Big Ten: Matt Roth


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


A seed of doubt crept into Adrian Clayborn's mind as Arizona lined up for first-and-goal at the Iowa 1-yard line in a Sept. 19 game. The odds favored an offensive touchdown. Most likely a rushing touchdown.

What came next? A Nic Grigsby run for a loss of two yards followed by two incomplete passes. Field goal. Thanks for playing.

Surely the streak would end two weeks later at Penn State, as the Nittany Lions entered Iowa territory five times. Penn State never got closer than the 11-yard line and wound up with only one Collin Wagner field goal.

"They had us back down in the red zone and we came up big with stops," said Clayborn, Iowa's star junior defensive end.

At least Penn State running back Evan Royster knows what it feels like to notch a rushing touchdown against the Hawkeyes. He had a 2-yard scoring run in the second quarter of last year's game in Iowa City. One quarter later, his teammate Derrick Williams ran one in from nine yards out.

Since then? Nothing.

Iowa has painted its own goal line in black and gold. If an opponent wishes to cross it, they had better not try on the ground.

The Hawkeyes haven't allowed a rushing touchdown for 33 consecutive quarters, the final 13 last season and the first 20 of 2009. The amazing streak epitomizes a defense that ranks 10th nationally in points allowed (13.4 ppg) and is the biggest reason for Iowa's first 5-0 start since 1995.

Iowa puts its streak on the line Saturday night when its hosts Michigan at Kinnick Stadium (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).

"It’s astounding," Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Normally, you maybe get a quarterback sneak or something in the goal line where you get in there. To have 33 straight quarters, an eight- or nine-game span, is really quite remarkable."

Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz added, "I’m not a good one on streaks and records, but I know this: it’s a good thing."

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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
 Iowa defensive tackle Mitch King has racked up 15 tackles, including 4 for loss, against the Badgers the past two years.

The spread offense has become a large part of the Big Ten fabric, but there are still games and players that reflect the league's cloud-of-dust roots.

Wisconsin-Iowa is one of those games and Hawkeyes senior defensive tackle Mitch King is one of those players. There will be no sign of the spread offense Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. Instead, two teams with massive running backs and brawny linemen will pit power vs. power, much like they did 10, 20 and 30 years earlier.

King, the anchor of Iowa's defensive line, has no objections.

"I love playing this game," he said. "They love running the ball, we pride ourselves in stopping the run. It's smash mouth. It's determined between the lines, offensive and defensive line. That's where at Iowa we pride ourselves."

King's zest for facing Wisconsin shows up in the stat sheet.

He got his first whiff of the rivalry in 2005, when the Hawkeyes visited Camp Randall Stadium and ruined the send-off for longtime Badgers coach Barry Alvarez. Injuries had depleted Iowa's defensive line, and King, a converted linebacker, made his fifth career start in the game.

"We actually had nobody else behind him," Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said, "so we were lucky that he developed as quickly as he did."

King racked up two sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry as Iowa held Wisconsin to season lows in both points (10) and yards (276). He was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts and earned Freshman All-America honors after the season.

"The atmosphere they bring in that stadium is electrifying," King said. "I love playing in that stadium. Ever since then, it really hit home for me."

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