Big Ten: Iowa State Cyclones

The Iowa Hawkeyes are a shaky 2-0, but 2-0 nonetheless. The rival Cyclones from Iowa State? They are 0-2.

So with the two schools ready to battle it out in their annual rivalry game this weekend, the police department at the University of Iowa just couldn't pass up the opportunity to point out that fact to its counterparts in Ames.

But, hey, the Iowa State campus police DOES have more followers on social media. So there's that.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

March, 15, 2013
Wishing you a great St. Patrick's Day weekend ...

Adam from Austin, Texas, writes: Adam,Looking over Michigan's 2010 recruiting class, of the original Rich Rodriguez-recruited 27 members, only six recruits remain on the Wolverine squad, including Will Hagerup, whose days with the team may be numbered. That's nearly 80% of the 2010 class gone. How do these attrition numbers compare with other B1G programs? Will there be a senior leadership-void for the 2013 squad? And with a few stable, higher-quality recruiting classes under Hoke's belt, should Wolverine Nation's expectations be tempered at conference championships, or beyond?

Adam Rittenberg: Our calculations (thanks to colleague Mike Rothstein) have 11 players from the 2010 class remaining with Michigan, but there has been a good deal of attrition. You see some with every coaching change, but not usually to this degree. Minnesota had some turnover between Tim Brewster and Jerry Kill. The senior-leadership question is a fair one, but Michigan got a big lift in that department when Taylor Lewan decided to return for his final season. Lewan will provide excellent leadership, and he really embodies the Michigan Man ideal Brady Hoke preaches. It will be interesting to see who joins Lewan in that capacity, but I'd expect Devin Gardner to claim a larger leadership role as the starting quarterback. He's more established now. I'm interested to see who replaces Jordan Kovacs as the leader on defense. Linebacker Jake Ryan seems like a good choice. End Jibreel Black also could step up there.

AJ from Madison, Wis., writes: Hi Adam! Two similar questions: 1. Why isn't Rob Havenstein being talked about at all for the left tackle consideration? I keep hearing about all these other possible candidates, but he seems ideal after a very solid year last year. 2. Do you think T.J. Woods has the ability to maintain the elite legacy of Wisconsin o-linemen? He has BIG shoes to fill.

Adam Rittenberg: AJ, sometimes it makes sense to move an experienced right tackle to the more glamorous left side when there's a vacancy. But Havenstein might be more suited to the right tackle spot, where he has had some success. Perhaps more important, he could be more comfortable there. You don't want to disrupt two positions. I'll try to get some answers for you when I'm in Madison next week. I agree T.J. Woods has big shoes to fill -- Bob Bostad's more than Bart Miller's, although Miller did a nice job -- and I think he'll continue the tradition Wisconsin has had with its line. Woods did a good job with Utah State's line and reportedly is a lot like Miller/Bostad. The adjustment for the linemen this year doesn't seem to be nearly as dramatic as it was last spring with Mike Markuson.

Jed from West Lafayette, Ind., writes: Adam, I just got done reading your post about the most interesting QB race in the B1G this spring and was stunned to not see Purdue in that category. You have Indiana ahead of Purdue which seems slightly odd considering Kevin Wilson has said publicly that Tre Roberson is their QB as long as he is healthy. Purdue has 3 different QB's (4 if you count Bilal Marshall) in Henry, Etling, and Appleby and with a new coaching staff and what has gone on in the past (the carnival ride QB position last year and Purdue as the Cradle of QB's) that it would be ahead of IU in that Roberson is already an established QB with the full support from his HC?In all honesty, I agree with all of your other picks but in all honesty Purdue or even NU will have more interesting QB battles than IU.

Adam Rittenberg: Jed, I went back after the post published and realized I should have subbed out Penn State for Purdue. I agree Purdue has a very intriguing quarterback race because we know so little about what these candidates can do. There's a lot of buzz about Austin Appleby and Danny Etling, and I'm excited to see what both can do on the practice field this spring. That said, I think you're wrong about Indiana. Although Tre Roberson claimed the starting job last year, he's coming off of a pretty major injury and has to re-establish himself as the top option when two others -- Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld -- played a lot last season. If you read my spring Q&A with Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, he didn't sound like a guy who had settled on a starter. "Guys are pushing guys to be on the field," he said. "We've got a lot of guys back who have been second-teamers and the first-teamer [ahead of them] is back. Now how do you push that first-teamer and beat him him out? A great example is at quarterback." So both quarterback races should be interesting, and in hindsight, I should have included both in the poll.

