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Archive for October, 2009

Rash of injuries a big concern

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

One of the hardest hitting games of the season prompted a handful of injuries and a great deal of uncertainty about Iowa’s lineup for next Saturday’s game with Indiana. A look at the injuries and their potential ramifications:

Dace Richardson: He has started every game this season, at three different offensive line positions, but I’m guessing we’ve seen the last of the big guy this season. He suffered what appeared to be a very serious foot or ankle injury (allegedly a fracture) and I can’t imagine he would be back before the end of the regular season. The good news is that there shouldn’t be much drop-off with veteran Julian Vandervelde ready to step back into the lineup at right guard.

Brett Greenwood: It looked really bad when they strapped Greenwood to a board and took him off on a cart, but that may have been largely a precautionary measure. The junior free safety was back on the sidelines in sweats at the end of the game. If Greenwood is out, fifth-year senior Joe Conklin becomes the starter. Conklin showed some inexperience when he was thrown into the action Saturday night, but with more preparation time he should be OK.

Colin Sandeman: He got knocked cold on a vicious hit by Michigan State’s Jeremy Ware. Head injuries aren’t anything to be taken lightly and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sandeman sit out a game or two. His absence would mean more playing time at receiver for freshman Keenan Davis, but it’s not clear who would replace Sandeman on punt returns. Maybe Davis. Maybe Tyler Sash. Maybe Amari Spievey. Sandeman had done a very good job since taking over for Paul Chaney so this could be a bigger loss than it appears.

Adam Robinson: Many people probably didn’t even realize that Robinson injured his ankle late in the game because he and Brandon Wegher share playing time at running back anyway. Wegher also was banged up in the game (a shoulder, I think) although he came back and played after that. It not clear at this point how badly hurt either of them is. If both of them are out, it’s a major crisis. Hawkeye fans aren’t eager to see Paki O’Meara return to the starting lineup.

BCS list encouraging … but it’s early

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

The Iowa football team seemingly is starting to gain a little more respect nationally. Last week the Hawkeyes were ranked 11th in the Associated Press poll and although only two of the teams ahead of them lost (Ohio State and Virginia Tech), they climbed four spots Sunday to No. 7. Several voters obviously decided on the basis of a 20-10 victory over Wisconsin that the Hawkeyes are now better than LSU and Miami (Fla.).

They were one spot higher in the first BCS standings of the season, at No. 6. USC, ahead of them in the AP poll, was behind them on the BCS list.

All of this is sure to encourage those fans who keep talking about the Hawkeyes possibly playing in the BCS championship game if they can manage to win their five remaining regular-season games.

Sorry, but that’s still very, very unlikely. I would say one of the two SEC teams that are 1-2 in every poll – Florida and Alabama – will be in the BCS game. Those two do not meet in the regular season and each of them only has one more ranked team on the schedule. Alabama hosts LSU a few weeks from now and Florida still has to travel to South Carolina.

Texas, No. 3 in the polls, also has a good chance of finishing unbeaten if it can win next Saturday at Oklahoma State. The only other tough game on the Longhorns’ schedule is against Kansas, which also could be its opponent in the Big 12 championship game.

It’s also unlikely that Boise State is going to lose although I could see some voters eventually leap-frogging the Hawkeyes over Boise if they can beat Ohio State on Nov. 14. Of course, I also could see LSU leap-frogging back ahead of Iowa if it beats Alabama on Nov. 7.

The other team ahead of the Hawkeyes in the BCS right now is Cincinnati, which still has two ranked teams remaining on the schedule – West Virginia and Pittsburgh.

It’s way too early to be talking BCS title game. Get back to me after the Hawkeyes have won at Ohio State. Then we’ll talk.

Pick six usually means defeat

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

This might be the most amazing thing about the first half of Iowa’s football season: In three of the past four games, the opposing team has returned an interception for a touchdown and the Hawkeyes have somehow managed to win all three of those games.

A pick six is almost always a recipe for defeat. When the opposing defense not only forces a turnover, but is able to turn it into immediate points, it’s a very, very difficult thing for a team to overcome, both physically and emotionally. It’s a testament to the resiliency of this Iowa team that it has overcome those type of setbacks.

