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UI faces tough road to bowl eligibility

[ 0 ] November 4, 2012 |

The path to six wins now looks like a climb up Mount Everest for this Hawkeye football team.

But the players don’t want to talk about missing a bowl game

“Yeah, we’re not really worried about three weeks from now,” junior linebacker James Morris said. “For us, this entire year has been about one week at a time.”

Iowa (4-5) has three weeks to get to the six-win plateau necessary to be eligible for a bowl game invitation.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has kept the Hawkeyes bowl eligible for 11 straight seasons. (Iowa didn’t go to a bowl in 2007 despite being 6-6.)

But after Purdue (3-6, 0-5) comes to Kinnick Stadium this week, the Hawkeyes close with a trip to Michigan (6-3, 4-1) and with a Black Friday showdown against No. 18 Nebraska (7-2, 4-1).

The way the Hawkeyes have played during their three-game losing streak, it is hard to envision a scenario where they upset the Wolverines or Huskers.

“We clearly have work to do right now,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’re not putting the flag up. But we’ve got to play cleaner to expect to win.”

Iowa fell behind Penn State 38-0 and Northwestern 28-3 before adding two late touchdowns in each game.

On Saturday, Iowa got out to a quick 14-0 lead but only managed one additional score over the final 52 minutes against the worst defense in the Big Ten.

“Hard to say,” senior James Ferentz said. “I just think they played better than us today.”

“We played good in the beginning,” sophomore running back Damon Bullock said. “We got off to a fast start; we didn’t finish it.”

Indiana (4-5, 2-3) has been a perennial Big Ten bottom-feeder. They won consecutive league games on Saturday for the first time since 2007.

And Iowa players continued to talk about the same things after this loss as the previous four.

“Literally, it is execution,” Iowa senior quarterback James Vandenberg said. “We had a good plan. We felt comfortable with what we were seeing. We just didn’t execute well enough consistently.

“We showed flashes, we didn’t do it consistently enough to win.”

Iowa only ranks in the top third of the Big Ten in two categories — turnover margin (second at plus-.89 per game) and kickoff returns (fourth at a 21.84 average thanks to Jordan Cotton).

Losses are piling up despite winning the turnover battle. And by every other metric, Iowa is struggling.

“This week we’re looking forward,” junior defensive end Dominic Alvis said. “That’s going to be our emphasis.

“We play every game to win. I think we have our backs against the wall. It’s time to fight. We need to win out.”

Winning out might take a football miracle. Two wins to get bowl eligible is Mount Everest.

And anything less may end up being the most disappointing season since Ferentz turned the program around in 2001.

“We can’t slow down, can’t get lazy,” junior linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “We have to keep going.”

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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