Brian from Atlanta writes: Adam, why should the B10 agree to travel 2000+ miles for another lower tier bowl when there plenty of equivalent bowls east of the Rockies? We already play in Pasadena and Tempe. How about the P12 treks east to play the B10 for once instead?

Adam Rittenberg: Brian, the Pac-12 would never go for it because its fans don't travel. It's a huge difference between the two leagues. Big Ten fans are famous for being willing to escape the deep freeze for warm-weather destinations in late December or early January, whether they're in the East, West or South. Pac-12 fans, meanwhile, have a tough time leaving their states for games. Texas is probably their limit as far as bowl distance. But it's bad business for Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott to tie into bowl games on the East Coast. It's risky business for him to tie into games outside the Pac-12 footprint.

Austin from Ames, Iowa, writes: Hey Adam,Long time reader of the blog. I am a Buckeye here in Cyclone Nation and I am a little confused. Why hasn't there been any talk about adding Iowa State? It makes sense geographically, culturally, and academically as ISU has been a member of the AAU since 1958. Not to mention they are a program on the rise with Paul Rhodes trying to turn things around. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Austin, it actually doesn't make sense geographically. Follow my logic here, but the Big Ten is trying to expand its footprint, not solidify areas it already has. Look at the recent expansions around college sports. Every league is looking to bring in new markets and literally expand its reach. The Big Ten already has a strong presence in Iowa with the University of Iowa and Nebraska just to the West. Iowa State does absolutely nothing for the Big Ten in terms of demographics, the word league commissioner Jim Delany used repeatedly when discussing the last expansions. Iowa State has many of the right components for a Big Ten expansion candidate, but its location is a killer.

Jack from Omaha writes: Hey Adam, big fan of the B1G blog and for whatever reason I have never sent in a question to my favorite part of the blog, the mailbag. Anyways I was hoping you could do something a little different and right an article about a video game, the game that Denard Robinson will be on the cover of. I realize the blog has announced this news but my buddy brought up some good points that I was hoping you could answer/discus. My buddy said that being on the cover not only helps Denard/Michigan but also allows the rest of the B1G to receive important spotlight, I disagree and was wondering if you see the cover benefiting the rest of the B1G? He also says the cover will help Michigan in future recruiting, although they may gain a few more fans I seriously doubt this help them land a top prospect. What are your thoughts on these ideas?

Adam Rittenberg: Jack, I won't do another video game story, but I'm happy to respond to your question. I think it's a much bigger deal for Denard than it is for Michigan or the Big Ten, but it certainly can't hurt the Maize and Blue to have one of its players on the cover. High school football players, like college players and pro players, love video games and will see Denard every time they play "NCAA Football." Will it make a difference with elite recruits? Probably not. But it's definitely not a negative. It's a big positive for Denard, though, as it helps him build his brand as he enters the great unknown of the NFL. He's one of the most recognizable Big Ten players in recent memory, but his future brand is a big question mark because no one knows where he fits into the NFL. So I would say it doesn't really impact the Big Ten one way or the other. It helps Michigan a little and Denard a lot.

Big Ten mailblog

March, 5, 2013
To your emails ...

Grant from Detroit writes: In response to your article about a Narduzzi succession, that would be extremely ideal. I know Dantonio won't be retiring any time soon, but he has brought such a sense of stability to a program that, before him, was a joke of a coaching carousel. I feel that Izzo and Dantonio are on similar paths. Izzo took a MSU job and turned it into a destination position when he decides to retire. There will be a line to fill that spot. I feel that Dantonio has a similar philosophy about the head coach position for football. He has taken the right steps in making that a reality, and I think the smartest move he has made so far may be the promotion of Narduzzi to assistant coach. Narduzzi has obviously been an invaluable part of the Michigan State machine, always fielding a competitive (and lately dominant) defense that has made up for shortcomings elsewhere. He has also been great for recruiting, as defensive players WANT to come to MSU, after seeing us turn out professional players (and prospects) like Greg Jones, Jerel Worthy, Trenton Robinson, Will Gholston, etc. I doubt that Narduzzi will stick around long enough for the MSU position to be handed to him, even with the assistant coach label. I fear that he will go the way of Will Muschamp and jump ship before the head coaching position becomes available. But I still think the move at least establishes a mold for candidates for the position, should Dantonio decide to retire.

Chris K. from Jackson, Mich., writes: Regarding Narduzzi, I would love it if he would become head coach at MSU after Dantonio. Narduzzi is a high-energy guy and a good recruiter and I think that would be the style of the assistant coaches, whether the current assistants are there or not.

