MadTown Badgers: Nine-Point Play(ers) for Week 10
You simply must watch this video.
U GUISE, TEH HEARTLAND TROPHY IZ ON TEH LYNE DIS WEAK. That’s because Wisconsin is playing Iowa in football for the first time since 2010, when ol’ Bert went all nimbly-bimbly and “whoopee, this is what happens when you’re aggressive” on us. You’ve probably already heard that this is a closely-contested rivalry, and you seem to recall faintly that the last time these two herds of wildebeests met out on the savannah, the nation was introduced to some third-string running back that couldn’t sniff the field against Ohio State at home a week earlier. 22 players from this game were drafted into the NFL, with five being first-rounders (!) which is ridiculous considering that, you know, it’s Wisconsin and Iowa.
This week’s Nine Point Players is going to focus on Iowa’s front seven on defense plus their best defensive back. The other three DB’s can just kinda chill during passes since Sunshine Ronny Bass won’t even look their way. Iowa’s defense has big boys that are basically clones of the beefeaters that Wisconsin has employed on defense until this year. They’re basically a lite version (but not really lolz) of Michigan State’s defense.
Iowa’s offense is basically Michigan State’s offense, too: decent between the 20’s, but once they cross that hallowed 20 yard line, they go full derp. The resulting anticip-erection is why the Hawkeyes are 5-2 despite having a statistically decent offense. Semi-related note: Michigan State’s offense has not been particularly scrumtrelescent recently, which led to two Redditors proclaiming that they would drink their own urine if MSU had a 99 yard touchdown drive this season. You can see where this is headed. WELP. (Safe for work, it’s just a link of them being called out.)
REFRESHER: Article Background/Basis
It’s impossible to score nine points on one play in football. A touchdown directly leads to an extra point (7) or two point conversion attempt (8), but there is no way for the offense to score three points on a post-touchdown conversion.
Let’s critique nine humans on the opposing team that will either try their hardest to, or be in the best position to score/prevent nine points on one play this week. No guarantee that these eight players and head coach will be an important/relevant factor in the game, but it’s hopefully going to give you some insight about players other than some #hotsportstake.
(1) Mike Hardy: Defensive End, Junior. Height: 6-5 Weight: 275
Hardy, #98, is a junior that made his first career start last week. He also happens to be one of two Wisconsinites on the Iowa roster. The right defensive end hails from Kimberly, which is two hours northeast of Madison and just under half an hour south of Green Bay. The other Wisconsin-based player is Peter Pekar, a freshman tight end from Greendale; I presume he is redshirting, since he hasn’t accrued any stats.
Last season, as a redshirt sophomore, Hardy played in 10 games and made six tackles. Hardy was the Wisconsin Football Coaches’ Association state Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, when he was also named first-team all-state. Kimberly was in the midst of a 40-2 blitzkrieg upon
Poland the rest of Wisconsin during Hardy’s tenure, including 14-0 seasons while he was a sophomore and junior. This week is important for Hardy, who had three tackles last week, to prove he is capable of playing at a high level. Look for Wisconsin to run at him early and often.
(2) Carl Davis: Defensive Tackle, Junior. Height: 6-5 Weight: 315
Davis, #71, is similar to Mike Hardy in that both redshirted the 2010 season and played sparingly the past two seasons. Davis recorded 14 total tackles last season while appearing in 11 games. This year, Davis has posted 22 total tackles, including one tackle for loss and one sack. Here again we see the wonderful leisure studies major, which had been absent from NPP for a few weeks. It’s good to see it come back into the fold. Jokes aside, Davis is double majoring in sports business and African American Studies.
In August, ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg named Davis the “next big thing,” presumably because it was mid-August and football reporters and fans alike will happily gorge themselves on anything and everything related to the upcoming season, only stopping once the timer says so, and then comparing their consumption of football articles to Joey Chestnut’s hot dog consumption. Hopefully there’s no puking involved for either party.
(3) Louis Trinca-Pasat: Defensive Tackle, Junior. Height: 6-3 Weight:290
Trinca-Pasat, # 90, is yet another part of the recurring theme that is the “Iowa way.” Get to campus over the summer after high school, redshirt your first year, grow strong like bull inside the grain silos, and be plugged into the Iowa grain combine as it rolls along with Coach Ferentz at the wheel. Somehow, Trinca-Pasat was honorable mention all-state as a junior, but didn’t get any mention as a senior. Coasting a bit, mayhaps? I’m sure that once he got to Iowa, he was forced to stare out the window as an assistant strength coach drove back and forth along I-90 as punishment if LTP ever needed an “attitude adjustment.”
The difference between Trinca-Pasat and Hardy/Davis is that LTP started at defensive tackle in 2012, his redshirt sophomore year (gasp! An underclassman infiltrated the ranks!) During the course of the 2012 season, LTP was an Academic All-Big Ten student and contributed 40 total tackles, including four tackles for loss, one blocked field goal, a fumble recovery and even broke up a pass. This year, LTP has 22 tackles, four of which are tackles for loss, and a token one-yard sack.
(4) Drew Ott: Defensive End, Sophomore. Height: 6-4 Weight: 265
Ott, #95, has a player profile picture that makes me squeal with delight. He is a lumberjack that has been forced to use his mighty axe to slay cornstalks, and the look on his face shows that he is resigned to his fate. He has turned that internalized anger into 36 combined tackles in the first eight games, with four tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble. In the rarest of moves, Ott did not redshirt his freshman season last year. Instead, after being a healthy scratch for the first seven games, Ott played in the final five games. He didn’t do much (only three combined tackles) but he got valuable experience as an eighteen year-old in the B1G.
