeyes.

ONE POINT OF EMPHASIS in the days leading up to that Michigan game, Fitzgerald noted, was the importance of first and second downs. The reason for that was obvious. No team wants to face a third-and-long against any defense, let alone a defense as strong as the Wolverines'.

So Fitzgerald was accurate on Monday when he said, "We put ourselves in third-and-long almost the entire day. With their defense, that's a recipe for disaster. I think they're outstanding, especially up front. But we sure compounded the problem. Not physical enough up front. . . . Up front, we couldn't get any movement on our one-on-ones. That made it tough sledding for Justin (Jackson). We've got to get our run game going. That's our bread-and-butter. We've got to be able to run the football."

Northwestern's leading RB sophomore
#21 Justin Jackson was held in check
by Michigan during the Wildcats'
38-0 loss in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
ANOTHER OF FITZGERALD'S beliefs is that you've got to flush away disappointments and move on, which his 'Cats must certainly do with undefeated Iowa set to visit Ryan Field on Saturday. "You've got to get off the mat. You get knocked down, you don't have the game that you're capable of having, you've got to get up. There's no other choice," he reiterated on Monday.

THE 'CATS, of course, never did manage to run the football against the Wolverines, who limited Jackson to just 25 net yards on his dozen carries. That buttressed a contention often made by Fitzgerald, who regularly avows that Big Ten games are determined by the mano-a-mano combat that goes on in the trenches. He echoed that theme on Monday when he said, "They (Michigan) didn't do anything we didn't prepare for. That's probably where our offensive guys were frustrated."

In last year's game at Iowa,
Justin Jackson wore #28,
as a true freshman. Here
he was tackled by Iowa
DE #34 Nate Meier.
"When I met with some of the Leadership guys on our offense, I said, 'What could we have done differently?' They said, 'Everything you guys showed us last week is exactly what they did.' So got to credit Michigan. They executed, we didn't. We've got to win in those one-on-one situations. We're going to be in them again the next six weeks. There were plenty of times in the first five (weeks) that we did (win). Just got to get back to accomplishing that."

Iowa will seek to duplicate what Michigan was able to do against Northwestern, but the Hawkeyes will have to manage it on the road. And, the Wildcats will be celebrating a 20th anniversary of a championship, along with Homecoming on Saturday at Ryan Field.

Michigan QB #15 Jake Rudock won his
third game against Northwestern.
The past two wins were in an Iowa
uniform, the past two seasons.
"I like the way the guys were this morning. They came with a great attitude. We coached the you-know-what out of them. Put the game away pretty quick and moved on. I think I'll know a lot more tomorrow walking off the field (after practice). But where they were at this morning was a positive place. . . . I think they were mad-- mad at themselves individually, mad at the performance that we did not have. We talked about what did we do in the first five weeks to have that success. It was the way we prepared and obviously the way we performed," Fitzgerald reported on Monday.

MICHIGAN, Fitzgerald also said, is "Playing as hot as anybody in the country." Then, in the next breath, he added, "You'd probably say Iowa is right there with them. We have to rise to the occasion."

SATURDAY is the 'Cats homecoming game. Saturday the 'Cats will honor their 1995 edition that went to the Rose Bowl. Saturday the 'Cats will wear new uniforms designed in tribute to that storied team. But, most importantly, Saturday the 'Cats will face the team that sits atop their division, a team that must be beaten if they hope to achieve their goal of appearing in their conference's title game. "I think there's extra motivation because they're in the driver's seat in the Big Ten West. That's the bottom line," Fitzgerald said of that reality.
"They've put themselves in that position by the way they've played. They've won their games. They've found ways to win close games, tough games. That's a hallmark of (Hawkeye coach) Kirk (Ferentz's) teams. They're tough. They're physical. They do what they do. They do it well. They execute fundamentally. They don't make mistakes. They typically don't beat themselves." - Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald on Iowa
"You've got to execute to beat them," Fitzgerald went on to say about the game with the Hawkeyes this Saturday.

The game on Saturday should be another classic chess match between the Hawkeyes and the Wildcats.
Iowa junior QB #16 C.J. Beathard has
used his feet and his arm to lead the
Hawkeyes to a 6-0 start in 2015.
Each team has a new quarterback at the helm. QB C.J. Beathard is 7-0 as Iowa’s starting quarterback, a record that includes a 3-0 mark on the road, a 4-0 mark at home, and a 3-0 mark in the Big Ten. Numbers include 116-of-199 (58.3) passing for 1,484 yards, 10 touchdowns, and three interceptions, and 221 yards rushing with three rushing touchdowns. The last Iowa quarterback to win his first seven career starts was Matt Sherman, who won seven from 1994-95.

