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Three-game win streak within reach for Hawkeyes

BY RYAN PROBASCO | SEPTEMBER 20, 2013 5:00 AM

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Three-game winning streaks aren’t common in Iowa City anymore. The last time Iowa football was able to secure such a streak, Ricky Stanzi threw three touchdown passes to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos in a 38-28 win over Michigan on Oct. 16, 2010.

Nearly three full calendar years have passed, and much has changed for the Black and Gold, most notably being the expectations surrounding the team. A season with a postseason appearance of any kind signals a success in the eyes of many Hawkeye fans and supporters, something that wasn’t the case in the past.

This year’s squad still offers much in the way of hope for the future, though. Despite the likelihood of being around .500 when regular-season play ends, the 2013 Hawkeyes have a first-year starter under center who may develop into something special.

Jake Rudock hasn’t been spectacular by any means. But he’s shown that his arm is capable of making just about any throw and that he can make a play on his own when a play breaks down.

“He hasn’t been perfect by any stretch, but he’s really doing a lot of good things,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “His poise and just awareness, I think, is really pretty good. He kind of gets it.”

Saturday’s game against Western Michigan will be the final tune-up before Iowa begins its surprisingly daunting Big Ten schedule. Four games against ranked opponents are a part of that slate, plus matchups with Michigan State and Nebraska, teams that just narrowly finished outside the latest AP top 25.

With that in mind, Iowa must still find a way to focus on the task at hand. Many have dubbed Saturday’s contest as a classic “trap” game. The Hawkeyes were heavy favorites against Missouri State two weeks ago, but they didn’t dominate that game by any stretch.

The key to avoiding the upset this week, players say, will be getting off to a quick start.

“Always, when we’re in Kinnick, getting a quick start is something we focus on,” senior safety Tanner Miller said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with in the past. We have to start quick so we’re not playing catch up.”

The Hawkeyes have a chance to improve their record to 3-1 Saturday. Controlling the ball and dominating time of possession have been huge factors in the Hawkeyes’ wins thus far. They’ve averaged slightly more than 35 minutes of possession time per game this season, which is tops in the conference and the ninth best average nationally.

If the team can keep its own defense fresh and the opposing offenses off the field, it is almost guaranteed to stay in the win column more often than not.

The Hawkeyes aren’t just shooting for a win this week, however. Simply winning won’t be good enough for defensive lineman Carl Davis, who is emerging as the leader of the Iowa defensive front.

The Sterling Heights, Mich., native has high expectations for his defense again this week, coming off a game in which the Iowa defense dominated aside from a late comeback attempt by Iowa State. If Iowa can control tempo and own the line of scrimmage Saturday, Davis said, the team will feel much better about its preparedness for the “real” season that starts next week.

“I want to see us dominate the game,” Davis said. “I would like to see no points on the board [for Western Michigan]. We want to be able to shut out people. If you don’t score, you don’t win. That’s the game.”


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