Brown: Ferentz credits seniors for Iowa's 5-0 start

Rick Brown
Jordan Canzeri is nearing best career season after just five games.

If you have Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz do the math for you, 11 equals 5-0.

“That’s probably what I’m most pleased about, all the coaches are really pleased about, is the attitude this team has,” Ferentz said. “I’ll go right back to the seniors. They’re doing a great job of driving this thing.”

Iowa improved to 5-0 overall with a 10-6 victory in the Big Ten opener at Wisconsin Saturday. The Hawkeyes start 11 seniors. One player Ferentz singled out was defensive end Nate Meier.

“Part of the reason we won (at Wisconsin), and part of the reason we’re playing well, are our older guys,” Ferentz said. “Guys like Nate Meier are doing a great job. I’d say that about our whole senior class, the guys out there playing. They’re playing their best football. Nate is a tough guy to block. He wasn’t the biggest guy on the field. But he just had a heart that’s really big.”

Meier and his teammates will be back at it Saturday in an 11 a.m. homecoming game against Illinois.

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Air Illini

Look for Iowa’s secondary to be busy for the third week in a row. Wisconsin attempted 38 passes Saturday. That was a week after North Texas threw it 43 times. And now comes Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt.

Lunt completed 25 of 45 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns in a come-from-behind 14-13 victory over Nebraska Saturday. The winning score, a 1-yard connection with Geronimo Allison, came with 10 seconds to play. The last time Illinois beat Nebraska, Red Grange was a senior (1924).

For the season, Lunt has completed 111 of 191 passes for 1,107 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions. His 221.4-yard average ranks third in the Big Ten. Allison is the leading receiver in the Big Ten with 32 catches for 453 yards.

Coach of the Year

It looks to be a four-man race at this juncture: Ferentz, Bill Cubit of Illinois, Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern and Jim Harbaugh of Michigan.

Ferentz has won it three times (2002, 2004, 2009). Cubit, coaching the Illini on an interim basis after Tim Beckman was fired a week before the season, has his team off to a 4-1 start. Northwestern, fueled by a strong defense, is 5-0 and having a bounce-back season. Another team with a strong defense is Michigan, 4-1 in Harbaugh’s first season at his alma mater.

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Bowl eligible

Iowa is one victory away from bowl eligibility for the 14th time in the last 15 seasons. The Hawkeyes haven’t been in position to be bowl eligible this fast since 2009, when they started 9-0. That team became bowl eligible with a 30-28 victory over Michigan on Oct. 10.

Playing on the lead

In the 300 minutes of game action this season, Iowa has trailed just 37:42. Iowa State led the Hawkeyes for 15:43. Wisconsin led for 21:59.

Three of Iowa’s five victories have gone down to the wire. The Hawkeyes broke a 17-17 tie at Iowa State on C.J. Beathard’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Riley McCarron with 2:14 remaining. The Hawkeyes tacked on another score with just over a minute to play after a Desmond King interception.

The Pittsburgh game was decided on Marshall Koehn’s 57-yard walk-off field goal. And Iowa stopped Wisconsin on downs with 36 seconds to play.

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Canzeri nears personal best

Senior Jordan Canzeri recorded his third 100-yard rushing game of the season, and fourth of his career, at Wisconsin Saturday. His 125 yards on a career-high 26 carries gives him 441 yards this season (89 carries overall). Canzeri needs just 54 more yards for a single-season career best. He rushed for 494 yards last season (102 carries).

“He’s clearly playing his best football, and what a great time for that,” Ferentz said.