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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Kirk Ferentz previews showdown with Badgers

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The Hawkeyes have their eye on UW running back John Clay, who is a catalyst for Wisconsin\’s offense.[/media-credit]

With the Border Battle already on the books, the Badgers now must turn their attention to another heated rivalry within the Big Ten against the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Over the course of 84 games between the two teams, the overall record between Wisconsin and Iowa is tied at 41-41-2, making it one of the closest rivalries in all of college football. The battle for the Heartland Trophy, which began in 2004, has been won by the Hawkeyes three out of the five times, and most recently last year when the game was not really ever close with Iowa winning 38-16.

Despite Iowa’s success against Wisconsin last year, however, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz noted how different his team is from last year. So far this season, the Hawkeyes have already upset then-No. 5 Penn State and have climbed to No. 11 in the country.

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“We have had some major changes since last year, (we) lost some key players,” Ferentz said in his teleconference Tuesday.

The most notable loss for the Iowa Hawkeyes comes at running back where they lost All-American, All-Big Ten junior Shonn Greene, who also won the Doak Walker Award for the best running back in college football. Now only averaging 130.2 rush yards per game, Ferentz sees a big difference in the team’s offensive makeup.

“We’re getting by without Shonn, but he was such a big part of our offense. … It’s hard to compare anyone to Ron Dayne, especially in these parts, but that’s who I feel the best comparison is in terms of importance to our football team on and off the field.”

Many feel the Hawkeyes’ 6-0 record can be attributed to their stout defense as well as their explosive special teams. Iowa’s defense, which lacks any top prospects or superstars, makes up for it in strong team chemistry and great tackling. In addition, the punting unit came up with one of the most key plays in college football this year, blocking a Penn State punt in the fourth quarter, which gave the lead and eventually the win to Iowa.

“Our team is composed of some very physical players, we don’t have any superstars, (but) we play well together,” Ferentz said. “In my opinion the best teams start with a great defensive line.”

Iowa’s offense has continuously sputtered throughout the season. The Hawkeyes lost who they thought would be there next starting running back to a knee injury early in the summer, and now use two freshmen in the backfield. In addition, the quarterback position, which was thought to be a steady one on offense, has been inconsistent throughout the season. Junior Ricky Stanzi has 10 touchdowns to go along with eight interceptions and at times has seemed out of sync with the offense.

“Ricky’s play hasn’t always been pretty, it hasn’t always been good, but I can say it has been effective and we are where we wanted to be right now before the season,” Ferentz said.

Wisconsin returns home to Madison this week to face a tough Iowa team, a game which is even more critical with the loss against Ohio State. If the Badgers can win this weekend, they will be tied with Iowa and Penn State — both of whom still have to play Ohio State — for second place in the Big Ten. However, a loss most likely puts UW out of contention for a Big Ten title.

“We know they’re going to be even more hungry, we know there gonna want this one even more, and that’s what we’re preparing our players for down here, so when we go up there we know what to expect,” Ferentz said.

The two most known offensive weapons for the Badgers, John Clay and Scott Tolzien, both struggled against Ohio State. Tolzien threw two interceptions, both of which were returned for touchdowns, and John Clay mustered out only 59 yards on 20 attempts. Nevertheless, Ferentz is certain the Badger offense will bounce back from its poor performance against the Buckeyes.

“We expect Tolzien to return to his previous form, and big John Clay to be ready to go,” Ferentz said. “You got to be ready to go in a game like this.”

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