Maybe there’s a good reason that Ott didn’t redshirt. This dude tackled everything in sight as a high school player; during his sophomore year alone, Ott had 211 tackles, which was a school record, to say the least. I wonder if his grandmother ever came over for dinner and left in a wheelchair after Ott just destroyed her as she made her way through the kitchen for the last slice of cake.
(5) Christian Kirksey: Outside Linebacker, Senior. Height: 6-3 Weight: 235
Kirksey, #20, currently ranks third on the Hawkeyes with 61 total tackles while also making an interception, forcing a fumble and recovering a fumble. Last year, Kirksey tied for first in the B1G and second in the nation with four recovered fumbles while also being one of eight players nationally to return two interceptions for touchdowns. As I will discuss further below, Iowa’s defense is set up to allow its linebackers to make all of the plays. As for the other defenders, well…
As a sophomore, Kirksey ranked seventh in the B1G with 8.5 tackles per game (110 overall.) Last year, those numbers “dipped” to 7.9 tackles per game and 95 tackles overall. He has started every game since the beginning of his sophomore season, and he assisted in one tackle as a true freshman against Wisconsin in 2010. As a prep, Kirksey bumbled his way to a measly 163 tackles during his senior year – I’m sure that Drew Ott reminds him at every turn that Ott had 58 more tackles that season.
(6) James Morris: Middle Linebacker, Senior. Height: 6-2 Weight: 240
Morris, #44, is the man that cleans up the mess for Iowa. Currently, he is second on the team with 64 combined tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, three interceptions, one fumble forced and one fumble recovered. He also drives the bus to the stadium and fetches coffee for coaches at 4:45 am upon their arrival at the office (not really, but still.) After having eight tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery against Northwestern last week, Morris was named the B1G Player of the Week and the national Lott Impact Player of the week.
The Hawkeyes traditionally develop their defense around the middle linebacker – ‘develop’ in this sense means that the defensive backs will play conservatively (deep) to entice the offense into running the ball, where the rest of the front seven will purposely occupy blockers to free up Morris to make the tackle. This Huddle Pass article that former Northwestern quarterback CJ Bacher wrote illustrates the Iowa defensive philosophy. Morris will be very active Saturday.
(7) Anothony Hitchens: Outside Linebacker, Senior. Height: 6-1 Weight: 235
Hitchens, #31, was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection last year after making at least 10 tackles in seven out of the 11 games he played. The senior ‘backer finished fifth in the nation at 11.2 tackles per game (124 overall) and garnered a Big Ten defensive player of the Week for his play (15 tackles) in a win at Michigan State. Overall, Hitchens is a heat-seeking missile that does not discriminate when choosing targets. All he does is ruin skill players’ days.
It seems that Hitchens has been highly productive and widely recognized as a talented player going back to his prep days, when he was named first team all-state as a junior and senior. He made his mark on defense late in high school after rushing for 3,864 yards and 52 touchdowns white catching 16 passes over the course of his high school career. It’s a good thing for Iowa that Hitchens has made his living on defense for the Hawkeyes – his 79 total tackles include 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and a forced fumble already this year. He’s versatile, and, as his high school days suggest, athletic enough to run with Wisconsin’s skill players.
(8) B.J. Lowery: Cornerback, Senior. Height: 5-11 Weight: 195
Lowery, #19, has the honor of being Iowa’s most experienced defensive back, which will also likely mean that he will pull the lost puppy routine and follow Jared Abbrederis wherever he goes on Saturday. Last year, Lowery played in 10 games, with nine starts at cornerback. He recorded 50 total tackles, had one tackle for loss, one interception and three pass break-ups. This year, Lowery already has 40 total tackles, with three interceptions, nine pass breakups and 12 passes defended (both of which are very good numbers.)
While there are plenty of appearances for Lowery (this week will be his 34th in four years), it will only be his 18th start. Those other 15 previous appearances were split between his true freshman year (7 games) and sophomore year (8 games.) Lowery did not play against Wisconsin in 2010. As another leisure studies major, Lowery entered Iowa after making 128.5 tackles as a defensive back (ridiculous) along with four interceptions as a high school senior.
(9) Kirk Ferentz: Head Coach,
Billionth 15th Year. 2012 Record: 4-8 (2-6) Overall: 105-77
Ferentz, 58, is the dean of Big Ten Conference football coaches. He is tied for third in coaching longevity among BCS schools and tied for fifth among all Division I head coaches, in part because he makes $3.65 million/year and has a contract in place until 2020. Many fans are ready for the program to go in a new direction, despite Ferentz’s 6-4 record in bowl games and 11 bowl appearances in the past 12 years.
When he was just a whippersnapper, Ferentz was a football captain and an academic all-Yankee Conference linebacker at UConn. Now, he has five children, including two boys that played for him at Iowa (his son was the team’s starting center last year and was a Second-Team All-Big Ten selection, probably out of pity and partially because the coaching fraternity is a good ‘ol boys club.
Vegas Line: Opened at Wisconsin -7.5; currently Wisconsin -9.5
Paul’s Pompous Prediction: Wisconsin 24, Iowa 13. This will be a close game because both teams have phenomenal red zone defenses and offenses that move the ball well between the 20's. Wisconsin's offense is more complete, though. The Badgers will score a late touchdown to put the game away after several testy moments. Iowa's red zone ineptitude will be its undoing.