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Iowa looks to re-ignite offense, fortify defense

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | OCTOBER 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa's 13-3 loss at Penn State marked its fourth-straight Big Ten loss.

The Hawkeyes haven't claimed a conference victory since Nov. 6, 2010, against Indiana. The scoring output against the Nittany Lions was the lowest in a league game in nearly 11 years. The Lions' 231 rushing yards were the most an Iowa defense has allowed since 2007.

And next up?

Northwestern, a school Iowa has lost to in five of the last six meetings.

Despite all that, the 3-2 Hawkeyes might not be the mret desperate team in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.

The Wildcats will enter Iowa 2-3, 0-2 in the Big Ten. In their most recent losses against Illinois and Michigan, they blew leads of 18 and 10 points, respectively.

"We just have to stay consistent," quarterback Dan Persa told reporters after the team's Oct. 8 42-24 loss to Michigan. "The sense of urgency has to go up. We can't go down this quick in the Big Ten schedule … We're doing a lot, but we have to do more. Obviously, what we are doing isn't good enough."

A lot of what Iowa did against Penn State wasn't close to good enough.

The offense was held to 253 total yards, more than 168 yards below Iowa's season average.

"None of us ever really got in sync today," said quarterback James Vandenberg, who recorded his worst quarterback rating (80.0) since November 2009, when he started in place of an injured Ricky Stanzi. "We just have to play more consistent and more crisp."

Facing Northwestern's defense could be the perfect opportunity for the Hawkeye offense to rebound. The Wildcats rank last in the Big Ten in average total yards allowed and 11th in scoring defense.

But for Iowa's defense — which coach Kirk Ferentz noted continues to struggle to tackle consistently and contain runners to the middle of the field — corralling the Northwestern offense could be tricky.

The Hawkeyes know all about Persa. He shredded Iowa last season, going 32-of-43 for 318 yards and running for 50 more yards. He also shredded his Achilles on his final play in that contest — a game-winning 20-yard touchdown pass — ending his season. Persa's quarterback rating this season is 157.5 since finally returning two weeks ago against Illinois.

They don't know quite so much about Kain Colter, who started Northwestern's first three games while Persa completed his rehab. The Wildcats have still used Colter's athleticism since Persa has been back, lining him up at running back, receiver, and quarterback in short-yardage situations.

He is Northwestern's leading rusher, with 294 yards on 56 carries.

"It's just like any other game," linebacker Tyler Nielsen said. "We need to play very sound against Northwestern. Whether it's Persa or the other guy at QB, we have to be ready to go."


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