TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Quarterback James Vandenberg #16 of the Iowa Hawkeyes throws a pass during the Insight Bowl against the Oklahoma Sooners at Sun Devil Stadium on December 30, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sooners defeated the Hawkeyes 31-14. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
As I mentioned in an earlier preview, Purdue's longest active losing streak in a Big Ten venue dates back to 1988 in Ohio Stadium. The next longest streak is a bit of a surprise, especially given the ferocity of the rivalry and the inner angst that only resident writer Riley deals with in being on both sides. At one point Purdue reeled off 20 straight victories against Our Most Hated Rival, but recently Iowa has had it in for us, including last year's 31-21 win in West Lafayette that featured a pretty dismal offensive performance and another pylon robbing Purdue of a critical touchdown (see Northwestern 2005).
The Boilers have not won at Kinnick Stadium since 1992. That's right: Jim Colletto won in a venue more often than Joe Tiller. Some of Tiller's better teams came up short there, including a 1997 squad that saw a six game winning streak end just when Rose bowl talk was beginning to heat up. The 31-28 loss in 2002 was one of the most bizarre losses in Purdue history, with a blocked field goal being returned 95 yards for a score, a backup true freshman quarterback leading a comeback, and Dallas Clark going HAM. The 2008 game had Curtis Painter somehow overthrowing the end zone on a Hail Mary attempt.
Kinnick Stadium is one of only three Big Ten venues I have yet to visit (TCF Bank and Nebraska being the other two). I need to visit it for a number of reasons, too. First, Jim Delaney declared them a rival, so I am filled with an insane amount of bloodlust that is only rivaled by Luka Mirkovic and Sandi Marcius and their Serbian-Croat bloodfeud. Second, the BHGP gang and I sat down last year to break
skulls bread after they claimed the first ever Trophy of Badassery game.
I, for one, welcome our new undead zombie-Kinnick overlords.
2011 Record: 7-6, 4-4
Bowl result: Lost Insight Bowl 31-14 to Oklahoma
Blog Representation: Black Heart Gold Pants
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 45-34-3
Last Purdue win: 10/20/2007 31-6 at Purdue
Last Iowa win: 11/19/2011 31-21 at Purdue
Last Season for the Hawkeyes
Like Purdue, Iowa struggled with consistency throughout last season. The Hawkeyes never won more than two games in a row, and had some solid results to go with some head-scratching losses. A nice 24-16 win over Michigan at home followed a surprising 22-21 loss at Minnesota. Iowa shook off a triple overtime loss to Iowa State to make a big comeback against Pittsburgh.
In the game against Purdue you could only describe our offense as lackluster. Brandon Taylor had one of our three touchdowns, which is bad considering he is a defensive tackle. Marvin McNutt was pretty much uncovered all game long (nine catches, 151 yards and two scores) while Marcus Coker rushed for 139 yards. In return, only Antavian Edison and Ralph Bolden only had good games offensively. An early touchdown by Gabe Holmes tied it, but a 51-yard TD to McNutt on the first play of the fourth quarter was the backbreaker. Robert Marve threw two interceptions to Tanner Miller and had a fumble that was ruled to have rolled out of bounds in the end zone for a third turnover.
The Iowa offense cannot be talked about without mentioning the Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, which is apparently the same god that feasts on the sacrifice of Purdue athlete ACLs. It has gotten so bad that BHGP has a tag for it. Coker rushed for 1,384 yards and 15 yards as possibly the best running back in the Big Ten last year not named Montee Ball, but was suspended for the bowl game, was released from his scholarship, and transferred to the football power that is... Stony Brook. The No. 2 rusher, Jordan Canzeri (114 yards) tore his ACL. Mika'il McCall, a promising freshman that played in the opener before breaking his ankle. He got one carry against Purdue, got suspended for the remainder of the season after that game, and also transferred.
These are just the latest developments in strange series of events that have seen running backs quit, get kicked off the transfer, get hurt, or suffer any number of maladies short of whooping cough and Legionairre's Disease. Currently at the top of the depth chart is sophomore Damon Bullock, who had 10 carries for 20 yards last season. Four-star running back Greg Garmon and three-star Barkley Hill are incoming freshmen, but don't be surprised if a piano falls on one and the other comes down with beriberi and/or scurvy.