Brian from Conshocken, Pa., writes: I love the idea of Pat Narduzzi taking over as head coach (when Coach D is ready to step down, of course) and I hope his acceptance of the assistant head coach shows that the feeling is mutual. Having his guidance over the years is the best chance for MSU Football to compete with the rest of the league in the years to come.

Adam Rittenberg: It doesn't surprise me to see such strong support for Narduzzi among Spartans fans. He has done an excellent job building Michigan State's defense into a nationally elite unit, and his recruiting efforts certainly have helped shape the defense. He's a fiery guy, which appeals to most fans, and certainly would bring energy to the job, perhaps more so than Dantonio does. I've been very impressed by Narduzzi as well and was surprised he didn't get more of a look for the Cincinnati job. My only concern with him is whether he's too much of a loose cannon. He got in trouble for his "60 minutes of unnecessary roughness" comment in 2011 and publicly discussed what he felt was abridged game film from Ohio State last year. As a media member, I love Narduzzi's candor, but most athletic directors usually like their coaches a little more restrained.

Ed from Philadelphia writes: Adam, Regarding the Ireland game for Penn State: It seems that you've chosen not to mention one of the more important pieces of the puzzle, which is that NCAA bylaws allow a 13th regular season game if it's played in Hawaii or otherwise outside the mainland US. In other words, PSU wouldn't have to worry about dumping a non-conference game if they do it while the sanctions are still in effect. They could just count it as their extra game.Obviously, it would still probably have to be done at the beginning of the season rather than the back end, as nobody would agree to interfere with their possible bowl season preparation. In fact, really the only realistic time would be the very first game of the year to minimize the fatigue of traveling.

Adam Rittenberg: Ed, thanks for bringing up this issue with the potential Penn State game in Ireland. I checked the NCAA bylaws regarding maximum number of contests, and there are a few things of note. The bylaw you cite about a team being allowed to play a 13th game if it takes place in Hawaii only applies to games placed against NCAA institutions in Hawaii, Alaska or Puerto Rico. It doesn't apply to two mainland teams playing a game out of the country. Annual Exemptions. [FBS/FCS] The maximum number of football contests shall exclude the following:

(j) Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico. [FBS/FCS] Any football games played in Hawaii, Alaska or Puerto Rico, respectively, either against or under the sponsorship of an active member institution located in Hawaii, Alaska or Puerto Rico, by a Division I member institution located outside the area in question

There also is an exemption for a "foreign tour," but these games are against teams from other countries -- rather than another FBS team -- and don't count in the record book. Opponents. The team shall not compete during the tour against other American teams (colleges or other U.S. teams) other than teams composed of U.S. armed forces personnel stationed at U.S. military bases in foreign countries

Here's what the manual notes about in-season foreign competition. In-Season Foreign Competition. [FBS/FCS] A member institution may play one or more of its countable contests in football in one or more foreign countries on one trip during the prescribed playing season. However, except for contests played in Canada, Mexico or on a certified foreign tour 17 (see Bylaw 17.28), the institution may not engage in such in-season foreign competition more than once every four years.

It doesn't mention anything about exceeding the 12-game limit. A Penn State official told me a game in Ireland would count against the 12-game limit for the season. I agree with you that Penn State almost certainly would have to schedule the Ireland game as a season opener because of the travel issues.

Bryson from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey AR, Any chance that with the Boulware exit out of Madison we see our beloved Bart Miller come out and take over the TE's? I know Boulware was going to coach special teams as well and is a decorated recruiter. Who is on our radar for now? Oh and where did Bart Miller end up anyway?

Adam Rittenberg: It's funny you mention Miller's name, Bryson, because Brian Bennett and I brought him up immediately after the Boulware exit. Ultimately, I don't see it happening as Gary Andersen already had one chance to keep the popular Miller on staff and chose not to. Maybe the second time changes things, but Andersen has been pretty decisive in his hires. Also, Miller's inexperience as a full-time assistant coach likely would hurt him for this job as Andersen wants the coach to handle both a position group and special teams. reports that Jeff Genyk, a former Northwestern assistant and the former Eastern Michigan head coach, is interviewing for the job. He'd be a good hire.

Brock from Little Rock, Ark., writes: Not quite sure many people are paying attention to Kevin Wilson's and IU's recruiting class for 2013. If they are not they should be. With Taj Williams committing they jumped up to 4th in the B1G (according to Rivals). Coming off of a 4-8 season, is this a positive reflection of what Hoosier fans can expect year in and year out, both in recruiting and on field performance?

