From The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 18th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes wrap up their non-conference schedule this weekend, as they entertain the Ball State Cardinals at Kinnick Stadium.
The Hawkeyes took to the road for the first time last weekend and suffered their first loss of the campaign, a 34-27 setback at nationally-ranked Arizona.
"They made the plays they had to make at the end and we didn't get it done," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Iowa, which had been considered a darkhorse for the national title, dropped nine spots in the polls, so expect the team to come out with something to prove this week. This is also the squad's final tuneup before beginning a tough Big Ten schedule with Penn State next weekend.
BSU meanwhile, is facing a Big Ten opponent for the second consecutive week following a 24-13 loss at Purdue last Saturday.
"We got unnerved a little in the first half but did a good job of making adjustments in the second half," said Ball State head football coach Stan Parrish. "They hurt us with a few big plays. We got a little tired and their offensive line wore us out."
It was the second loss in a row for the Cardinals, who were upset by Liberty (27-23) following a season-opening win over Southeast Missouri State (27-10).
This is just the second all-time meeting between Iowa and BSU, with the Hawkeyes capturing a 56-0 victory at Kinnick Stadium to open the 2005 campaign.
True freshman Keith Wenning made his first career start for BSU last weekend and played like a rookie in the loss to Purdue. Wenning completed just 11- of-21 tosses for 89 yards with two INTs and he was also sacked three times. He got the nod in place of Kelly Page, who started the first two games but was relegated to the bench due to some struggles. Page however, did come in to throw a TD pass versus Purdue late in the game.
"Keith Wenning had to learn to start somewhere, but this is a tough venue to learn," Parrish said. "Kelly Page gave us a good effort in his play. We are okay at that position."
After rushing for 135 yards and two TDs through the first two games, RB Cory Sykes missed the contest with Purdue due to tendinitis in a knee. He could be back for this weekend and that should only help a BSU ground attack that has averaged a solid 179.3 rushing ypg thus far.
The Cardinals' defense allowed two long TD drives to Purdue in the opening quarter before settling down and keeping the scoreboard clean for the second and third frames. Unfortunately, the unit yielded 10 crucial points in the final period to Purdue, which racked up 403 total yards, including 203 rushing, in the game.
Third downs also continue to be a problem for BSU, as Purdue converted 10- of-17 chances. That means opponents are now converting 55 percent of the time on third down against the Cardinal defense. Sean Baker though, has been a positive for the unit thus far, as he leads the team with 26 stops. He also has three INTs, leaving him one shy of BSU's career record of 14.
The Hawkeyes dug themselves out of an early hole, showing their resiliency, but in the end their line just didn't hold up in the loss to Arizona. QB Ricky Stanzi helped Iowa rally from a 20-point halftime deficit, but he was sacked six times, including three in a row on the team's final possession. The veteran did throw for 278 yards and three TDs, though he also had an INT returned 89 yards for a score.
Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was the main target in the loss, as he pulled in seven balls for 114 yards and his first TD of the season. With the effort he became just the fourth Iowa player to surpass 2,000 receiving yards for his career.
The biggest disappointment for the Hawkeyes last weekend had to be their ground attack, which managed a mere 29 yards on 26 carries. It was quite a fall off for a group that had amassed over 400 rushing yards through the first two games. Leading rusher Adam Robinson (270 yards) was held to five yards on 10 carries, while Jewel Hampton had 30 yards on seven totes before leaving with an injury. Hampton, who missed all of last season with an injury, hurt his knee and will miss the rest of the campaign yet again.
Iowa allowed TDs on an INT and 100-yard kickoff return, so the defense wasn't all too bad. The unit was especially strong in the second half and even knotted the score with at 27-27 with a 20-yard INT return for a TD by Broderick Binns. Unfortunately, the defense had a letdown following that big play, as Arizona drove 72 yards on the ensuing series for the go-ahead and game-winning score.
"Broderick's interception was a great play, but we couldn't seal the deal," Ferentz said.
Still, the defense forced three turnovers and continued its dominance against the run, surrendering just 60 rushing yards on 30 carries. Iowa is allowing just 68.7 rushing ypg and has yet to surrender a TD on the ground this season. Jeff Tarpinian turned in a second straight noteworthy effort, as he finished with 12 stops, a forced fumble and a sack versus Arizona. He now leads the squad with 23 stops for the season.