October 15, 2009

Behind enemy lines: Iowa

MADISON - The Wisconsin football team suffered its first loss of the season at Ohio State. One of the main problems the Badgers ran into was the strength of the Buckeyes defensive line. This week, against Iowa, it will not be much easier.

Looking to find out more about the Hawkeyes, BadgerBlitz.com went straight to the source, HawkeyeReport.com publisher Tom Kakert, who provided some insights from behind enemy lines.

Read Kakert's thoughts about the Buckeyes here…

1.) Obviously the loss of Jewel Hampton was big news early on. How have the Iowa running backs getting carries performed in his absence?

Kakert: They have actually done better than I think most observers expected given the situation after losing Jewel Hampton. Iowa is relying on redshirt freshman Adam Robinson and true freshman Brandon Wegher to carry the load.

In the past few weeks they have been alternating series with Robinson starting the game. Robinson was a little slow out of the gate in the first game, but has picked up being more patient with the zone-blocking scheme. Wegher didn't get a carry in the opening game, but got in there in the second game against Iowa State and has done very well.

Both are pretty good in the passing game as well. Neither guy is going to be confused with Shonn Greene, but they have been effective.

2.) When you look at Iowa's schedule, you notice close games against Northern Iowa and Arkansas State. Then you see wins over Michigan and Penn State. What happened in those two close games and do those inconsistencies worry the team and coaches? And what have you noticed about the capability of the offense through six games?

Kakert: With Arkansas State, Iowa was up 14-0 early and I think in a classic sandwich game, they just let off the gas a bit and nearly got caught. I think with Northern Iowa, a lot of people don't realize just how good that football team is. Iowa shouldn't have had to block two field goals at the end of the game to secure a win, but the Panthers would give a lot of teams fits.

As far as the offense, I think they have a lot of good skill players, but because of injuries to Tony Moeaki a few of the wide receivers, and along the offensive line, they just haven't had all the pieces together at once for any extended period of time. The continuity just isn't there on a consistent basis and that has probably made things tough for quarterback Ricky Stanzi.

But, when they have been clicking, it has looked pretty good. Now they just have to do it more often throughout the game.

3.) It seems like the Iowa defensive line is always a phenomenal group of players. Even after losing Mitch King and Matt Kroul last season, how has this unit been able to perform at such a high level?

Kakert: They just play with a high level of effort. After the second game of the season against Iowa State, they had a meeting as a group because they felt their effort wasn't up to their standards. Since then, they have been playing at a real high level, especially against Penn State.

Iowa doesn't blitz much, so it is up to the front four to make things happen. I also think that early on there was a bit of an adjustment when they added in Broderick Binns as a starter and moved Christian Ballard from end to tackle.

Last week they gave up more rushing yards than usual against Michigan and that is a bit of a concern moving forward, especially against a team like Wisconsin that has a strong running game.

4.) Kind of going off the previous question, what does the lack of sacks speak too? Are the coaches and players happy with the pressure they get just rushing four players, or is this looked at as a problem?

Kakert: One thing that Coach Kirk Ferentz has always preached is that it isn't always about getting the sack, but creating pressure. Iowa has done a pretty good job of creating pressure. They seem to be using more stunts this year on both ends to create pressure.

All I know is that they must be doing something right when it comes to harassing the quarterback because just about every signal caller they have faced has performed below their usual standards. Last week they forced Tate Forcier into some bad throws and eventually got him out of the game.

There are plenty of similarities between the Iowa and UW programs. This has also been a pretty heated rivalry over the years and has seemed to pick up over the past few since the inception of the Heartland Trophy. So, I would like to know how you see the game playing out.

Kakert: I think this one is going to be a pretty typical Iowa-Wisconsin game. That means it will be very physical up front and hard-hitting. Both teams are built basically the same way, so I don't expect much in terms of surprises or at least the coaching staffs won't be surprised.

I always believe that this one tends to be low scoring and the first one to get to 20 usually wins the game. My sense all week has been that the quarterbacks are very similar and the one who performs better and makes fewer mistakes will be holding the Heartland Trophy on Saturday afternoon.

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