IOWA CITY, Ia. – Why has Iowa dominated the turnover battle against Iowa State in recent years?
Is it a matter of ball-hawking? Cyclone miscues? A statistical fluke?
“I don’t know,” Hawkeye linebacker James Morris said. “It could be all of those things. It’s hard telling.”
In the past six Cy-Hawk showdowns, Iowa owns an eye-popping 20-7 edge in turnovers, leading to a total of 55 Hawkeye points.
The two rivals meet again Saturday at 5 p.m. in Ames, and every possession will be precious.
“We always tell our offense before we go on the field, ‘We’re about to get you the ball back,’ ” defensive tackle Carl Davis said. “We want to get them the ball, so they can do what they do.”
It was safety Tanner Miller’s end-zone interception last week that sealed a 28-14 win over Missouri State.
The Hawkeyes have forced three turnovers in two games this season and could probably use a couple more against the Cyclones, especially as Iowa’s offense struggles to gain consistency.
Iowa State did not have a turnover two weeks ago, in a 28-20 loss to Northern Iowa.
“You’ve got to have the ball bounce your way a few times,” Miller said. “Also, guys are making good plays.”
The only downside to Iowa’s success at taking the ball away from Iowa State is a 3-3 record in the series since 2007.
In other words, the Hawkeyes failed to take full advantage of their good fortune.
Six Cyclone turnovers in 2009 were converted into 28 points. The result was a 35-3 rout at Jack Trice Stadium, part of the Hawkeyes’ run to the Orange Bowl.
Three interceptions helped Iowa win again in 2010, 35-7.
“I don’t think there is anything that we changed,” Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz said. “So I can’t really explain it, quite frankly.”
Iowa owned a combined 7-3 turnover advantage the past two years, but lost twice.
In last season’s Big Game, Iowa State survived four turnovers – which Iowa converted into just 3 points — and won 9-6.
“That’s kind of unusual in this series,” Ferentz said, “But that’s the way it worked.”
Morris recovered a Cyclone fumble a year ago and returned an interception 49 yards. Both came after Iowa State crossed inside Iowa’s 10-yard line.
“If I just think about the last two years, any time we had the ball on offense we were driving 70-plus yards,” Morris said. “It’s just little things like that.
“The probability of you scoring if you’re only driving 45-60 yards is much higher. I think for us, that’s going to be an area of emphasis.”
Fumbles or interceptions tend to flip field possession and momentum. Given the urgency surrounding this game for the Hawkeyes — a loss means they’ll have to, at minimum, go 4-4 in Big Ten play to be bowl-eligible — the turnover game is especially important this year.
“We work on getting to the ball and hitting hard,” Davis said. “If you hit a guy in the right spot, that ball will come out.
“Put some pressure on (ISU quarterback Sam Richardson), we can force a sloppy ball, they throw an interception.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football