IOWA CITY, Ia. – They have a combined eight Big Ten Conference losses. Fans have become angry. Some believe bowl situations have reached the implausible stage.
Welcome to Purdue and Iowa, a pair of struggling teams fighting for survival during Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Kinnick Stadium.
The 4-5 Hawkeyes have dug such a hole that they have to win twice to reach the NCAA’s six-win postseason mandate. In that vein, winning Saturday would appear a must, with games at 6-3 Michigan and at home against 7-2 Nebraska remaining.
“There’d be nothing better than to win three games and get a bowl opportunity,” Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg said, although all it would take is two. “There’s been a sense of urgency all year.”
There hasn’t been a sense of victory, though, since beating Michigan State in two overtimes on Oct. 13. Since then, Iowa lost by 24 points against Penn State, 11 against Northwestern, and by three points last Saturday at Indiana.
“I’m optimistic,” coach Kirk Ferentz said when asked about the future of the program. “We’re going to continue to work hard. That’s what we’ve tried to do for 13-plus years.”
Reporters have asked tough questions. Ferentz has been both criticized and praised by people hiding behind anonymity on his weekly radio show.
Through it all, Ferentz remains as businesslike as he appears to be on the sidelines.
“I don’t mind it when you guys are telling me ‘boy, you did a great job,’” Ferentz said during his weekly press conference. “I don’t respond to that, either, or try not to.
“It’s the same way when it goes the other direction as far as I’m concerned.”
Iowa’s immediate future isn’t as clear as Purdue’s — the 3-6 Boilermakers’ bowl hope ends without a victory Saturday, and the fallout might not stop there.
Athletic director Morgan Burke said in a statement two weeks ago that he will evaluate the program after the season. Coach Danny Hope’s radio show hasn’t been a love-fest all the time, either.
“Obviously the fans have a reason to be disappointed,” Hope said. “We’re very disappointed, but I don’t let someone that demonstrates themselves in a small way to set me back a whole lot.
“I certainly wouldn’t let someone that has small character take my happiness away.”
For Iowa to win Saturday, it must find offense that has been lacking most of the season. The Hawkeyes must take advantage of a defense against whom opponents average 194.0 rushing yards a game.
That means an offensive line that has been reshuffled due to injuries must play better than it has played the past three weeks. It means tailback Damon Bullock must continue to play well, if injury still keeps top rusher Mark Weisman sidelined.
“Can’t point fingers at a certain unit,” linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “It’s a team thing. We all have to clean up a lot of stuff.”
Iowa football players will wear special uniforms Saturday honoring military service personnel serving overseas.
Hawkeye football coaches will be dressed as usual.
“I will be dressed in normal game day battle regalia,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I will not be in fatigues.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football