Iowa’s defense under Kirk Ferentz has never played overly
aggressive. Although the Hawkeyes have fielded one of the Big
Ten’s most dominant defenses in the past few years, they
hardly ever tried to force the issue by bringing an extra man to
apply pressure.

Michigan Football
Iowa running back Jermelle Lewis filled in for Fred Russell when Iowa beat Michigan 34-9 and rushed for over 100 yards. He is currently a senior on the Hawkeyes (FILE PHOTO).

“I wouldn’t hold your breath if you’re waiting
on us to blitz,” senior First Team All-Big Ten defensive end
Matt Roth said.

Against the Wolverines — who feature true freshmen
quarterback Chad Henne — the conventional thinking would be
to apply extra pressure and try to rattle the young signal
caller.

But Ferentz thinks differently.

“We realize they do have a young quarterback, but I also
realize they have the best receivers in the country — that
might include NFL teams,” Ferentz said.

Ferentz is not alone in giving the Wolverine ball-catchers his
utmost respect.

“I think, by far, it’s going to be one of our
biggest challenges of the year as a secondary because, out of all
three of their receivers, probably all three of them will be
drafted to the NFL,” junior cornerback Jovon Johnson said.
“It’s not only a challenge for my team, it’s a
challenge for me individually to get recognized by playing
well.”

So far this season, Michigan’s vaunted trio of Braylon
Edwards, Jason Avant and Steve Breaston has been pretty
Edwards-heavy. The senior, who set Michigan’s
career-receptions record — he now has 181 grabs —
against San Diego State, has 26 catches for 350 yards and four
touchdowns in 2004. Breaston has been moderately effective with 12
catches for 94 yards and a touchdown, but Avant has hauled in just
five passes for 57 yards.

“Obviously, the more people that you can involve, the
better you are,” Carr said.

The Michigan receiving corps could have a field day against
Iowa, as the Hawkeyes struggled mightily against Arizona
State’s passing attack in a 44-7 loss last weekend. Heisman
Trophy candidate Andrew Walter torched the Iowa secondary, going
31-for-43 for 428 yards and five touchdowns.

“Our entire football team — and it starts with
coaching — for whatever reason, we were not ready to play at
the level you have to play at to be competitive,” Ferentz
said. “They thoroughly outplayed us.”

The performance was uncharacteristic of a Hawkeye defense that
gave up just 184 yards to the Sun Devils last year and was thought
to be Iowa’s strongest unit in 2004.

“Everybody can make excuses, but there’s no excuse
for the way we played last week,” Johnson said. “As a
defense, we just came out flat.”

The offense didn’t fare much better in Tempe. The youthful
Iowa unit was held to just 100 yards of total offense and six first
downs.

“There’s a lot of miscommunication up front, we
missed a lot of assignments, we missed a lot of reads — we
just weren’t clicking as an offense,” senior running
back Jermelle Lewis said. “A lot of the inexperience played a
role in this because we really couldn’t find a rhythm and you
need the experience to find the rhythm during the game.”

The Hawkeyes’ youth starts with sophomore quarterback Drew
Tate, who has had an inconsistent start to the season, completing
37-of-63 passes for 400 yards, three touchdowns and three
interceptions.

Iowa enters the game as a 13-point underdog.

“We really don’t pay attention to what the point
spreads are, what the rankings are,” Lewis said. “In
the Big Ten, you really never know what’s going to happen in
the week.”

The last time Iowa visited the Big House, it stomped the
Wolverines 34-9. Hawkeye players indicated that the Michigan game
is one of their biggest contests of the year.

“If you’re going to win the (conference) title,
you’ve usually got to go through them,” Johnson
said.

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