In the first 10 years of the Kirk Ferentz era at Iowa, a quarterback threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown only nine times (five of those by Drew Tate). Iowa went 3-6 in those games. The Hawkeyes were 4-11 in games in which the opposing team scored any kind of defensive or special teams touchdown, whether it be via interception, fumble, kick return, blocked punt, etc.

For the Hawkeyes to go 3-0 in such games this season is pretty astounding.

By the way, the only other quarterbacks besides Tate and Ricky Stanzi to throw a pick six in the Ferentz era are Jon Beutjer, Nathan Chandler, Kyle McCann and Scott Mullen. Each of them had just one. That’s right, Jake Christensen never did it. Not even once.

 A list of the defensive TDs scored by Iowa opponents in the Ferentz years:

 2009: Arizona, Terevin Wade interception (W); Arkansas State, DeMario Davis interception (W); Michigan, Donavan Warren interception (W)

2008: Illinois, Dere Hicks fumble (L)

2007: None

2006: None

2005: Iowa State, LaMarcus Hicks interception (L); Minnesota, John Shevlin interception (W); Florida, V.Brown interception and T.McCollum blocked punt (L)

2004: Michigan, Grant Mason interception (L); Kent State, J.Williams interception (W)

2003: Ohio State, Donte Whitner blocked punt and  Michael Jenkins punt return (L); Penn State, Y.Yisrael interception (W)

2002: None

2001: Penn State, L.Johnson blocked punt (W); Purdue, Woodyard interception (L); Michigan State, Haywood kickoff return (L); Michigan, Manning blocked punt (L)

2000: Nebraska, Watchorn interception (L); Illinois, Long interception (L)

1999: Michigan State, Henry punt return (L)

Michigan’s top rusher out

Friday, October 9th, 2009

The Michigan football team arrived in Iowa City on Firday without its leading rusher. Tailback Carlos Brown was left at home due to a concussion, which will make an laready difficult task even tougher for the Wolverines, who are an 8-point underdog in the nationally televised game at Kinnick.

Brown is Michigan’s top breakway threat. He is averaging more than 7 yards per carry and nearly 15 yards per pass reception. Among his four touchdowns this season are runs of 90 and 41 yards and a 61-yard romp with a screen pass.

Brandon Minor is a capable backup, but obviously Brown’s big play ability will be missed. Chances are, the Wolverines are going to need to throw the ball more than usual in this game anyway. Iowa figures to shut down their running attack, just as Michigan State did a week ago.

Pricey tickets

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Last week’s game against Arkansas State fell a few thousands tickets short of a sellout and there still are tickets remaining for three of the last four home games, but just try finding a ticket for Saturday night’s game with Michigan. There are a few out there, but it’s going to cost you.

According to Fansnap.com, a site that accumulates ticket listings from all over the Internet, the cheapest ticket you can buy online for this game is $182.50. That gets you into row 69 of section 110, deep in the southeast corner of Kinnick Stadium. The most expensive ticket out there right now? For $706, you can get seven rows up on the 45-yard line directly behind the Iowa bench.

This game obviously is a hot ticket because it’s a marquee opponent and it’s homecoming, but it’s still hard to figure why it sold out a long, long time ago while games against decent opponents such as Northwestern and Minnesota still have tickets available. I wonder if the fact that it’s a night game doesn’t have something to do with it.

It’s been a weird 5-0

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

It’s hard to know what to make of Iowa’s 24-21 victory over Arkansas State on Saturday. This had a slightly different feel than the narrow escape over Northern Iowa in the season opener. In that one, the Hawkeyes really were outplayed most of the day.

On Saturday, they played very well at times but did it in spurts. They jumped to the big lead, then put it in cruise control. After Arkansas Stare scored to close the gap, they kicked into gear again. In the end, they did enough to win.

The outcome was similar, but you never had the feeling that Arkansas State measured up physically. The Hawks just seemed to fade in and out mentally.

In any case, it has been a pretty bizarre 5-0 start for Iowa. The two closest games were both at home against the two teams you figured they had the best chance of beating. The two most lopsided games score-wise have been the two road games, one of those against a team few people thought they would beat. Go figure.

This team seems to have a remarkable ability to play up or down to its level of opposition, which might be a good thing now that they’re down to just Big Ten games.