Adam Rittenberg: Brock, I agree more people should take notice of Indiana's recruiting efforts, and I think the Hoosiers are starting to make waves around the Big Ten. Williams is a big addition and will strengthen an already talented receiving corps led by Kofi Hughes, Shane Wynn and Cody Latimer. But the even bigger development in my view is Indiana's recruiting gains on the defensive side of the ball. Remember, the Hoosiers have had great wide receivers for years -- James Hardy, Tandon Doss, etc. -- but they haven't been able to stop anyone from scoring. They've simply lacked enough Big Ten-quality defenders, but things seem to be changing under Wilson. According to ESPN Recruiting, the top six players in Indiana's class will play defense in Bloomington (Williams hasn't been added to the list yet). That's a very encouraging sign because Indiana always will pile up yards and points under Wilson. Maybe the Hoosiers soon will prevent opponents from doing the same.

Craig from Braintree, Mass., writes: After reading the stories about assistant coaches moving from program to program, how about a story about Coach Kill and his staff staying together.

Adam Rittenberg: It's certainly worth noting, Craig. Minnesota and Northwestern are the only FBS teams to keep their entire coaching staffs in place for the past three seasons. Even Big Ten teams that had been incredibly stable, like Iowa, have seen sweeping changes in recent years. Kill's staff continuity is one of his hallmarks, and several of his assistants have been with him since his FCS and/or Division II days at Southern Illinois, Emporia State and Saginaw Valley State. The loyalty Kill has shown to his assistants and vice versa stands out in this volatile coaching environment, and it has played a role in Kill having success everywhere he's been.

Joe from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Thoughts on Iowa's open practice in Des Moines being held on the same day as Iowa State's spring game?

Adam Rittenberg: I like it, Joe. For starters, it shows that Iowa notices Iowa State and the success the Cyclones have had in recent years. Although some Iowa fans always will dismiss Iowa State as inferior, the Iowa program shouldn't take an arrogant attitude toward their rival from Ames. The bottom line is Iowa State has more than held its own against Kirk Ferentz's teams, and the improved recruiting efforts from Ames should be noted in Iowa City.

Also, as Mike Hlas writes, the practice in Des Moines will generate buzz and interest for a portion of Hawkeyes fans who can't access the program as easily as those in the Eastern portion of the state.

Hlas writes:
For the first time, they’re coming to the people instead of the people coming to them. There’s no taking you for granted, central Iowans. The Hawkeyes need you, they love you, they want you to know how much you mean to them. It’s a smart play.

I completely agree. And yes, the fact Iowa went 4-8 last season has something to do with it. Iowa fans are extremely passionate and loyal and will continue to come to games, but last season did some damage. It's nice to see the Hawkeyes being proactive in reaching out to their fans and also to potential recruits deciding between Iowa and Iowa State. Good move.
The people of Iowa have spoken, and the new design for the Cy-Hawk Trophy is set.

Herky the Hawk and Cy the Cardinal are celebrating.

Fans of Iowa and Iowa State have selected a design that puts both teams' mascots on the rivalry trophy. The design, a rendering of which can be seen here, shows Herky and Cy standing in a cornfield holding a brass football. Below them, the names of both schools are listed along with engraved plates with the scores of each game.

The Iowa Corn Growers Association, which sponsors the game, had a local design firm come up with three concepts for the trophy. A panel narrowed the choices to three, and online voting took place between April 14 and midnight Tuesday. The winning design, called "Mascot Football Concept," received 8,002 votes, winning easily ahead of two designs featuring corn that racked up just 2,280 votes combined.

The reason for the trophy redesign was this monstrosity unveiled last summer, which showed a family huddled around a bushel of corn. The trophy, which had no real link to football, understandably drew criticism both within the state and around the country, leading to the change.

The new trophy will be presented to the winner of the Iowa-Iowa State matchup on Sept. 8 at Kinnick Stadium.

Any design would have been a vast improvement over what Iowa Corn produced last summer. The new trophy actually looks like it should be awarded to the winner of a football game (hence, the football). While I'm not ecstatic about the design, it conveys the necessary messages.

What say you?
Kirk Ferentz doesn't have to do much to motivate Iowa's defensive line this week.

No words are needed. The Hawkeyes coach simply can press the play button and show last year's film of the Iowa State game.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Clayborn
Icon SMIIowa defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn does not need more motivation for Saturday's game against Iowa State.
Then he can sit back and watch the steam rise from his players' ears.

"I'm not sure I'll have to say a heck of a lot," Ferentz said. "Part of our film study is looking at last year's game. They'll get some reminders during the week."

Adrian Clayborn hasn't forgotten what happened last year in Ames as he prepares for Saturday's rivalry game against Iowa State (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET).

