Iowa ready to avenge 2010 loss to Wisconsin


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There’s a common response when fans are asked about Iowa’s 2010 matchup against Wisconsin: a groan, shake of the head, and a true comment about a fake play that changed the course of the game. 

With 6:25 left in the fourth quarter, the Badgers, trailing the 30-24, faced a fourth and 4 on their own 25-yard line. The Badgers lined up in a punt formation. Christian Kirksey, then a freshman, lined up for the play as he normally would. When the ball was snapped, he dropped back into coverage.

The long snap was normal. Two Iowa players blitzed and were blocked at the corners by Wisconsin players defending their punter. But Nortman wasn’t punting. By the time any Iowa player could react, he had run right up the middle of the hole that had been formed.

“It’s a sick feeling,” Kirksey said. “We always want to make sure we get the ball back. When they do a play like that, and we don’t expect them to, it’s just a bad feeling to have.” 

The play set up a scoring drive for Wisconsin, which ended up winning the game, 31-30, and ruined Iowa’s chances of going to the Rose Bowl in its follow-up season to the program’s Orange Bowl victory season. 

“We lost by a point, that’s what I remember,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said when prompted about his memories of the game. “It was really disappointing. I like the [game] the year before. Let’s talk about that one.” 

Two seasons have passed since that game, and things have gone very differently for both programs. The Badgers have been Big Ten champions and represented the conference in the Rose Bowl for the last three years. The Hawkeyes finished the 2010 season with an Insight Bowl victory, a bowl they appeared in the next year, and they didn’t qualify for the postseason in 2012. 

Things have changed personnel-wise for both teams as well. Wisconsin has a new head coach in Gary Andersen. Iowa has new offensive and defensive coordinators. But one thing hasn’t changed about the rivalry and the Battle for the Heartland trophy: Neither team likes the other, and both like to play physical, run-oriented football.  

“I’ve been kind of waiting on this one all year,” defensive lineman Carl Davis said. “… They have big guys up front that can pound you, and they have good running backs. They have two or three backs they can put in, and they’re smaller, so they can hide behind the big guys and really find the holes to make explosive plays.” 

The Badgers have found immense success with the jet-sweep offensive package, led by running backs Melvin Gordon and James White. The duo has combined for 18 touchdowns and 1,684 rushing yards this season. The team has been running the package for years: Ferentz said Tuesday that he remembered the Badgers using it in 2009. While none of Iowa’s current players saw action in 2009, the style of play is something the Hawkeyes are prepared for. 

“They can run numerous things out of jet-sweep,” safety Tanner Miller said. “They can give it, they can run the power-o play, and they can pass off of it, too. It’s goes down to reading your keys, making your reads, and playing assignment football.” 

The teams come into the matchup with similar records: five wins, with two losses for the Badgers, three for the Hawks. But Ferentz isn’t worried about the on-paper matchup, or the fact that the Badgers are ranked nationally in the top 25 — he just wants to get on the field and let the game run its course. 

“We’re moving into November now,” Ferentz said. “All the preseason hype and all the publications, all the on-and-on analysis, expertise, really doesn’t matter — what it comes down to is what happens on the field.”

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