Hawkeyes will try to avoid last year’s Wisconsin debacle

Wisconsin held Iowa to just 66 yards of total offense last season, and the Hawkeyes don’t want a rerun of last year’s debacle.

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Hawkeyes will try to avoid last year’s Wisconsin debacle

Wisconsin wide receiver Kendric Pryor catches a touchdown pass during Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. The badgers defeated the Hawkeyes 38-14.

Wisconsin wide receiver Kendric Pryor catches a touchdown pass during Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. The badgers defeated the Hawkeyes 38-14.

Nick Rohlman

Wisconsin wide receiver Kendric Pryor catches a touchdown pass during Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. The badgers defeated the Hawkeyes 38-14.

Nick Rohlman

Nick Rohlman

Wisconsin wide receiver Kendric Pryor catches a touchdown pass during Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. The badgers defeated the Hawkeyes 38-14.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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The last time Iowa and Wisconsin squared off in football, it didn’t end well for the Hawkeyes by any means.

For the first half, both teams played their typical slugfest ball. At halftime, Wisconsin led, 17-7, but Josh Jackson intercepted his second pass of the game and returned it for a touchdown, which cut Iowa’s deficit to 3 points.

From there, things went downhill — Iowa didn’t score again,and Wisconsin scored three more times and romped to a 38-14 victory.

“Last year’s [game] is last year’s, we’re not even playing an opponent this week — that’s our mindset,” tight end T.J. Hockenson said. “We’re playing ourselves, and we have to be at a championship level.” 

RELATED: Point-Counterpoint: Who is Iowa football’s MVP through the nonconference schedule? 

But as the Hawkeyes seem to have flushed the 24-point loss from memory (or at least the front of their memories), Iowa struggled mightily to create any sort of momentum in that game last season, and the players, and coaches, can’t forget that.

Wisconsin preyed on Iowa’s offense by loading the box with defenders. Iowa could not get anything going on the ground game, and its passing effort didn’t help things, either.

The Hawkeyes managed to gain 25 yards on 26 carries — that’s 0.96 yards per attempt.

Meanwhile, Stanley went 8-of-24 passing, tossed an interception, and was sacked four times. He finished with a passer rating of 39.4 — a product of not being able to get into any rhythm or comfort zone.

Now, with a full season and four games under his belt, Stanley said his comfort level has grown, especially since the Wisconsin debacle.

“I think you always continue to be more comfortable and confident with not only the game plan but the way that you prepare,” Stanley said. “It evolves every week … I think I have a better plan in place every single week, especially from last year at the end of the year to Week 1 this year.”

For a Hawkeye victory, that comfort level can’t be on Stanley alone. The whole team, especially the offensive line, needs to feel prepared, because Wisconsin will likely throw similar blitzes and rush attacks its way.

The Badgers run a 3-4 defense, one that allowed only 1.32 yards per play against the Hawkeyes, but Hockenson said he and his teammates aren’t backing down from the challenge, because it’s not too far off from most defenses they face.

“They play a different scheme, so you’re not blocking a D-end, you’re blocking a linebacker,” he said. “It’s a little different, but at the same time, it’s the same fundamentals.”

As much as the Hawkeyes prepared for the Badger defense last season, it didn’t show. Iowa’s offense punted on six-straight drives in the first half. All but one of those drives were three-and-outs (the other? A five-play, 13-yard flop).

Against Northern Iowa on Sept. 15, the Hawkeyes flashed the ability to string together and sustain scoring drives, building confidence heading into a matchup in which last season, that proposition was out of the question.

That sort of fast start, specifically in the passing game, was big against the Panthers, and it’s even more crucial against the Badgers.

“Kind of get a rhythm going for us, get some things started,” wide receiver Nick Easley said. “I knew we had that in us, and we all do — we all know we’re fully capable. We just had to go out there and do it, and we were able to get that started.”

RELATED: Iowa football notebook: defensive line, injury update, and preparing for the 3-4  

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