Hawks look to keep Hoosier receivers in check


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Micah Hyde watched helplessly from across the end zone.

Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell fired a bullet to a wide-open Damarlo Belcher on Nov. 6, 2010. The pass hit the Hoosier receiver in the hands for what appeared to be a surefire go-ahead score with 28 seconds left. The Hoosier crowd roared, and Hyde felt the dejection of an upset loss and hung his head.

He didn't see Belcher drop the ball.

"It was a crazy game," Hyde said on Tuesday. "I can't believe he dropped it."

The 2010 season was the second in a row where Indiana had nearly upset the Hawkeyes. Iowa trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter on Oct. 31, 2009, before scoring 28 unanswered.

Iowa had trouble stopping Belcher in both games.

The senior wide receiver is 6-5 and 213 pounds, and uses that size to his advantage. He outjumped and outreached Iowa corners to the tune of 13 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown in his last two matchups with the Hawkeyes.

"He can go up there and get the ball," cornerback Shaun Prater said. "He has long arms, so he can jump and find it. He's the type of guy who the quarterback wants to get him the ball however he can."

Belcher sprained a knee last week against Wisconsin. Hoosier coach Kevin Wilson said on Thursday that his leading receiver has been jogging in practices but may not be ready to play Saturday.

That would make things easier for the Hawkeyes. But head coach Kirk Ferentz said the size and talent of Indiana's receiving corps goes beyond Belcher.

"They've got another guy, [Kofi] Hughes, who's a really good player," Ferentz said. "They have a veteran group of receivers, and they are a big, physical guys, too. It's a dangerous group."

Hughes has 252 receiving yards and 84 yards on the ground this season. Indiana occasionally puts the sophomore in the backfield in a wildcat formation. Duwyce Wilson caught five passes for 45 yards against Iowa last season, and the 6-3 sophomore has two touchdowns this year.

Prater said he and Hyde hope to give physical coverage and bump the Hoosier receivers off their routes. Taking the receivers out of the game would put extra pressure on Indiana's young and inconsistent quarterbacks, and that would go a long way toward ensuring the Hoosiers don't put yet another scare in the Hawkeyes.

Hyde admitted Iowa may have overlooked Indiana last season. That wouldn't happen again, he promised.

"I don't think we played very well [last year]," Hyde said. "I don't think we came out ready. We were so focused on the next couple of games that we kind of looked past Indiana last year. They came out and gave us a hard game."

Ferentz also was well aware of his team's recent close calls with Indiana.

"It seems like, historically, we have had a hard time matching up," he said. "I just hope that's not the case this year — but it potentially could be. So here we go."

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