Sports writers Chad Leistikow and Chris Cuellar break down the Hawkeyes' match up against the Boilermakers of Purdue.
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Kirk Ferentz is on the road again.
The 18th-year head coach of the Hawkeyes offered travel tales on Tuesday, the perfect time to descriptively preview his team’s third away game in the last four weeks.
But Iowa (4-2, 2-1) isn’t going to Ross-Ade Stadium for the scenery. The possibility of a ninth straight road win would be poetic enough for an 11 a.m. kickoff at Purdue.
“Don’t get distracted, whether it’s Manhattan (N.Y.) out the window a couple weeks ago or this week,” Ferentz said at his weekly press conference. “It will look a lot different as we’re landing and looking out the window.
“So all that stuff really doesn’t matter. We’re going to play a football game and it’s no different than if we’re going over to Kinnick.”
The Boilermakers (3-2, 1-1) won’t offer skyscrapers or much sunshine to check out ahead of the Big Ten clash on ESPN2. That’s fine for what the Hawkeyes are viewing as a business trip, essential before three teams currently ranked in the nation's top 10 visit Iowa City to close out their home schedule.
The Iowa travel to West Lafayette, Ind., to face Purdue on Saturday. Here are three storylines to follow during the game.
A win would be Iowa’s fourth in a row over Purdue, its third straight away from home this season, and would set up a massive Big Ten West Division matchup with Wisconsin next Saturday.
Who needs mountains and meadows to write about?
“It’s like bowl games,” Ferentz said. “The ones we lost were awful, the ones we won were great. No matter where we go.
“A bowl game in Montana, if you win it – with all due respect to Montana, I’m sure it’s a great place to go, like Maine in the summertime – but you could play there in January and if you won the bowl game, it would be a great trip. That’s kind of how it works.”
Hopefully, Purdue will be more packed for homecoming weekend than picturesque Montana or Maine. Coach Darrell Hazell’s program is coming off a 34-31 overtime win at Illinois, but a lack of success or consistency has curtailed home-field advantage.
Ross-Ade Stadium seats 57,236. The average crowd in three games this fall is 35,583.
The Boilermakers are over .500 and grabbed a Big Ten win last week. But they haven’t won back-to-back games since 2012.
For now, Iowa is focused on its own road issues.
“When you’re on the road, it’s your team against however many thousands of fans are in their stadium,” Iowa senior quarterback C.J. Beathard said. “A lot of guys embrace that.
“You have something to look forward to when it’s your guys, your brothers, against everyone else.”
The approach has worked, with the Hawkeyes taking their last true road loss on Nov. 8, 2014 at Minnesota. Their eight-game road win streak is tied for the third-longest active run in the country, behind only Ohio State (19) and Alabama (nine). They happen to be ranked No. 1 and No. 2, and both play away from home this weekend.
“We just try to adjust to the situation and stay focused on what our job is,” Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell said.
Iowa grabbed its first two road wins of 2016 by 14-7 margins at Rutgers and Minnesota. The offense is expecting better output against a Purdue squad allowing 31.4 points and 431.6 yards of output per game. The Boilermakers' run defense is ranked 118th out of 128 FBS teams.
Iowa senior running back LeShun Daniels Jr. was all smiles when asked about that opportunity and playing on the road.
“I think it’s really fun,” he said. “Especially when you go into a hostile environment. You know you have to bring it, because you know their fans are going to bring it and they’re going to be energized ... It’s a good time.”
Hawkeye fans want that experience, too. And wouldn’t mind if that success followed the team back to Kinnick Stadium.
“I’d like to think we’re just as good at home,” Beathard said. “But we’ve done a good job on the road, making plays when we need to.”
IOWA (4-2, 2-1) at PURDUE (3-2, 1-1)
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.
Time/TV: 11:01 a.m., ESPN2 (Announcers: Anish Shroff, Tom Ramsey, Kevin Weidl)
Line: Iowa by 12
Weather: Cloudy with highs in the mid-60s, wind from 10-15 mph