Clayton Thorson vs. Minnesota
Northwestern redshirt freshman QB
#18 Clayton Thorson leads the 2015
Wildcats' offense.
One of the reasons Jake Rudock transferred to Michigan after the Spring as a graduate transfer was due Ferentz electing to name the junior Beathard the #1 QB, back in January. It has worked out well for both Michigan and Iowa.

Northwestern has opened the 2015 with a positive record lead by redshirt freshman signal caller Clayton Thorson, who offers a run, pass option, as often has been popular under Fitzgerald. The Wildcats are 2-1 against ranked opponents, with wins against Stanford in the season opener and @ Duke in Week 3.

Northwestern finished 2012 with a 10-3 record, the best ever under Fitzgerald. The Wildcats were a +14 in turnover margin, an unreal number under Fitzgerald. The Wildcats came into the 2015 season, off the heels of back to back 5-7 seasons.

Iowa has been 19-21 the past five seasons in the Big Ten. After a disappointing 7-6 season last season, including three straight losses, Ferentz revisited all aspects of the program. One area of emphasis was turnover margin.
We hope (an advantage in turnovers is) something we can build on weeklyIt is one of the most important stats, if not the most important, when it comes to winning and losing. It was a real factor in the game yesterday -- our defense forced a couple takeaways and to convert those into points is even more important. Getting that last fumble recovery and getting insurance points was a big sequence in the game (against Illinois).” - Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz shared Sunday about the 2015 season.
Iowa senior running back Jordan Canzeri continues to impress. On Sept. 26 he rushed for four touchdowns and Ferentz said he was equally complimentary of Canzeri’s blocking in the game. He had a similar feeling Saturday when he saw Canzeri carried the ball 43 times for 256 yards. Canzeri has also been effective as a receiver, as well, beginning the season, as the third down back.
Iowa senior RB #33 Jordan Canzeri is leading the
Big Ten in rushing, in conference games. He has 10 
touchdowns in leading Iowa to a 6-0 start.

It is a tribute to his determination and hard work,” Ferentz said. “It is all playing off and his commitment to our football team. That last drive (against Illinois) in particular he didn’t even looked at the bench giving even an inkling that he wanted to come out. He had 11 carries in that possession (for 59 yards). That to me was the biggest series we had in the football game. He got good blocking in there, but a big part of that was his effort and determination.”

The Hawkeyes won 48-7 last season in Kinnick Stadium -- a game Ferentz calls an “aberration.” Two weeks after that game, the Wildcats went on the road and defeated No. 15 Notre Dame, 43-40.
It is going to be one of those tough Big Ten contests. We’re on the road and we will have to be at our best to have a chance in this game. We have had great knock-down, drag-out football games with them going right down to the wire. That’s what I expect this year, too.” - Kirk Ferentz on facing the Wildcats on the road
Iowa is 2-0 away from home this season and was 3-2 on the road last season. Iowa entered the season with zero trophies and have won two trophy games, each on the road to kickoff the 2015 season.

As is the case with 13 other league teams, the hard-fought, tough, physical Big Ten games have taken its toll on the Hawkeyes on the injury front. Ferentz said Tevaun Smith and Drew Ott will miss the Northwestern game, although as of Sunday evening, it is unknown the severity of an injury Ott suffered against Illinois. Iowa right now has lost starters at DE, both offensive tackles, starting running back, wide receiver and last year's top tight end.

We have some guys that are hobbled right now and some guys who might not make it at kickoff,” Ferentz said. “Drew Ott, we are not very optimistic there. We will know more when the doctors actually have a chance to examine him and get an MRI on Monday. Tevaun Smith is out, too. For sure those two guys will be out and we may have others."

At the beginning of the season, no starters were freshman for Iowa, but that has changed now.

A lot of teams have injured players, so you have to fight through it, other guys have to step up. That was one of the highlights yesterday in the ball game -- guys like (redshirt freshman DE) Parker Hesse and (true freshman G/T) James Daniels jumping in there.”

Iowa true freshman WR #9 Jerminic
Smith will likely have an expanded
role at Northwestern.
True freshman wide receiver Jerminic Smith has replaced Tevaun Smith and had a breakout game on Saturday for the Hawkeyes. Smith caught four passes for 118 yards, all in the first half. His first three receptions -- of 14, 46, and 49 yards -- moved the chains. He also had a 9-yard grab.

"It felt great," Smith said of making his first collegiate catch. "I'm just doing my job and this game will give me confidence. I will keep working hard and hopefully keep doing well."

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz with closing comments after the Homecoming win
against Illinois, as Iowa took sole position of the Big Ten West at 2-0.

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