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Hawkeyes seek redemption against pesky Wildcats

BY MITCH SMITH | NOVEMBER 12, 2010 7:20 AM

 
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Shaun Prater didn't hide his feelings toward Northwestern.

Surrounded by reporters outside the Hayden Fry Football Complex on Tuesday, the junior cornerback didn't need to be reminded of Iowa's lack of success against the Wildcats in recent years.

He remembered the 17-10 loss in 2009 that ruined the Hawkeyes' undefeated season and snapped a 13-game winning streak, as well as the 22-17 loss the year before that.

Asked whether there's a feeling of redemption heading into Saturday's 11 a.m. road contest — which will be televised on ESPN — he didn't hesitate with his response.

"They've been beating us since I've been here," Prater said. "Since my freshman year, we've been getting knocked off by these guys. Definitely, we have to get this win."

Northwestern (6-3, 2-3) enters Saturday's sold-out game in Evanston, Ill., having beaten Iowa in four of the last five meetings. The good news for the Hawkeyes (7-2, 4-1) is the visiting team has won the last four contests.

While neither team has necessarily outplayed the other in recent years, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said there is one glaring difference that has resulted in the Hawkeyes' struggles — mistakes.

With two evenly matched squads, limiting errors is important, and Iowa has failed to do so in the past.

Iowa committed a combined nine turnovers over its last two games against the Wildcats.

Northwestern has taken better care of the football, turning the ball over only twice during the same stretch.

"The bottom line is, we turned it over," Ferentz said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. "They have done a good job of playing the way you're supposed to play, and we haven't."

Turnover margin has been a major improvement for the Hawkeyes this season, though. Iowa has only six turnovers and ranks third-best in the nation in turnover margin.

While other Iowa players didn't directly say there was a revenge-factor motivating the team, seniors such as Julian Vandervelde didn't discount the importance of beating the Wildcats to end their careers on a good note.

But a victory against Northwestern is imperative for reasons much greater than bragging rights.

With only three games remaining and a trio of teams tied for second in the Big Ten, it's almost a playoff-type scenario for the Hawkeyes. An Iowa loss would dash the hopes of at least a share of the Big Ten title, as well as a potential BCS-bowl berth.

"You've got to take every game into consideration," safety Tyler Sash said. "If you lose this week, you're not going to be in it. You have to play each week and prepare each week like it's the Big Ten championship."

Playing as though it's a title game means returning to the way Iowa performed in its Oct. 30 game against Michigan State, Vandervelde said, noting that the squad played with an increased energy in their 37-6 victory over the Spartans.

The Hawkeyes took a step backwards in terms of intensity against Indiana, the senior lineman said, and it showed on the playing field with the team's inability to take advantage of opportunities.

"All the motivation that we need is looking at ourselves and the way that we've played in the past," Vandervelde said. "We got glimpses of what we could be in the Michigan State game, and then we kind of fell off of that when we went down to Indiana. The goal for us … is to get back to that level of play that we had against Michigan State."


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