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Expect another close game for Hawks

September 25, 2012 - Andy Heintz
Both Iowa and Minnesota have found themselves in close football games this season. But only one team has found a way to consistently win those games.

Coming into Saturday's Big Ten Conference opener for both teams, it is likely that we'll have another close contest for Floyd of Rosedale as the Hawkeyes take on the unbeaten Minnesota Gophers for Homecoming.

"This series has always been a rival, and now we play for Floyd of Rosedale so there is some added incentive," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "And Minnesota is not 4-0 by a fluke. They have beaten four football teams and their good."

The Gophers have beaten four teams and three of those wins have been decided by seven points or less. They began the season with a triple overtime win over UNLV before most recently knocking off Western Michigan 28-23 and beating Syracuse 17-10. The fourth win was a 44-7 triumph over FCS New Hampshire.

On the flip side, Iowa won its first game by a single point over Northern Illinois after scoring a late TD with less than three minute remaining. The other two games decided by three points or less came in a 9-6 loss to Iowa State and a 32-31 defeat at the hands of Central Michigan last weekend.

"I have lots of respect for Iowa and for Kirk Ferentz, and it is hard to win on Saturdays, it really is," Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said. "It's a rivalry game. Both teams will play well and play hard."

Somehow Iowa finds itself as a 7.5-point favorite in Las Vegas. They must have much more confidence in this Iowa team than most of the fans these days. The close losses are hitting fans right in the heart.

"We have to move on from the previous and look forward to the game at hand," Ferentz said. "We have plenty on our plate this week. We can't look back. Those losses can't be changed. We have to focus on the now."

They won't end soon. Iowa rarely blows anyone out but rarely gets blown out itself. So expect the nail biting games to continue. Especially in a series that in the last two games has been decided by a combined four points.

"We're trying to a build a program, which is a little bit different than most teams in the Big Ten," Kill said. "We're making progress, but we have a long way to go to where we want to be."

Minnesota leads the all-time series against the Hawkeyes 61-42-2 but has not won in Kinnick Stadium since 1999. Iowa last won in the series in 2009 when then freshman James Vandenberg beat the Gophers 12-0.

With Floyd of Rosedale on the line, Minnesota is 41-34-2 against Iowa and the long-time series dates back to 1891.

Then there's Homecoming, where Iowa is 54-41-5 all-time but is just 6-9 against Minnesota on that day.

"It will be a great challenge this week," Ferentz said. "They are playing well, but we are excited to be getting into the Big Ten."

This also is the first time these two teams will ever meet in September. The earliest they had played before was October 2.

Ferentz admitted Tuesday that he and his coaching staff are trying their best to prepare well for every game but last week the staff fell short of that expectation.

"We try to do our best to prepare our team, and we didn't do that well enough last week," Ferentz said. "And because of that, the players didn't play well enough as a result."

The game will kick off at 11:01 a.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.


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