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Michigan seniors winless vs. UI

[ 2 ] July 28, 2012 |

For obvious reasons, trash talking is a big no-no at Big Ten Media Days.

So, inevitably, you’ll hear some disingenuous praise with players and coaches trying to be politically correct under the glare of the spotlight.

Illinois coach Tim Beckman even praised Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, which is sort of like a fox praising the head of an embattled hen house.

Sometimes, though, the praise is sincere and it’s easy to see why.

All three of the players who represented Michigan at media day, including all-Big Ten quarterback Denard Robinson, laid it on thick when talking about the Iowa football program.

“It’s crazy because Iowa is a great team,” Robinson said Friday. “It’s like, ‘Man, every time we play against these guys these guys are ready to play and they’re well coached and they’re great athletes.’”

Why shouldn’t Robinson feel that way?

Nobody on the current Michigan team has ever defeated Iowa.

As great as last season’s turnaround was under new coach Brady Hoke, it was tainted by two losses, including a 24-16 setback against Iowa on Nov. 5 at Kinnick Stadium.

The victory was historic from Iowa’s perspective because it marked three victories in a row against Michigan, which had never happened during the rivalry. Iowa had defeated Michigan two times in a row on two occasions, but never three times in a row until last season, which was the 57th game between the two teams dating back to 1900.

It’s a winning streak worthy of high praise, but with it comes a new challenge of trying to fend off another strong Michigan squad whose players, especially the seniors, are determined to finally get a victory against Iowa.

Defeating Ohio State always will be paramount at Michigan. The Sept. 1 season opener against perennial power Alabama in Dallas is another monumental matchup that has the Michigan players stoked.

But buried deep on the 2012 schedule is a Nov. 17 showdown with Iowa at Michigan Stadium in the next to last game of the regular season.

It’ll be Senior Day at the Big House, but also the last chance for the Michigan seniors to defeat Iowa.

Oddly enough, the last two seasons have been disappointing for the Hawkeyes because they combined to lose 11 games, including two to lowly Minnesota.

It’s easier to explain Iowa’s victories over Michigan in 2009 and 2010 because they occurred during the short and disastrous three-year reign of coach Rich Rodriguez when the Wolverines barely played any defense.

The victory last season was more a case of a slightly above-average Iowa team raising its game to Michigan’s level, especially on defense. Robinson was held to 55 rushing yards on 12 attempts and 20 of his 37 passes were incomplete and one was intercepted.

Robinson was accompanied to media day by senior defensive back Jordan Kovacs and junior offensive lineman Taylor Lewan.

Kovacs was asked Friday morning about the losing streak against Iowa and he seemed ready to address the subject. In fact, he and his two teammates already had addressed it among themselves.

“We were just talking about how we’ve never beaten Iowa last night,” Kovacs said. “Obviously, it falls hand-in-hand with our goals because if we’re not beating Iowa, if we’re not beating teams within our division, we’re not going to make it to the Big Ten championship game.

“Iowa has had tremendous success, not only against us, but against the rest of the Big Ten in the last few years. We’re going to have our hands full with them again this year. But for it to be Senior Night in the Big House, it’s going to be a fun game and it’s going to be a big game for us as it is year in and year out.”

It was hard to tell from talking with Robinson if he’s more excited about the Iowa game being played at the Big House or more relieved that it won’t be played at Kinnick Stadium, where he and the Michigan seniors are winless in two games.

“That stadium, it’s great for them, but not great for the away team,” Robinson said. “That’s probably the hardest place that I’ve played in so far up to this point.”

Lewan praised Iowa for how it plays the game and for just quietly going about its business.

“People kind of overlook certain things, but Iowa is a great school,” Lewan said Friday. “It’s real cool to play them because it’s more or less what you see is what you get. They’re not going to try and trick you, not a lot of stuff, not a lot of twists.”

That could change with Iowa having two new coordinators, but as long as Kirk Ferentz is coaching the Hawkeyes, don’t expect the changes to be overly dramatic.

Ferentz had decided even before the staff shakeup that it was time to make changes with Iowa coming off back-to-back 4-4 records in conference play. He described it as his program sort of needing a reboot.

The Michigan players, especially the seniors, might disagree.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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