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Can Hawkeyes forge winning identity at Minnesota?

[ 0 ] September 27, 2013 |

MINNEAPOLIS – An identity will be forged Saturday afternoon.

Iowa and Minnesota bring similar attitudes and attributes to Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. showdown on ABC, yet neither has been tested by the grind of a Big Ten Conference schedule.

This is a chance to hoist the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy and solidify reputations.

“We’re going against a little more of a steel team,” said Drew Ott, the Hawkeyes’ sophomore defensive end. “We’re a steel team, and so it will sharpen us up.

“We’ll get to measure ourselves.”

Iowa brings a 3-1 record into its Big Ten opener, having rushed for at least 200 yards in all four games.

The Hawkeyes ran for a total of 772 yards the past three weeks, while holding their opponents to just 203 on the ground.

Is that disparity the byproduct of playing non-conference patsies?

Or is it a sign things are coming together?

“That’s what September is for,” senior safety Tanner Miller said. “Once you get into October and conference play, you’ve really got to take shape.”

The Gophers are 4-0 for a second straight year, but is there more substance to this season’s success?

None of their first four opponents owns a winning record (posting a combined mark of 5-10) and only San Jose State was above .500 in 2012.

San Jose State was 11-2 a year ago, however, and Minnesota trampled the reigning Military Bowl champions last week, rushing for 353 yards and six touchdowns.

“We’ll have to take a step up,” coach Jerry Kill said. “Now we’re in the Big Ten schedule and it gets tougher and tougher.”

Recent results have been mixed.

The Gophers have won both meetings vs. Iowa at their fifth-year home, TCF Bank Stadium. The Hawkeyes won 31-13 a year ago in Kinnick Stadium.

“They certainly put it on us last year,” Kill said. “Hopefully, we’ve done our summer work and gotten stronger.

“We’ll find out.”

There’s a lot learn about Iowa.

Are the Hawkeyes really back to being bullies?

The defense has not allowed a rushing touchdown and is holding opponents to an average of 3.4 yards on 109 carries.

Minnesota reaches the end zone once every 12.3 carries.

“They’re probably more of a run-oriented team than we’ve played the previous three or four weeks,” Iowa linebacker James Morris said. “So it’s going to be a new challenge.”

The Hawkeyes have shown more offensive balance than Minnesota.

The Gophers have thrown just one touchdown in 62 passes. Hawkeye quarterback Jake Rudock has five touchdowns in 103 passes, plus he has four rushing TDs.

“They’re not afraid to play man (coverage),” Rudock said of Minnesota’s defense. “If they want to put a lot of people in the box, we’ll have to throw a little bit more.

“And if they drop everyone into coverage, hopefully, we’ll get the running game going.”

Kevonte Martin-Manley is emerging as a reliable mid-range receiver. Jacob Hillyer made touchdown catches each of the past two games.

“I think (Hillyer’s) confidence is definitely going up,” Rudock said. “He has that fire in him, that he just wants to make plays.”

Iowa used brute force en route to an undefeated Big Ten season in 2002. It relied on the passing of Drew Tate while winning a share of the title in 2004.

After today, we’ll have a better feel for the tendencies and personality of this Hawkeye squad.

“We just want to be the same identity as the old Iowa football (teams) that came before,” defensive tackle Carl Davis said. “The championship teams run the ball.”

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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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