Sure, the final score read: Iowa 35, Iowa State 3. But Clayborn and his linemates didn't like another number -- 190.

That's how many rushing yards Alexander Robinson and the Cyclones racked up against Iowa last year. Although Iowa allowed more rush yards to both Michigan (195) and Ohio State (229), Iowa State had a better average rush (5.59 yards per carry) against the Hawkeyes.

"We really stunk it up," Clayborn recently told me. "We weren't playing the way we play. We weren't reading our keys and weren't doing anything right. We weren't playing physical.

"We just looked like a bunch of tired dogs out there."

Tired dogs might be the last description typically used to describe Iowa's defensive line. All four starters return this season -- Clayborn and Broderick Binns at the end spots, Karl Klug and Christian Ballard inside -- after they combined for 252 tackles, 52 tackles for loss, 27 sacks, 17 quarterback hurries, seven forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in 2009.

Add in top reserve Mike Daniels, and it's easy to see why Iowa's front four has been branded by many as the nation's top defensive line.

Just don't tell them about it.

"I try to tune out the outside world as much as I can," Ballard said. "I talked to a couple players who have been in this same spot, like Aaron Kampman. He let me know that all the attention you'll get will go away immediately if you don't perform, so performance is the No. 1 thing on our minds as a defense.

"The expectations and what people are saying is great, but you can't just rely on your expectations."

No player on Iowa's team enters the season with higher expectations than Clayborn. Coaches around the Big Ten were shocked that he decided to return for his senior season after recording 11.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles as a junior. He earned numerous preseason All-America honors and is considered at least a fringe candidate for the Heisman Trophy.

While quarterback Ricky Stanzi has achieved folk-hero status among Iowa fans, there's little doubt that the dread-locked Clayborn is the team's biggest celebrity.

"I didn't realize how bad it was until we both went to coach K's house," said Klug, referring to D-line coach Rick Kaczenski. "We carpooled, and as we’re walking back to his car, this random guy yells out the window, ‘Adrian!’ I asked him, ‘Does that happen a lot?’ and he says, ‘Yeah.’

"I can go under cover a little bit better."

Clayborn is the big name, but his line mates certainly share the spotlight.

"Christian, he’s just an incredible athlete," Clayborn said. "He's 300 pounds but he can run like a gazelle. Broderick's got those long arms, he can bat down anything. And Karl, he’s got a motor out of this world. And Mike Daniels, he's a beast. He's going to be good this year.

"It's going to be tough for teams to just focus on me."

Despite Clayborn's VIP status, the defensive line lacks big egos or huge personalities.

Just like their defensive scheme, tried and tested by coordinator Norm Parker through the decades, the Hawkeyes' linemen are straightforward but extremely effective at what they do.

"We rely on every guy to do their job," Klug said. "One guy screws up, the whole defense is screwed up. We really focus on fundamentals. We just don’t go out there and run around.

"As a group, we're all business."

Big Ten lunch links

June, 30, 2010
A lot of recruiting nuggets today.
After launching its expansion study in December, the Big Ten hasn't been too forthcoming with information about the process, at least with media members.

Maybe two U.S. senators from Iowa will have better luck.

Sens. Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin are asking for expansion answers and other details from the Big Ten in a letter dated June 10 to league commissioner Jim Delany. Grassley and Harkin are trying to find out whether the Big Ten's push for potential expansion -- and the possible repercussions for the rest of college athletics -- jives with the league's status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

In the letter, the senators write:
"According to its Form 990, the Conference's primary exempt purpose 'is to regulate intercollegiate athletics as institutional activities to encourage sound academic practices for student athletics, and to establish harmonious relationships among member institutions.' Despite this stated charitable purpose, it appears that the majority of the Big Ten's operations revolve around NCAA athletics and the marketing, promotion, and revenue generating activities affiliated with those athletic activities. Moreover, most of the discussions surrounding the potential realignment of member institutions from one league to another appear to be designed not to further the charitable operation of the Big Ten."

The senators go on to ask for a bunch of things, including the Big Ten's tax forms, the Big Ten Network's tax forms, revenue collection and dispensation forms and compensation documents for the league's commissioners. Having seen the Big Ten's 990 form from the last fiscal year (thanks to colleague Mark Schlabach), the league earned $221,990,529 in revenue.

Grassley and Harkin also ask for ... drum roll, please ... "All copies of any proposed expansion, merger, or consolidation plans the Conference has considered, developed, requested, or otherwise discussed and explain how the Conference decided on what schools to invite."

Good luck with that one, fellas.

What did the Big Ten have to say about the senators' letter? Not much (big surprise).
Delany could not be reached for immediate comment. Associate Commissioner Scott Chipman confirmed that the conference received the letter.

