Iowa's chance to return to the bowling alley

BY BEN ROSS | NOVEMBER 08, 2013 5:00 AM

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Here it, is, everyone. The game that is going to separate the men from the boys. With five wins, the Iowa football team finds itself just one football victory away from returning to the bastion of bowldom, and it couldn’t have asked to face a better opponent to get itself over that hump: the lowly Boilermakers.

Purdue has just one win on the season, a 20-14 nailbiter over Football Championship Series powerhouse Indiana State on Sept. 7.

And here’s another neat stat: Purdue hasn’t had a play in the red zone since Sept. 28, when Northern Illinois bested the Boilermakers, 55-24.

But Iowa hasn’t exactly been perfect recently, either. The last time the Hawkeyes recorded a rushing touchdown was also on Sept. 28, when quarterback Jake Rudock took 6 to the bank in 23-7 blowout of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The Black and Gold also had four drives in the red zone against Wisconsin last weekend and were able to muster just 9 points in the 28-9 loss.

“It was just frustrating we couldn’t get touchdowns,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said of his team’s offensive woes against Wisconsin. “You play a team like that, a team that’s as good as they are offensively, and you get down there, you need to make due with your opportunities, and we just didn’t have any luck there. Three trips down there, and you come away with three field goals, certainly a touchdown would have made a big difference, and then if you can convert a couple of them, it would have been really good.”

Iowa starting quarterback Jake Rudock missed the majority of the second half with an injury, so that certainly didn’t help Iowa’s scoring chances. Still, even with a backup under center, Iowa put itself in position to put points on the board.

“We need to finish in the red zone. We can’t settle for 3 points. We have to go and get touchdowns. And, obviously, that makes a big difference in 6 points and 14 points,” Rudock said.

The last time Iowa went to a bowl a game was in 2011, but it feels like years ago since the Hawkeyes played a football game in December. Before last year, the previous time Iowa didn’t go bowling was in 2007, when Iowa posted a 6-6 record. So maybe getting six wins doesn’t necessarily mean a bowl bid after all.

“We want to win out. I know we have a great team. The record doesn’t show it, but I know how hard we work,” defensive lineman Carl Davis said. “I think we competed pretty well with some of the best teams in our conference. It just hasn’t turned out our way yet.”

Purdue did beat Iowa in the last matchup between the schools, in 2012 in Kinnick Stadium. The Boilermakers won, 27-24. But no such outcome should happen this weekend. Purdue Pete and his gang are allowing 37 points a game and scoring just 11. Iowa, on the other hand, is giving up 19 points, and scoring 25.

And even though Purdue’s best player is likely its punter — Cody Webster, who’s averaging a league best 44.78 yards per boot — Iowa players aren’t taking the cellar-dwelling Boilermakers lightly. As they shouldn’t.

“They’re a good defense. You can’t deny that. We’ve seen that they can run to the ball. They work hard. Their record is not inductive of the kind of team they are.”

So, this is it. Iowa gets six wins and some .com bowl berth with a victory over Purdue. If Iowa can’t best the Boilermakers? The campaign to reinstate a D-1 men’s soccer team on the Iowa campus will begin.

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