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Rick Brown: Rock-’em, sock-’em is theme of Iowa-Minnesota matchup

[ 0 ] September 24, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – It’s too bad that Woody Hayes can’t be at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Saturday.

The late Ohio State football coach, best known for his “Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust” approach to offensive football, would enjoy watching Iowa and Minnesota slug it out in the Big Ten opener.

Woody would love these numbers, too: Iowa averages 244 yards on the ground, 24th nationally. Minnesota is allowing just 102.8 rushing yards a game, 21st nationally.

The flip of the coin is just as intriguing. The Hawkeyes are allowing just 91.5 rushing yards a game, 12th nationally, and are one of two teams to not allow a rushing touchdown this season. Minnesota is averaging 282.3 yards on the ground, 13th nationally, and has scored 16 rushing touchdowns.

Old-fashioned, rock-’em, sock-’em football could be the theme of the day Saturday, when the winner takes home Floyd of Rosedale and the black-and-blue loser regroups.

“I certainly feel it will be an old-fashioned football game, and I like that,” Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said. “I think that’s good for football. We look forward to the challenge.”

So does Hawkeye defensive tackle Carl Davis.

“I’m confident, going against anyone,” Davis said, “that we can stop the run.”

Something will have to give in this battle of the trenches.

Man-to-man. No place to hide.

“There’s going to be a lot of hard-nosed football going on,” said Brett Van Sloten, Iowa’s starting right offensive tackle. “A lot of running at each other. It’s going to be fun.”

In days of old, before spread offenses became commonplace, the Big Ten was a haven for power football. Old school will be in vogue on Saturday.

“Yeah, that’s probably a fair way to describe it,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

The Hawkeyes, off to a 3-1 start, haven’t won a Big Ten game since Oct. 13, 2012, at Michigan State.

“It’s in the back of our mind that we haven’t won since Michigan State last year,” safety Tanner Miller said. “It’s a new year. This is a completely different team.”

Last season, Iowa put a 31-13 whipping on the Gophers in the Big Ten opener at Kinnick Stadium. Minnesota rushed for just 102 yards in 32 attempts. Iowa went for 182 yards on the ground. Mark Weisman had 177 in 21 carries.

But this is a year later. Kill has logged another year of catch-up. His 4-0 team looks like a Big Ten team now, on both sides of the ball.

“They’re really a physical football team, similar to last year, but they’re a little different obviously with the quarterback situation now, and they are running the ball really well,” Ferentz said.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Mitch Leidner ran for 151 yards and four touchdowns in his first start, a 43-24 victory over San Jose State last week. He replaced Philip Nelson, sidelined with a hamstring injury. The quarterback keeper is a big part of Minnesota’s option offense.

Iowa middle linebacker James Morris can’t wait for the challenge.

“This is a chance for me to maybe get more action than I’ve had the last couple of weeks, when we’ve played spread teams,” Morris said. “This is back to the basics, more of what we see practicing against our offense.”

Weisman comes into this game rested and refreshed after a 10-carry picnic in last week’s 59-3 blowout of Western Michigan. He conceded that, on paper, Saturday’s game looks like it’ll be right up his alley.

“You never know how it plays out in a game,” said Weisman, a living, breathing, 236-pound portrait of power football. “But it will be Big Ten football. I like it.”

Woody Hayes would, too.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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