At least the quarterback position is secure. James Vandenberg will return as a senior quarterback after throwing for 3,022 yards and 25 TDs against only seven interceptions. He completed 58.5 of his passes and enters as arguably the best pure QB in the conference. He even rushed for three touchdowns last year, but only 61 yards total. He threw all but eight passes last season for the Hawkeyes.
A huge loss will be McNutt (82-1,315-12), who was drafted by the Eagles. McNutt was one of the best receivers in the conference, but Keenan Davis (50-713-4) provided ample support as Vandenburg was able to spread the ball around well. Kevonte Martin-Manley (30-323-3) will take on a larger role in the offense. Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (16-167-3) had one of his touchdowns against Purdue last year. Jordan Cotton and Don Shumpert will also see time. Fullback Brad Herman can also be used in short yardage passing.
Center James Ferentz anchors the offensive line as both the coach's son and one of the two seniors. Matt Tobin at offensive guard is the other senior, while Brandon Scherff at tackle is the only player listed at over 300 pounds. Brett Van Sloten and Austin Blythe are listed at the other two spots. This line might be smaller than most, but Iowa has a solid history of line play.
The Iowa defense wasn't great last season, but it wasn't awful, either. The Hawkeyes gave up 156 yards per game on the ground and 223 through the air. Still, it only surrendered 23.8 points per game. A pair of linebackers in James Morris and Christian Kirksey had 110 tackles each and they will pair with Anthony Hitchens to form a nice trio of linebackers.
Up front, a pair of seniors are listed at the top of the depth chart with two redshirt freshmen. Joe Gaglione is one of those seniors, but had only seven tackles in 10 games. They have to replace Mike Daniels and his nine sacks. Steve Bigach is the most experienced up front with 24 tackles and a sack a year ago. Riley McMinn at defensive end and Darian Cooper at defensive tackle will be first time starters. Four-star recruit Jaleel Johnson could also play immediately.
The secondary picked off ten passes last year, led by three each from Miller and Micah Hyde. Both of them return along with safety Nico Law and cornerback B.J. Lowery. Law was a key reserve that played in all 13 games. Lowery saw action in 11 games.
Overall it will be interesting to see what Iowa does on defense. It has some solid returning starters in Hyde, Miller, Morris, and Kirksey, but I can see where the defensive line is a question.
Iowa Special Teams:
Junior Mike Meyer was 14 of 20 on field goals in 2011 with a long 50 yards, making him an asset if his accuracy improves. Four of his misses came from beyong 40 yards, however. John Wienke, a former quarterback, is listed as the starting punter at the moment, but he did not have a punt all season.
Hyde will likely handle punt return duties after he had a respectable 8.2 yards per return last season. The kick return game is very much up in the air.
Despite all of Iowa's problems at running back they seem to have no shortage of guys they can pull off the street, plug in, and run for 125 yards in a game. Don't be surprised if they head to the journalism school to grab Riley Schmitt of H&R fame and have him come in after their fourth string guy slips in the dining hall and impales himself on a fork.
What makes Iowa dangers is Vandenberg, who had a very quiet but steady season of few mistakes. His presence under center will go a long ay if there can be some kind of a running game. He has the receivers in Fiedorowicz, Martin-Manley, and Davis to be effective. His defense should be effective once again, but without a running game to move the chains there will be a lot of pressure on Vandenberg.
That is what makes this game hard to predict. I would like to think that Kawann Short and Ryan Russell can get after Vandenberg all day, but the chances of a different unknown running back coming in to steady the offense seem to be great. There is also the fact that this is a hate-filled rivalry game.
Prediction: The time has come for us to win in Iowa City and for Iowa's luck at finding previously unknown running backs to end. Akeem Hunt and Akeem Shavers should find a few holes and as long as we avoid mistakes and Iowa can be held in check on the ground I like our chances. Purdue 24, Iowa 21