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Hawkeyes not about to take Western Michigan lightly

[ 0 ] September 20, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Is a letdown looming?

It’s a lingering question for anyone following the Iowa football team.

If the Hawkeyes stumble in Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against Western Michigan, it’ll dull the luster of last week’s win at Iowa State – and snuff out any momentum heading into next week’s Big Ten Conference opener at Minnesota.

“Western Michigan is all that’s on our minds right now,” quarterback Jake Rudock said. “You have to be very direct with that.

“These are the most important guys you’re playing.”

The Broncos (0-3) arrive at Kinnick Stadium as 16½-point underdogs, but have won the previous two previous meetings (27-21 in 2000 and 28-19 in 2007).

Jake Rudock is 2-1 in his first season as the Hawkeyes' starting quarterback. (Bill Neibergall-Register photo)

Jake Rudock is 2-1 in his first season as the Hawkeyes’ starting quarterback. (Bill Neibergall-Register photo)

There’s a couple of other reasons Iowa (2-1) should not to take success for granted:

  • Kirk Ferentz, who owns a 102-75 record since taking over the Hawkeyes in 1999, has lost 13 times to a school from Michigan — more than any other state. Ferentz has 12 wins when facing a team from the Great Lakes State.

Last year’s 32-31 home loss to Central Michigan still stings after the Chippewas rallied with a touchdown, onside kick and field goal — all in the final 45 seconds.

(For the record, the state of Illinois has handed Ferentz 11 losses in 26 games.)

  • Teams from the Mid-American Conference have made a habit of either beating bigger programs, or taking them to the brink.

Chuck Long, a former Iowa quarterback and current Big Ten Network analyst, was the commentator a week ago when Michigan survived a scare from Akron, 28-24.

“I don’t believe Iowa is taking Western lightly,” Long said. “They’re not in a position to take anybody lightly.”

How could the Hawkeyes look past any MAC opponent, considering they lost to defending conference champion Northern Illinois in the season opener?

“All the MAC teams are using those situations to try and knock off the giant,” said Long, who will be at Penn State today for its 2:30 p.m. matchup against Kent State. “They’re all capable of doing it, and I think they all have confidence they can do it.”

The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, are celebrating their first real morale boost in nearly a year.

They dominated the Cyclones for three quarters, eventually holding on for a 27-21 triumph.

Now, Iowa is trying to win three straight games for the first time since Oct. 16, 2010.

“I don’t know if Kirk really needs much motivation,” Long said. “You’re going to have your senior leaders, like (linebacker) James Morris, say ‘Look, fellas, we lost to Central last year, and we lost to Northern this year … We need to work hard every game.’’’

Every victory is precious, in terms reaching six wins for bowl eligibility.

None of the Hawkeyes’ next four opponents has lost, yet, and the schedule may be tougher yet in November with games against Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska.

“This is a must win, again, for Iowa, because they have a daunting Big Ten schedule coming up,” Long said. “Minnesota is on a roll. Michigan State has one of the better teams in the league right now.

“So they have to win this game. I think there is going to be plenty of motivation.”

Western Michigan showed some spunk in a 26-13 loss to Michigan State, and kept things interesting during last week’s 38-17 loss at Northwestern.

Don’t expect the Broncos to buck that trend Saturday afternoon.

“We’re looking at the tapes trying to measure up with what they’ll do against us,” Ferentz said, “because we look a little different (style-wise) than the teams they’ve played.”

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Saturday’s game

Who: Western Michigan (0-3) at Iowa (2-1)

Where: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City

Time/TV: 11 a.m., Big Ten Network

Notable: Western Michigan has won the only two games in the all-time series — 28-19 in 2007 and 27-21 in 2000, both in Iowa City. Iowa and Michigan State are the only two Big Ten teams the Broncos have defeated twice. But they haven’t beaten Michigan State since 1919.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 19 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.

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