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Howe: Hawkeyes Will Take Ugly Win Over Alternative

October 19, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Look at it this way, you could be a Wisconsin fan. That would suck worse right now than having watched your Hawkeyes’ choppy Homecoming performance Saturday here at Kinnick Stadium.

Iowa found a way to outlast Purdue, 26-20, as a heavy favorite. It committed penalties, turned the ball over and continued stalling too many times on offense.

Big deal. Did you see what happened to the Badgers?

Sixth-ranked Wisconsin lost, 24-23, at lowly Illinois Saturday. The Illini were 30.5-point underdogs, pulling off the biggest upset in the Big Ten in terms of point spread since Northwestern beat Minnesota in 1982.

It’s a reminder that winning is hard, no matter how easy any of us on the outside think it should be. The cliche, that’s why they play the games, is one for a reason.

Most Big Ten observers saw Wisconsin cruising to another West Division title as recently as Saturday morning. They’ve looked dominant in rolling out the country’s stingiest defense and a bruising rushing attack.

The Hawkeyes (5-2) entered the day on a two-game skid. Detractors put their championship chances on life support, giving them little to no shot at winning in Madison next month.

That outlook changes with the Badgers heading to No. 4 Ohio State next week. Iowa plays at Northwestern, which is 1-5 overall and 0-4 in the league.

The Hawkeyes admitted that the Purdue win wasn’t pretty. But it sure as heck beat what happened to their rival to the north.

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“It was ugly, but a win is a win,” safety Geno Stone said. “I think we could have done better, but we’ll take it.”

Of course they will. They want perfection. Coaches want perfection. Fans certainly want perfection. It’s not reality.

Iowa’s two best teams during coach Kirk Ferentz’s 21 seasons won multiple ugly contests. In ’02, Miami (Ohio) and Indiana gave the Hawkeyes all they wanted. The ’09 team needed two blocked field goals to beat Northern Iowa and scraped by against Arkansas State. There were others.

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“It’s really hard to predict what’s going to happen and when people start thinking that they know the answers ahead of time, boy, that’s when bad things happen,” Ferentz said.

Parity is common in modern day football. Games come down to a few plays here or there.

That happened Saturday. Purdue turned the ball over twice in Hawkeye territory and lost by six. The last two weeks, Iowa dropped a pair of contests against Michigan and Penn State by a total of 12 points, losing the turnover battle, 6-1.

The home team committed seven penalties and managed just 3 of 13 on third downs against the Boilermakers. Quarterback Nate Stanley and running back Tyler Goodson shared blame for an interception leading to a Boilermaker field goal. The winners averaged just 3.1 yards per rush against a team that had been allowing 4.6 an attempt.

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The defense yielded the most points in a game this season. Purdue threw for 327 yards and Iowa couldn’t stop freshman receiver David Bell (13-197-1).

All serve as reasons for pause when looking forward for the Hawkeyes. The West Division remains in play but improvement is necessary. If you think Northwestern is a pushover, Wisconsin would like a word after it returns from Champaign.

We have to let this thing play out. We won’t know what’s going to happen in this crazy division even if we think we do.

“My mentor (Joe Moore), near the end of his life, said celebrate a good block, and we don’t do that enough. When you win a game, celebrate, enjoy it, feel good about it and then we’ll critique it tomorrow and worry about it then,” Ferentz said.

Saturday wasn’t a Picasso for Iowa, but it was better than finger painting.

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