Rob Report: Iowa Claims First B1G Hardware in 11 Years
IOWA CITY, Iowa – For the first time in 11 years, Iowa clinched a conference championship following Saturday’s 40-20 win against Purdue here at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes won the West Division outright later in the day when Wisconsin fell to Northwestern.
The Iowa players wore shirts and hats with the championship logo during post-game interviews. It’s as close as they came to celebrating their accomplishment in public.
Coach Kirk Ferentz decided earlier in the week that the team would recognize the achievement behind the closed doors of their locker room. According to accounts, a good time was enjoyed by all.
“We’re not downplaying it. It’s a significant accomplishment to have an opportunity to play in Indianapolis (in the Big Ten Championship Game). It’s really thrilling for all of us, and we’re really pleased about that,” Ferentz said.
“But at the same time we’re six days out from playing again, and we’re playing a team that’s been sitting back all week watching us. We’ve got some ground to make up tomorrow. We’ll get to work on that in our meetings and what have you, but really proud, and it’s a real significant accomplishment, but we’ve still got to finish this season out, and that’s our goal.”
The fifth-ranked Hawkeyes (11-0 overall, 7-0 Big Ten) wrap up the regular season Friday at Nebraska (2:30 p.m. CT, ABC). The conference title game takes place on Dec. 5 in Indianapolis against a yet-to-be-determined East Division Champ.
“It’s a nice achievement but you don’t want to look too far ahead,” Iowa Linebacker Josey Jewell said of the West crown. “You live in the day. Understand we won and understand next week we have another game. We don’t want to think ahead to a week or two but understand what’s in front of us.”
In other words, despite wrapping up the West, the focus remains on capturing the last division game before advancing to the championship game.
“We had one goal today and that was to win and give ourselves a chance in the championship,” Iowa Tight End Henry Krieger Coble said. “As far as that goes, we’re thrilled in how we earned it today, really. That being said, we do have a lot of work to do from here on out. We have more games to look forward to and bigger things in mind.”
Iowa shared the Big Ten title in 2004. The league featured 11 teams then, there were no divisions or a championship game. Since that time, three more teams have come aboard.
“I’ve never been involved with winning the division, so that’s a little different. I guess you’ve got to figure out how to respond to that a little bit better,” Ferentz said.
KING’S FUTURE: Iowa cornerback Desmond King still has at least three and maybe four games left in his junior season.
But will they be his last games as a Hawkeye?
There is speculation King might skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft a year early. The Detroit native leads the Big Ten with eight interceptions and needs just one more to break the school single-season record, which he currently shares with Lou King (no relation) and 1939 Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick.
King also returns punts and kicks for the Hawkeyes.
“At this point, I really don’t know, I’m undecided,” King said after Saturday’s game when asked about leaving early for the NFL. “When the time comes, I’m going to think about it more. But I haven’t really decided anything about it.” – Pat Harty
INJURY REPORT: King was limping late in the game after colliding with a receiver. He said during interviews that he was a “little bruised up” but was fine. He refused to come off the field after being dinged.
Ike Boettger worked with the second-team offensive line in warm-ups but did not play Saturday. The sophomore from Cedar Falls started the first five games at right tackle before injuring his ankle in Week 6 against Illinois. He’s been sidelined since then.
Akrum Wadley returned to action after missing last week’s Minnesota game with an ankle injury. The sophomore running back from New Jersey carried four times for 23 yards and a touchdown.
Senior Defensive Tackle Darian Cooper, who underwent major knee surgery last summer, played late in Saturday’s game for the first time since the 2013 season.
OH HENRY: Krieger Coble continued to prove he’s a clutch performer. The Hawkeye senior caught four passes for 76 yards and a touchdown against Purdue.
All four of the Mount Pleasant (Iowa) High product’s receptions resulted in first downs. He stretched his streak to eight catches in a row that ended with a new set of downs.
Krieger Coble also recovered an onside kick Saturday after Purdue had trimmed its deficit to 33-20 with four minutes to play in the game.
TACKLING MACHINES: King (11) and free safety Jordan Lomax (13) both recorded career-highs in tackles on Saturday. King also broke up three passes, a top total for him at Iowa.
Linebackers Josey Jewell (12) and Cole Fisher (10) also reached double figures in stops. Fisher and Lomax were credited with forcing fumbles.
Freshman end Parker Hesse registered Iowa’s lone sack against Purdue. It was his second of the season.
EXTRA-POINTS: The Hawkeyes are 11-0 for the first time in school history. The Hawkeyes have won a school-record 11 games for the third time in program history (2002, 2009)…Iowa has scored 30-plus points in five straight Big Ten games for the first time in school history. The Hawkeyes have scored 30-plus points eight times this season…Iowa has enjoyed 12 perfect seasons in Kinnick Stadium, but only the 2003 team won seven homes games…C.J. Beathard is 12-0 as Iowa’s starting quarterback. He matched his career high with three passing touchdowns (Iowa State, 2015)…WR Tevaun Smith had four catches for 73 yards. All four catches were first downs. Twenty-one of his 23 catches this season have gone for first down…Ferentz has 126 wins as a member of the Big Ten Conference, eighth all-time. He has 75 Big Ten wins, eighth all-time.