"The conference has followed up with the senators' respective staffs," Chipman said. "We have no other comment at this time."

This is very interesting stuff, but keep in mind that the letter was written a day before the Big Ten voted to admit Nebraska to the league and at a time when everyone thought the Big 12 would dissolve. The senators were clearly worried about Iowa State, one of the schools left on the outside if the Big 12 broke up.

Since Iowa State is safe in the new Big 12 -- at least for the next few years -- I wonder if the senators still want their answers as badly as they did June 10.
Iowa entered the 2009 season with a good defensive line and emerged from it with a great one.

The natural question, then, is when did the Hawkeyes' front four reach its turning point? Typically, a turning point takes place in a loss, or in a game a team nearly loses before rallying for a win. In case you forgot, Iowa had quite a few of those in a wild 2009 campaign.

But for the Hawkeyes defensive line, the turning point happened in a 35-3 victory.

"Definitely that Iowa State one sticks out," defensive tackle Karl Klug said. "We underachieved in that game. A lot of us weren't running to the ball like we should have. To tell you the truth, it was pretty embarrassing."

Tough crowd to please.

Star defensive end Adrian Clayborn is even more direct about the line's performance against its in-state rival.

"We played like [expletive]," Clayborn said. "We weren't doing well on the pass rush. I was getting my [butt] kicked sometimes. I don't know what was wrong, but that was our turning point. We got together after that game and said we need to turn it around."

It's easy to look at the lopsided final score, but a closer examination of the Iowa-Iowa State game shows why Clayborn and his linemates were a little peeved on the bus ride back from Ames.

  • Iowa surrendered 190 rush yards, its third highest total of the season.
  • Iowa State running back Alexander Robinson reached the 100-yard rushing plateau on only 19 carries, and Cyclones quarterback Austen Arnaud, who had an otherwise miserable performance, rushed for 56 yards on nine carries.
  • Iowa failed to generate a sack against Iowa State, which would mark the only time all season that the Hawkeyes didn't drop an opposing quarterback in his own backfield.

Other than the final outcome, Iowa's linemen and defensive coordinator Norm Parker had little to be happy about.

"I just didn't think they played as hard as they should have," Parker said. "On film, there didn't appear to be enough extra effort."

Parker smiled.

"We had a nice talk."

Safe to say, it wasn't G-rated. But whatever was said seemed to work.

A week later, Iowa held Arizona to 253 total yards in a 27-17 win, a game that Clayborn calls the defensive line's best of the season. Most would apply that label to Iowa's victory at Penn State, as Iowa surrendered only 109 rush yards and had two sacks, a safety forced by defensive end Broderick Binns and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Clayborn.

Iowa returns its entire starting defensive line for 2010. Outside expectations will be higher, but so will the standards set by Parker and the players themselves.

"They can be pretty good," Parker said. "They should be better than last year. They're a year older, a year bigger, a year more mature. The place where they can improve the most is they should be more consistent, they should be more mistake-free than they were a year ago."

Translation: no more performances like the Iowa State game.
Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema has tabbed Chris Ash to coach the Badgers' defensive backs, replacing Kerry Cooks, who left for Notre Dame last month.

Ash comes to Wisconsin from Iowa State, where he coached the secondary and served as recruiting coordinator. He has spent eight of the last 10 seasons at Iowa State, though he worked with Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Doeren and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge at Drake in 1996 to 1997. Ash actually succeeded Doeren as Drake's defensive coordinator after the 1997 season.

"I’m very excited to welcome Chris aboard," Bielema said in a statement. "He brings great knowledge and tremendous experience. I've known Chris for a long time and his familiarity not only with our staff but with our schemes will help in what I think will be a seamless transition for him and the rest of our coaches."

Ash's familiarity with both Doeren and Partridge, as well as his knowledge of Midwest recruiting, certainly helped his cause for the job. One potential red flag: Iowa State ranked 102nd nationally against the pass in 2009.
Minnesota's second-half rally fell short as a mistake-prone offense made one too many in the closing minutes. The Big Ten fell to 1-1 in bowls with three more teams in action New Year's Day.

How the game was won: The teams combined for six turnovers, and Iowa State had four of them, but Minnesota committed the most damaging giveaway in the closing minutes as backup quarterback MarQueis Gray fumbled in the red zone. Minnesota's defense turned in a terrific performance, and quarterback Adam Weber had some nice moments at times, but the offense squandered too many scoring opportunities. Iowa State rode running back Alexander Robinson and a stout red-zone defense to victory.

