Hawkeyes look to refocus for Buckeyes


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There was a moment on Nov. 13 when it looked as if Saturday's Iowa-Ohio State game would indeed have Big Ten title implications. The Hawkeyes were up 10 points entering the fourth quarter.

But then Ricky Stanzi threw a costly interception in Northwestern territory, and the defense gave up 14 points in the final period. Any of the Hawkeyes' hopes of going to the Rose Bowl were dashed by the 21-17 final score that day at Ryan Field.

And now with a Big Ten title — or even a share of it — off the table, No. 21 Iowa (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten) faces the challenge of refocusing for the eighth-ranked Buckeyes (9-1, 5-1), who will come into Kinnick Stadium for a 2:36 p.m. kickoff.

"It's not the environment, it's not the weather, it's not fans. It's on us," offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde said about Iowa's loss to Northwestern. "We just have to have the mental toughness to come back, and correct those mistakes, and make sure this doesn't happen next week."

Indeed, the Hawkeyes' mistakes have been plentiful the last two weekends. Combining for 15 penalties over that span, Iowa had trouble with Indiana and eventually fell to Northwestern.

Against the Hoosiers on Nov. 6, the Iowa offense didn't score a touchdown in any of its four red-zone trips. And head coach Kirk Ferentz's squad came within a dropped pass of being upset in Bloomington.

Playing on the road against the Wildcats, it was a similar story.

Stanzi and Company were 2-of-14 on third-down conversions, which was worse than the Hawkeyes' 3-of-4 rate on fourth down. Eight of the team's 14 third-down attempts were in long down-and-distance situations — third-and-7 (or more).

"Usually, that gets you," Ferentz said. "Third-down production and red-zone production. We struggled there [against Indiana]. Those two things, they're tough to overcome sometimes."

After the loss to Northwestern, the Iowa players seemed painfully aware that their mistakes cost the Hawkeyes' a chance at a championship. Stanzi dismissed talk of the Big Ten title by saying, "Obviously, we're out of that." Running back Adam Robinson called the outcome against the Wildcats "a pretty big letdown," especially considering the title implications.

The theme was pretty clear: Move on to Ohio State.

As safety Tyler Sash said, "It's going to hurt for a while, but as soon as Sunday night rolls around after we've made the corrections watching tape, we've got to go on to the next one and get ready for Ohio State."

Sash emphasized that perhaps more than anything else, Iowa is playing for pride at this point. Saturday will mark the final home game for one of the most successful senior classes in school history, which has won 27 games since 2008.

But those seniors have never beaten Ohio State; the Hawkeyes are 0-2 against the Buckeyes since 2006 — a stat that will no doubt be ever-present this week in the Hayden Fry Football Complex.

"It's a harsh reality we're not going to be able to attain that goal now, but we're really focused on continuing to improve as a team," linebacker Jeff Tarpinian said of the Big Ten championship. "And that has been our philosophy the whole way."

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