By Courtney Baumann
When the Iowa football team heads to Wisconsin, the Badgers are going to be exactly what they always have been: big, tough, and run-first.
Trying for their second-straight win against a top-10 opponent, the Hawkeyes will take on No. 6 Wisconsin Saturday in Camp Randall, where the teams will battle for the Heartland Trophy.
Even through numerous coaching changes, Wisconsin football has continually held its reputation of “smash-mouth football” ever since Barry Alvarez took over the team in 1990. The Badgers pound the ball on the ground and get the job done on defense with their tough line.
These Badgers come into the game 9-0, and so far this season they have allowed just 13.3 points per game — putting them No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 4 nationally — while putting up 36.1 of their own.
“It’s really been impressive. It just seems like whoever is coach there or whoever is playing there, they play a brand that’s very similar to what Barry brought there back in the early ’90s,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s been very, very impressive.”
When it comes to the rushing attack, Wisconsin is also at the top of the conference.
The Badgers have put together 2,203 total yards on the ground, good for 244.8 yards a game. They average 5.2 yards per attempt as well and have 23 rushing touchdowns on the season — also the most in the Big Ten.
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin’s star running back, has played a huge role in the Badgers’ ground-game success. Taylor has racked up more than half of those yards, with 1,368, has 12 touchdowns so far, and averages 7.2 yards per carry.
Just a true freshman, Taylor ranks first in the conference in attempts, yards, touchdowns, and average yards per game. He is No. 3 nationally, behind Rashaad Penny and Bryce Love.
“It’s a lot of downhill stuff, a lot of power stuff, pulling guards, dividing tight ends,” linebacker Josey Jewell said. “You try to replicate a little of the physicalness out on the field during practice, but you don’t want to do too much at the same time. Being able to come downhill is going to big, especially for us linebackers.”
In order to stand a chance, Iowa will have to work through Wisconsin’s defense as swiftly as it did against Ohio State.
Quarterback Nate Stanley will have some momentum heading back to his home state after completing 20-of-31 passes for 226 yards and 5 touchdowns.
After struggling week in and week out, it seemed as though the offense finally found its rhythm against the Buckeyes, and the team believes it can keep it up on the road as well, as long as everyone on the team brings some energy and the confidence they found last week.
“Anytime you come out and play your best game of the year, it definitely builds your confidence, especially for some younger guys, seeing some things, getting them done on the field, it helps build that,” Nick Easley said. “We kind of feed off one another. If we all bring that energy, it kind of rubs off on one another.”
Ferentz’s aim is to hone the energy the players had after the Ohio State victory and concentrate it against the Badgers on Saturday.
“It’s kind of like, won a game Saturday, but we’ve got a bigger hill to climb this week,” Ferentz said. “Hopefully, that will excite the guys a little bit, and hey, we can do this if we really zero in and concentrate. Just a lot of little subtle things … But it’s a whole new challenge now. It’s a new week and a new challenge, and we’ll see how we do.”