Turning point: After taking over at its own 1-yard line, Minnesota drove downfield behind a revived offense. Coordinator Jedd Fisch effectively mixed personnel and play calls, and Gray had been stepping up as both a quarterback and a wide receiver. But on first-and-10 from the Iowa State 17-yard line, Gray coughed up the ball and the Cyclones recovered with 4:03 left. Iowa State then ran out the clock.

Stat of the game: Minnesota had seven drives reach Iowa State territory but only scored three times (one touchdown, two field goals).

[+] EnlargeKyle Theret
AP Photo/Matt YorkKyle Theret had two interceptions and a 40-yard reception on a fake punt.
Player of the game: For Iowa State, Robinson went for 140 rush yards on 23 carries. But I've got to give this to Minnesota safety Kyle Theret, who recorded two interceptions and had a 40-yard reception on a fake punt in the third quarter. The senior really stepped up in his final collegiate game.

Best call: Trailing 14-3 in the third quarter, Minnesota called a fake punt on fourth-and-4 from its own 37-yard line. Punter Blake Haudan found Theret, who raced 40-yards. The Gophers scored their first touchdown on the next play, as Weber found Nick Tow-Arnett.

What it means: Minnesota drops to 6-7 on a season that began with elevated expectations and an experienced roster. Athletic director Joel Maturi said earlier this week that Brewster is safe and will receive a contract extension. And though the team didn't look great on offense at times, it's not Brewster's fault that Gray fumbled. On the other hand, Mike Leach is available, right? The Gophers head into the offseason with questions on offense, and Weber and Gray will compete for the starting job this spring. There will be pressure on Brewster and his staff to win more than six games in 2010.

Insight Bowl preview

December, 30, 2009
Here's what you need to know about Thursday's matchup between Minnesota (6-6) and Iowa State (6-6) in the Insight Bowl:

WHO TO WATCH: Adam Weber. The Minnesota junior quarterback has taken a step back in his third year as the starter, but as he showed on Halloween night against Michigan State, he still can light it up. Weber also can struggle mightily, as he showed in shutout losses to Iowa and Penn State and a near shutout at Ohio State. Golden Gophers head coach Tim Brewster will open up the quarterback competition in spring practice, but Weber can help his cause with a strong showing against a vulnerable Iowa State defense that ranks 95th nationally against the pass (245 ypg). Minnesota is still searching for someone to replace Eric Decker's production, but Weber has some decent options in tight end Nick Tow-Arnett and wide receiver Troy Stoudermire. If Weber struggles, don't be surprised if Minnesota goes to MarQueis Gray.

WHAT TO WATCH: Minnesota's linebackers against Iowa State's rushing attack. Seniors Lee Campbell, Nate Triplett and Simoni Lawrence have carried the Gophers' defense this fall, combining for 284 tackles. Iowa State isn't much of a passing team and wants to get Alexander Robinson going. Robinson, ranked 29th nationally in rushing average, is a Minneaoplis native who nearly considered transferring to Minnesota after Gene Chizik bolted from Ames. If Minnesota can plug the middle with defensive tackles Garrett Brown and Eric Small, the linebackers should be in position to slow down Robinson and mobile quarterback Austen Arnaud.

WHY TO WATCH: Brewster is safe and will receive a contract extension in the near future, but this remains a pivotal game for the Minnesota program. A victory assures Minnesota of a winning season and could bring some life back to a fan base that seems unhappy with the current direction. The Gophers haven't won a bowl game since 2004 and lost the Insight Bowl in 2006 and 2008. A loss will brand the 2009 season as a disappointment and increase the pressure on Brewster and his assistants this offseason. It's also a nice regional game between two upper Midwest teams that haven't played since 1997.

PREDICTION: Neither of these teams is very good, and both offenses are inconsistent at best. Expect a low-scoring affair, and the team that makes the fewest number of major mistakes wins. Iowa State will have more fans in Tempe and could be more motivated than Minnesota, which has gone to the Insight Bowl in three of the past four years. The Gophers offense has been too inconsistent for my liking, and Iowa State finds a way to win, 17-14.

Insight Bowl

December, 6, 2009
Minnesota (6-6) vs. Iowa State (6-6)
Dec. 31, 6 p.m. (NFL Network)

The Insight Bowl might not attract much national attention, but you can bet it'll mean a lot in the upper Midwest.

Minnesota and Iowa State haven't played since 1997, but the two schools are separated by only 215 miles and share a hated rival in the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa State makes its first bowl appearance since 2005, while Minnesota returns to the Insight Bowl for the second straight year and for the third time in the past four seasons.

