Hawkeyes set for season's final home game


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Most of Iowa’s football team doesn’t like to remember last year’s game against Michigan. The 42-17 drubbing from the Wolverines punctuated a disappointing 2012 campaign for the Hawkeyes.

But they last watched tape of that game on Monday — if not for added motivation, then to point out that this year is different, Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said.

“Today is press day, and you just get done looking at last year’s film yesterday, and it was hard to watch,” he said on Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “The good news is I think we’re a totally different team than we were a year ago.

“But all that being said, the one thing that doesn’t change is you play Michigan, they’ve got a lot of talented players.”

Ferentz makes a point here — that his team, sitting at 6-4 with a 3-3 conference mark, still has to play a Michigan team that’s filled with stars. But recently, Brady Hoke’s squad hasn’t been playing like a team that was predicted to play Ohio State for a Big Ten title at season’s end.

It’s been a rough last few weeks for the Michigan (7-3, 3-3) football team, which will enter Kinnick Stadium on Saturday having lost two of its last three games in nearly embarrassing fashion.

In their last three games, the Wolverines have seen their offensive numbers plummet. An already-struggling running game totaled just 70 yards in the three contests. The passing game, which is one of the better ones in the Big Ten, has struggled to reach its season average. Against Northwestern last week, Michigan was 3-of-17 on third-down conversions.

“You go two games with minus yards rushing? I’ve never had that happen in all my years of coordinating,” Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges said on Wednesday. “You have to get back to some basic concepts. Something is going wrong.”

Teams can go through skids, of course. Before these last three games, Michigan’s offense was one of the conference’s best. Against Indiana on Oct. 19, wide receiver Jeremy Gallon set a Big Ten single-game record with 369 receiving yards. That same game, quarterback Devin Gardner accounted for 584 total yards of offense — Michigan, as a whole, tallied 751 that day.

The 6-4 Gardner has had a roller-coaster season, too. At one point, he led the nation in turnovers. As of this writing, Gardner is the Big Ten’s second-best passer, averaging 241.1 passing yards per game.

He hasn’t done it on his own, either. Aside from Gallon, Gardner has also used his tight end, Devin Funchess, who has amassed 684 receiving yards — the most of any Michigan tight end in a single season — and 5 touchdowns this season.

These stats put a lot of pressure on Iowa’s secondary — on Senior Day, no less, where emotions will be undoubtedly high. In the midst of it all, though, is a crucial game for the Hawkeyes, who are in a position to improve upon their bowl position with a win on Saturday.

That’s ultimately what matters most to this team, seniors included.

“We’ve got two big games left, but really, we’re just focused on Michigan,” senior linebacker James Morris said. “We know if we don’t win this week, it makes the season less special.”

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