Iowa-Ball State: Hawkeyes Look to Get Back on Track Against Cardinals

Kyle BrandtContributor ISeptember 22, 2010

IOWA CITY, IOWA - NOVEMBER 8: The Iowa Hawkeyes take the field as they take on the Penn State Nittany Lions at Kinnick Stadium on November 8, 2008 in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa defeated Penn State  24-23. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
David Purdy/Getty Images

After an upset loss against Arizona late last Saturday night, the Iowa Hawkeyes look to turn their season around against Ball State on Saturday afternoon at Kinnick for their annual Throwback Game.

The Hawkeyes and Cardinals have met one other time, in 2005, and Iowa had the upper hand, blowing out the Cardinals 56-0.

Although last week's devastating loss is one that the Hawkeyes would like to forget, there are still lingering reminders of the upset.

Iowa has plummeted to No. 18 in both the AP and USA Today polls and seemingly out of national championship contention unless the unforeseeable happens.

The injury news isn't all that pleasant either. Running back Jewel Hampton and linebacker Bruce Davis are out for the season with knee injuries, and backup running back Paki O'Meara will sit on the bench Saturday—leaving Adam Robinson to man the backfield by himself.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is very confident in Robinson's performance this season and doesn't see a problem with one running back getting all the snaps. Robinson has carried the ball 48 times for 270 yards and four touchdowns and has caught three passes for 62 yards so far this season.

Through all the issues during Saturday night's game against Arizona, there was a silver lining in Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi, who appears to have matured in the offseason and is making much better decisions. The stats prove it—Stanzi has completed 47 of 74 passes for 711 yards and six touchdowns in 2010. Only one interception is credited to Stanzi, which was the tipped pass against Arizona.

Expect Stanzi to find his favorite targets during Saturday's game and shake off that last bit of rust before Big Ten play starts.

Stanzi has an excellent selection of targets for Saturday. For the last three seasons, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos has been Iowa's go-to guy through the air, and he is off to another hot start this season with 13 receptions for 183 yards and one touchdown. His fellow wide receiver Marvin McNutt is having equally an impressive year with seven receptions for 159 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 22.7 yards per catch.

McNutt and Johnson-Koulianos came up big against Arizona, and one can expect to see the same results against Ball State.

On the other side of the ball, the Hawkeyes defense looks to get back on track after bending and breaking at crucial times against Arizona. Linebacker Jeremiha Hunter, who recovered a fumble last Saturday that led to a touchdown, ranks second in tackles through three games—having four solo stops and 15 assists—and looks to continue to his run-stopping defense.

Through the air, Ball State will have to go through defensive back Tyler Sash, who has 11 career interceptions and 165 career tackles.

With this being the final game before Big Ten play starts next week against Penn State, look for Iowa to address its major issues and make final adjustments to prepare for a conference title run. Iowa is a 27-point favorite over Ball State; expect quarterback Ricky Stanzi to continue to build on last week's air game.

Saturday's game will be televised before a national audience on the Big Ten Network and broadcast on the Hawkeye Radio Network as well as Sirius channel 154 and XM channel 198 at 11 am CT.