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Preview: Difficult winning on the road

[ 0 ] October 12, 2012 |

There is something undeniably different about running out onto the field in front of a hostile fan base that is screaming for you to lose.

For many Hawkeyes, Saturday’s game at Michigan State will be a baptism by fire after playing four straight home games to open the season.

Micah Hyde, who played as a true freshman, remembers taking the field at Penn State in 2009.

“You get out there, and it’s like, ‘Holy crap, what is going on? What did I get myself into?’” Hyde said. “A couple plays in, you snap out of it. You know you’re young, but you’ve got to go out there and compete.

“Our young guys will learn from it.”

Iowa (3-2, 1-0) opened the season with a neutral site game at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Coach Kirk Ferentz thinks that experience will help the younger players on the team this time around.

“Certainly the environment in the stadium was not like what we’ll face on our next four away games,” Ferentz said. “Yet at least we went through the process of being on the road.”

Winning on the road in the Big Ten has gotten more difficult recently. Michigan State (4-2, 1-1) had to scramble and rally to beat Indiana 31-27 last Saturday in Bloomington, Ind.

As a conference, since Nebraska joined, road teams are just 22-37 in Big Ten games.

Iowa has been among the teams struggling to win on the road, going 1-3 last season. Their 2012 Big Ten road schedule also includes trips to Northwestern, Michigan and Indiana.

Ferentz downplayed the issue Tuesday.

“The biggest thing is still the team on the field,” Ferentz said. “That’s more of a concern to us than maybe the stadium.”

The Hawkeyes have never been true road warriors. Since Ferentz’s third season in 2001, Iowa is 21-23 playing on the road in the Big Ten.

That includes a 12-16 record since 2005.

Senior Calvin Davis remembers coming out to the field late with Hyde against Penn State in 2009.

“Me and Micah always talk about it,” Davis said. “We came out late. Me and him had to use the restroom. We were nervous.

“We came out and saw a sea of white, a sea of fans. It definitely gets you jittery for that to be my first away Big Ten game.”

Coaches like to keep the routine the same every week. It’s part of the reason Iowa stays in a hotel on Friday nights before home games, too.

But it is always a new locker room, a new place to get taped, a new place to meet, a new place to take care of all pre-game business.

“I think the young guys are doing a good job improving this year, this is just another thing for them to do,” senior defensive lineman Steve Bigach said. “Just focus on yourself and your team, try to ignore the other distractions outside.”

Saturday is homecoming in East Lansing, Mich., and the Spartans are 6-1 against Iowa on homecoming. Michigan State also is adding former coaches Clarence “Biggie” Munn and Hugh Duffy Daugherty to the “Ring of Fame” prior to the game.

“You expect a challenge going into someplace,” Bigach said. “Everyone versus 80,000 in the stadium. It’s a great place to play football, and a great opportunity for us as a team.”

Road wins in the Big Ten also can be a harbinger of how the season will turn out. With the exception of 2003 — when Iowa was 1-3 on the road in the Big Ten and finished 10-3 — a bad Big Ten road trip usually spells disaster.

“Coach Ferentz said every road game is a big game,” sophomore tackle Brandon Scherff said. “It’s going to be a great experience; a great challenge for us.”

Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or rsuchomel@press-citizen.com.

5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE

1. Junior running back Le’Veon Bell ranks second in the Big Ten and ninth nationally in rushing, averaging 129.3 yards per game. He has been the B1G Offensive Player of the Week twice. MSU is 16-1 when Bell scores at least one rushing touchdown.

2. Michigan has only lost to Notre Dame and Ohio State, who are both undefeated and ranked in the Top 10. Strength of schedule is 2nd-toughest in the B1G and 17th-toughest in the country.

3. True freshman WR Aaron Burbridge made his first start last week and had eight catches for 134 yards against Indiana. He was the top recruit in the state.

4. Spartans have been hit by the injury bug, losing right tackle Fou Fonoti, center Travis Jackson and tight end Dion Sims to injury.

5. Michigan State has outscored its opponents 74 to 23 in the second half of games this season.

Road to ruin, road to roses

Most seasons, the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten road record determines how successful the season is overall.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Ryan Suchomel: Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or rsuchomel@press-citizen.com. View author profile.

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