Hawks look to stop Northwestern's streak

BY MATT COZZI | OCTOBER 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa has lost five of its last six to Northwestern, including the last three games in Kinnick Stadium.

The Hawkeyes are 20-4 at home since the start of the 2008 season. Two of those losses have come against the Wildcats.

Excluding Northwestern and new conference member Nebraska, Iowa has beaten every Big Ten team at home since its last victory over the Wildcats in Kinnick, in 2002.

Over the last few years, it seems Northwestern has had an edge over Iowa.

This Saturday, the Hawkeyes hope to change that in their first Legends Division game of the season.

"They just seem to come out and play harder than us," defensive end Broderick Binns said. "It's something that we have to address as a team. We need to come out, be ready, and play a full 60 minutes."

Iowa has struggled to close out games at times in recent years — but particularly against Northwestern. In 2010, the Wildcats overcame a 17-7 deficit heading into the fourth quarter and won, 21-17.

Senior wide receiver Marvin McNutt has experienced Iowa's three most recent losses to perhaps its biggest Big Ten foe, but he couldn't pinpoint the reason for the three-game losing skid.

"I can't put a finger on it," he said, and paused. "Sometimes, things just happen. They're a good team. They get after it every play."

Northwestern enters Kinnick Stadium with an open offensive scheme, and the Wildcats have continued to put points on the scoreboard despite losing starting running back Mike Trumpy to a torn ACL.

Dual-threat quarterback Dan Persa threw for a career-high 331 yards against Michigan last week, and senior wide receiver Jeremy Ebert leads the team with 26 catches for 324 yards and five touchdowns.

Additionally, wide receiver Kain Colter — who started at quarterback when Persa was still recovering from injury the first three games of the season — is a big-play threat. The sophomore has lined up at running back at times during the Wildcats' first five games.

"We're going to have to force turnovers," Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater said. "We really haven't had many turnovers versus [Northwestern], so when Persa does throw the ball, we have to try to get interceptions and force fumbles when he runs."

Persa has proven to be difficult for the Iowa secondary to stop; he completed 32-of-43 passes for 318 yards and two touchdowns last year. Prater said the defense will need to hone in on the Wildcats throughout every play until the final whistle blows.

"We have to stick on our guys, no matter what," he said. "There's a couple times last year when we thought [Persa] passed the line of scrimmage. He scrambles around; guys are running all over the place. It looks like recess in fifth grade.

"We have to just stick to the game plan and try to end this losing streak [against Northwestern]."

Head coach Kirk Ferentz knows what's happened the last three meetings with Northwestern.

He wants to stop the streak, too — although he's focusing more on Saturday's game as an individual encounter instead of as part of the series.

"All I know is against us, they've made it very tough," Ferentz said. "They have played well and that's what I'm focused on right now … I'm worried about this Saturday."

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