Brown: Here's how Iowa can beat Wisconsin
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Wisconsin came to Kinnick Stadium in 1996 with a star freshman running back named Ron Dayne.
The Hawkeye defense limited the future Heisman Trophy winner to 62 yards on 17 carries, his lowest total as a starter all season. Four years later, in his final regular-season game, Dayne set the NCAA career rushing record against Iowa.
Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon was limited to 62 yards on 17 carries, his lowest total of the season, against Iowa in Kinnick Stadium last year. Saturday, Gordon needs 201 yards against the Hawkeyes to break Dayne's single-season Big Ten rushing record of 2,109 yards.
It will take little more than an average day for Gordon to make history against Iowa, like Dayne did 15 seasons ago. Gordon averages 190.9 yards a game.
It will take an above-average effort by the Hawkeyes' defense to keep Gordon, fresh off an FBS-record 408-yard day against Nebraska, under wraps. The key figures in that plan could be safeties John Lowdermilk and Jordan Lomax, who will have to be quick to the edge and slow down one of the leading Heisman Trophy contenders before he gets a head of steam.
"I've just got to get him to the ground, any way I can," Lowdermilk said.
Wisconsin jumped eight spots in the Associated Press poll, to No. 14, after putting a 59-24 thumping on the Cornhuskers. If the Badgers beat Iowa and Nebraska handles Minnesota in Lincoln, Wisconsin will leave Kinnick Stadium with both the Heartland Trophy and a spot in the Big Ten Championship game Dec. 6.
Iowa's season has an underachieving cloud hanging over it. If the Hawkeyes can pull off some Melrose Magic on Saturday, that cloud would disappear. But it will take more than stopping Gordon. The offense has to have success against a Wisconsin team that leads the nation in total defense.
"With all due respect, we don't have anyone that's going to run for 400 yards, so we need to utilize everyone," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Everyone will include the tight ends, who have 48 catches for 459 yards and six touchdowns this season. They average 9.5 yards a catch. Ray Hamilton, a senior, had his first two career touchdown catches at Illinois, while Jake Duzey had three catches for 110 yards.
Iowa is a better offensive team when the tight ends are involved. That's what it will take to have a chance Saturday, keeping the Badgers' offense off the field and making Gordon a spectator instead of a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.