Iowa has one game preceding a challenging Big Ten opener to correct a mistake-filled performance.
The 18th-ranked Hawkeyes look to bounce back from an upset loss that dropped them out of the Top 10 when they host Ball State on Saturday.
Iowa (2-1) cruised through two easy victories before a 34-27 loss at then-No. 24 Arizona last Saturday. The Hawkeyes rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit to tie the game before allowing the Wildcats to mount a nine-play, 72-yard drive for the winning score with under four minutes left.
That was the lone long touchdown drive allowed by the defense, as Arizona's first-half scores came on an 85-yard interception return, a 100-yard kickoff return and a short touchdown pass following a blocked punt that gave the Wildcats a first down on the Iowa 8-yard line.
The Hawkeyes dropped nine spots in the rankings Sunday.
"Hopefully this will be a learning experience," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We are on the road, tough environment, and tough and given the circumstances that we have put ourselves into, so you know, it's just not that much fun playing football in that situation. It's going to happen."
Compounding the loss was the news that backup tailback Jewel Hampton will likely be out for the season due to knee surgery. Hampton, who missed all of last season after tearing the ACL in his right knee, was splitting carries with starter Adam Robinson.
Robinson leads the Hawkeyes with 270 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
"There are a lot of teams that play primarily one tailback and go the whole season that way and that's our plan for right now," Ferentz said. "We plan on him being the primary ball carrier like he was in week one, and we'll get him in and out of the game when appropriate and that type of thing."
The Hawkeyes host No. 25 Penn State next weekend but insist their focus is on Ball State (1-2), which is guided by second-year coach Stan Parrish -- who has been with the program since 2005.
"Stan Parrish has been there several years now and Stan is an excellent football coach," Ferentz said. "Their team is well coached."
The Cardinals are under no illusions about the atmosphere they will be facing at Kinnick Stadium, where they fell 56-0 in 2005 in the lone previous meeting between these schools. Ball State is facing a second straight Big Ten opponent after a 24-13 loss at Purdue last Saturday.
"This is very difficult on our team, back-to-back trips like this to Big Ten places," Parrish said. "(Especially) playing a team talent-wise I think is a top-five team in the country."
Parrish is a former quarterbacks coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has been rotating Keith Wenning and Kelly Page at that position this year. That will be the plan Saturday.
Page started the first two games before Wenning made his first start against the Boilermakers and completed 11 of 21 passes for 89 yards and two interceptions.
The Cardinals are getting $800,000 for the trip to Iowa City, and Parrish knows it will be difficult for his team to be competitive.
"I think the guy from James Madison said it best last week," Parrish said. "My first 11 against their first 11, it's a pretty darn good matchup. My first 65 against their 65 is no matchup. As attrition takes place during the game, that enters into it."
The Hawkeyes are looking to post their 10th straight non-conference home win since a 28-19 loss to Western Michigan in 2007.
Top 25 Overview
Iowa looks to bounce back after its first loss of the season at Arizona last week when the Hawkeyes host Ball State. Iowa will be without RB Jewel Hampton, who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. The Cardinals lost their only trip to Kinnick Stadium 56-0 in 2005.