Iowa knows not to look past Northwestern

If there’s one team that’s been trouble for Iowa the past few

years, Northwestern would certainly qualify.

The Wildcats have won two straight and four of five in the

series.

So Iowa is trying to forget about next week’s game against Ohio

State. Never mind the Big Ten championship implications it could

carry. None of that will matter if the 13th-ranked Hawkeyes stumble

at Northwestern on Saturday.

”Northwestern has our number, kind of like how we have Penn

State’s number,” tight end Allen Reisner said. ”I mean, it’s just

one of those things that’s happened and we’ve got turn that around

this week.”

Last year’s 17-10 loss was particularly painful for the

Hawkeyes.

Not only did Iowa see its 9-0 start and national championship

hopes go by the wayside, it lost quarterback Ricky Stanzi to an

ankle injury. He missed the final two regular-season games,

including a loss to Ohio State the following week, before throwing

for 231 yards in a win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

A year earlier, the Wildcats rallied from 14 down and hung on to

win 22-17 after Stanzi led Iowa to the 8-yard line late in the

game. Three straight incompletions followed and then defensive

lineman Quentin Davie knocked Stanzi’s fourth-down pass to the turf

to seal the victory for Northwestern.

If Iowa (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) were looking for some payback on

Saturday, that would be perfectly understandable. But Stanzi

insisted that’s not the case.

”I haven’t really thought about revenge or anything like that.

That’s just not how I operate,” he said.

The Hawkeyes are one of four teams with one loss in conference

play and are tied with Ohio State and Wisconsin for second place, a

half game behind Michigan State. If they get by Northwestern (6-3,

2-3) and the Buckeyes, they would be in good position to claim at

least a share of their first Big Ten title in six years since they

finish with last-place Minnesota.

Then again, Iowa barely escaped with an 18-13 victory at Indiana

last week.

Stanzi threw a 52-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to Marvin McNutt

with 2:50 left, and the Hawkeyes still needed a dropped pass and a

replay confirmation after Ben Chappell led Indiana back down the

field to the 18. On fourth-and-10, Damarlo Belcher appeared to grab

and then drop what would have been a TD pass with 28 seconds left.

Hoosiers fans roared thinking he had scored, but replays showed he

never had control of the ball.

Iowa exhaled, knowing it was still in the hunt for a conference

championship and Rose Bowl berth. Farther east, Northwestern was

staggering away after a 35-21 collapse at Penn State.

The Wildcats scored the first 21 points, but by the end of the

game, Joe Paterno was celebrating his 400th win.

”We need to play better, execute better, coach better

collectively to give ourselves an opportunity,” coach Pat

Fitzgerald said.

They need to figure out a way to contain Stanzi, has thrown for

2,212 yards with 20 touchdowns and only three interceptions, along

with a talented group of running backs. Adam Robinson (apparent

head injury), Jewel Hampton (knee) and Brandon Wegher (personal

reasons) all missed last week’s game. But Marcus Coker ran for 129

yards in his first career start, and he figures to back up Robinson

this week.

Iowa has to contend with Dan Persa, who has completed at least

70 percent of his passes in six games and ran for a career-high 109

yards and two touchdowns against Penn State. If the Hawkeyes do

that, maybe they’ll stop this recent slide against

Northwestern.

”It’s not a smoke-and-mirror operation,” Iowa coach Kirk

Ferentz said. ”They are good football players that play well. They

are well coached. I mean, you look at our two games, they have done

the things you’re supposed to do.”