Playmakers? The Wildcats have got them.
Can Iowa stop them? That’s the question heading into the 11 a.m. kickoff Saturday at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.
Especially coming out of a game in which the Hawkeye defensive gave up 504 yards.
“It wasn’t much of what they were doing it was what we weren’t doing,” junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “We did a lot of dumb things that Iowa football doesn’t do much around here.”
Job one Saturday will be to slow down junior running back Venric Mark, who has 910 yards rushing this season.
Mark also is averaging 25.1 yards per punt return, with two touchdowns and also returns kickoffs.
“He’s a guy that you better have accounted for no matter what phase of the game is,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s a very tough player to defend.”
Mark is a small back at 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, but has carried the ball 150 times in eight games.
“We’ve got to game plan to take him away and not let him be a spark throughout the game,” Iowa junior safety Tanner Miller said. “He’s an elusive player.”
He isn’t the only Wildcat weapon. The other is junior quarterback/receiver Kain Colter.
Colter has run for 456 yards, caught 16 passes for 169 yards and is 56-for-79 passing for 437 yards.
“He’s a weapon for them,” junior linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “Learn their game plan and stop their weapon.”
Colter did his thing last year against Iowa, gaining 76 rushing yards on 12 carries, passing 2-for-4 for 44 yards and catching six passes for 71 yards … but Iowa still won 41-31.
“It really makes it just add to what you’re trying to do preparation-wise, because they have morphed a package for him that’s been pretty good, pretty productive for him,” Ferentz said. “You’ve got to defend a lot of different things.”
When Colter isn’t in at quarterback, the Wildcats turn to sophomore Trevor Siemian, who is 95-for-162 for 927 yards through eight games. He has only thrown for more than 135 yards once — throwing for 308 yards against Indiana.
The Wildcats also play uptempo offense.
Coming off a Penn State team that ran 90 offensive plays last week — and leads the Big Ten in plays per game with 80.1 — Iowa’s next two opponents rank second and third.
Indiana averages 79.7 plays per game and Northwestern 77.0 plays per game.
“You train your body throughout the week knowing you are going to be playing that many snaps,” Miller said. “The key is to not let them get that many snaps. Get those 3-and-outs and try to keep them off the field as much as possible.”
Most Iowa defenders think they are well-enough conditioned to take on a quick-strike offensive attack.
“It was more mental with the whole NASCAR thing,” Iowa defensive lineman Carl Davis said. “At first, we were kind of felt gassed. James Morris came to the huddle. He said, ‘Guys, this is all mental. Focus in.’ Once he told us that, we were all fine.”
For an Iowa scoring offense ranked 97th nationally (19.8 points per game), the defense may need to help the Hawkeyes stay out of a shootout.
“We’ve got to find ways to get behind them because they will be very conscious about coming up and stopping the run,” Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg said.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football