This is a very critical game for Gophers fourth-year coach Tim Brewster and a team that broke even despite boasting the Big Ten's most experienced roster. A victory would secure consecutive winning seasons and build momentum for 2010, when Brewster's recruits will occupy most of the key roles. A loss would increase doubts about the program's direction and put Brewster squarely on the hot seat.

The Insight Bowl typically is high scoring, but don't expect too many points on Dec. 31 in Tempe, Ariz. Minnesota has been shut out twice this season and ranks 98th nationally in scoring (21.6 ppg), while Iowa State is even worse, coming in 102nd in scoring (21.1 ppg). Both teams have quarterbacks (Minnesota's Adam Weber, Iowa State's Austen Arnaud) who can do big things, but also hurt their teams with turnovers.

Defense is certainly Iowa State's calling card, as the Cyclones have held opponents to 17 points or fewer in each of their six wins. Minnesota also relies heavily on its defense, particularly linebackers Lee Campbell, Nate Triplett and Simoni Lawrence, but needs some offensive playmakers to emerge at Sun Devil Stadium.

Iowa's Sash leads takeaway parade

September, 17, 2009

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

A secondary knows it has things rolling when two of its members have a conversation like the one Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood had on the Iowa bench last Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.

Iowa led 28-3 over Iowa State, and both Sash and Greenwood had recorded two interceptions against Cyclones quarterback Austen Arnaud. As the two safeties took a few moments to relax and celebrate a big day, Sash turned to Greenwood.

Stephen Mally/Icon SMI
Tyler Sash had three interceptions in the Hawkeyes' win over Iowa State.
"On the bench, I said, ‘If I get another one, you owe me dinner. If you get one, I owe you dinner,’" Sash recalled. "A couple plays later, I got my third one."

Sash admits one of his picks should have gone to Greenwood, but he's not about to give it back. The two players tentatively scheduled a dinner date for Monday night.

“He told me he was going to buy me a quarter-pounder or something, but I don’t think coach [Chris] Doyle, our strength coach, would like that," Sash said. "So it’ll probably be something a little healthier."

Opposing quarterbacks and ball carriers are always on the menu for Iowa, which led the Big Ten in takeaways last fall (32) and already has a league-high seven in the first two games. Sash and teammate Pat Angerer shared the league lead in interceptions with three in 2008, and Sash's three picks against Iowa State tied a single-game team record.

He's tied for second nationally in interceptions and needs just 10 picks to tie the team career record of 18 shared by Nile Kinnick and Devon Mitchell.

Defensive coordinator Norm Parker can't explain the spike in takeaways, and neither can head coach Kirk Ferentz. Angerer admits he didn't play much pass coverage in high school but was always around the ball last season.

"We just practice hard, play hard and things happen," Sash said. "We, as a team, try to be around the ball, if it’s fumbles, fumble recoveries, interceptions, whatever it is. There’s really no answer to that."

(Read full post)

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

This is exactly what Iowa needed after a rough few weeks.

Despite a few early speed bumps, the Hawkeyes are in control at Iowa State, a place where they have struggled in recent years. Ricky Stanzi has rebounded from two interceptions to throw three touchdowns, and the running game is showing some life with several backs, including true freshman Brandon Wegher. The Iowa defense has kept Iowa State out of the end zone and picked off Austen Arnaud four times.

Clearly, the Big Ten's top playmaking secondary is back in good form.

A very complete performance by the Hawkeyes after surviving against Northern Iowa last week.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Iowa State's Jack Trice Stadium is dwarfed by Big Ten monoliths in Ann Arbor, State College and Columbus.

But when the Iowa Hawkeyes come calling, it becomes just as raucous, if not more.

A.J. Edds has been to Ames only once, in 2007, when Iowa fell 15-13 to an Iowa State team that won only three games that fall. Though Iowa is the state's flagship football program and Iowa State barely registers on the Big 12's radar, the Hawkeyes have dropped four of their last five games in Ames.

The Cy-Hawk rivalry resumes Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium, and Edds knows what will be waiting for him and his Iowa teammates.

"The Iowa State fans show up in force, without a doubt, for this game," the senior linebacker said. "It’s the one game that whenever we’re playing in Ames, the Iowa State fans always seem to take an extra interest in, fighting for the state bragging rights and all of that.

"Ames turns into a very, very hostile atmosphere when we go over there. And we know that."

Surely it couldn't be more inhospitable than Ohio State, Penn State or Wisconsin?

"It’s as rowdy, if not more, as anywhere else that we play," Edds said. "It gets loud, it gets intense. It definitely compares with some of the most hostile Big Ten stadiums."

(Read full post)