Team preview: Iowa

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(All information as of July 1, 2005)


One by one they fell, like ducks in a shooting gallery. Iowa's tailbacks were marked men last fall, and by season's end the Hawkeyes were using a walk-on as their fifth starting running back of the season. And yet, they persevered, and made history along the way.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz led the Hawkeyes to their second Big Ten title in three years, as their season-ending eight-game winning streak gave them their third straight season of 10 or more wins. Iowa's 31 wins and 20 Big Ten victories in that span marks the most successful three-year period in school history. The Hawkeyes have finished the last three seasons ranked No. 8 in the national polls, and last year, Ferentz won his second Big Ten Coach-of-the-Year Award in the same span. And NFL scouts have made Iowa City a regular stop on their annual fall tours, with 15 Hawkeyes being drafted in the last three years, the second-most in any three-year span in school history.

But all those injuries in the backfield did take a toll on the Hawkeye offense last year. They averaged just 72.6 rushing yards per game -- last in the Big Ten by a long shot. By way of comparison, Purdue was 10th in the conference with 125.3 rushing yards per game. Iowa also allowed more sacks than any team in the conference -- in part because of the increase in passing attempts per game -- and committed more penalties than any team in the conference. So for a conference champion, there are still some holes to fill.

The Hawkeyes made up for some of those problems with a dynamic passing game behind quarterback Drew Tate, who led the Hawkeyes to the second-best air attack in the Big Ten at 240.1 yards per game. The Hawkeyes also had a stout defense, ranked third in the Big Ten in passing yards allowed and No. 1 in red-zone defense and rush defense at 92.5 yards per game allowed on the ground.