Take away the swagger, and replace it with desperation.
For the first time since 2001 — when The Big Game was pushed back to November following the 9-11 terrorist attacks — both the Hawkeyes and Cyclones have a loss on their record, putting a damper on what is traditionally the state’s most anticipated sporting event.
The loser of Saturday’s 5 p.m. showdown can probably kiss its bowl hopes goodbye. The winner earns only a temporary reprieve from the skeptics.
“We know we’ve got to fix a lot of mistakes,” Iowa tight end Jake Duzey said after last Saturday’s 28-14 win over Missouri State. “It’s going to be a tough game. They’re a tough team and we’ve just got to go out there and do what we do.”
For fans, this is supposed to be a time of boastful banter.
The buildup took a serious hit, however, when one team (Iowa State) was beaten by a good NCAA Football Championship Subdivision opponent, and the other (Iowa) barely beat a bad one.
The Cyclones’ season-opening loss to Northern Iowa made for a long off week. After the Hawkeyes, who lost to Northern Illinois two weeks ago, survived Missouri State’s upset bid, players were bracing for the backlash.
“I really don’t listen to the outside noise,” defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat said. “For me, a win is a win. A loss is a loss.
“The key is, we’re always thinking about improving.”
Most seasons, the Iowa-Iowa State matchup serves as a barometer — especially when it comes to postseason possibilities.
Remember 2007, when Iowa rolled into Jack Trice Stadium with a 2-0 record, having outscored Northern Illinois and Syracuse by a combined 51-3?
Iowa State won 15-13, and the Hawkeyes went on to finish 6-6, with no bowl invite.
We didn’t have a clear take on Iowa’s 2012 team, until a 9-6 loss to the Cyclones exposed offensive limitations.
It was the first defeat in a 4-8 season.
“I think we have to improve on everything,” Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz said of his current team. “Moving the ball is one thing, but you’ve got to finish drives.
“And then defensively, just playing every series like it’s our last.”
The Big Game has been even more of an indicator for Iowa State.
Since 2000, the Cyclones have posted a 45-43 record (.511 winning percentage) in seasons when they beat the Hawkeyes.
When Iowa State lost, it posted a 27-46 mark (.369).
“They’ve had a bye week, so they’ve had an extra week to prepare for us,” Trinca-Pasat said. “It’s a road game. We’ve got to be more mentally ready to go.
“Work harder than we did the previous weeks.”
The Hawkeyes will work to shore up their pass coverage, while Iowa State tries to improve its tackling.
Cyclones quarterback Sam Richardson needs to run less. Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock has thrown a fourth-quarter interception in each of his first two games.
Going into this year’s Big Game, we know the flaws. What we’re looking for is a reason to feel good about our two flagship programs.
This isn’t just about bragging rights. It’s also a chance for redemption.
Andrew Logue covers Iowa football and sports media and has been with the Register for 18 years.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football