IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa is back in the Top 25 behind a rejuvenated offense and a resilient defense.
The 19th-ranked Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) hope to keep things rolling on Saturday in their only home game in a stretch of 42 days when they host Maryland (4-2, 2-1) for just the second time ever. The Hawkeyes are coming off back-to-back dominant road wins over Minnesota and Indiana — scoring 90 points with 10 touchdown passes in those outings — and are starting to look like the favorite in the Big Ten West.
The Iowa defense is ranked second in the Big Ten in points allowed per game (16.5) despite a number of injuries over the past few weeks.
“Hopefully that will help our players gain some confidence,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I think also one thing they saw, when we execute and really focus we have a chance to have a good football team.”
Maryland has played surprisingly well under interim coach Matt Canada. The run-first Terrapins handed Texas its only loss and has beaten three other opponents by at least 27 points. They have matched last year’s win total and are two victories away from becoming bowl eligible — after an offseason that included the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair and the indefinite leave for head coach DJ Durkin amid an investigation into the football staff.
“We are very proud of our players for the way they are doing it, and the way they’re playing hard,” Canada said. “It’s never going to be whatever we all want it to be, but it is going to be the best we can make it today. Do the best you can with what you’ve got and where you are.”
Both Maryland losses, to Temple and Michigan, were by 21 points.
OUR BALL, NOT THEIRS
The Terrapins lead the Big Ten and rank fifth in the country with a plus-1.5 turnover ratio. The Maryland offense has given the ball away only five times (two fumbles, three interceptions). The defense has recovered two fumbles and picked off 12 passes, the second-highest total in the country.
“Obviously on defense we talk about getting the football,” Canada said. “They’re trying to we’re trying to strip the football, we’re trying to be ball hogs when it’s in the air and go act like it’s our ball and not theirs.”
Iowa, typically thought of as a running team, is averaging its most passing yards since 2005. Quarterback Nate Stanley has thrown 14 touchdown passes in his last four games, and tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson have combined for 45 catches for 692 yards and nine TDs.
Defenses “don’t have the ability to double cover T.J. or Noah … it allows them some space out on the field to make plays,” Stanley said.
Maryland running back Ty Johnson ranks fourth on the school career chart in yards rushing and all-purpose yards. The senior ran for 132 yards against Rutgers to raise his career total to 2,564, and now has 4,081 all-purpose yards.
“My mom’s really the one that pays attention to stuff like that,” Johnson said. “That stuff doesn’t mean anything to me. Well, it means something.”
Not all of those yards came with Maryland’s offense. He ranks second in the Big Ten with 339 yards on kickoff returns.
CAVALRY IS COMING
Iowa running back Ivory Kelly-Martin and linebacker Nick Niemann could return after missing games with minor injuries. Kelly-Martin has 181 yards on 50 carries and Niemann has 22 tackles despite missing the past two games after hurting his leg late in a loss to Wisconsin.
RAMBLING WRECK OF…COLLEGE PARK?
Iowa beat triple-option Georgia Tech 24-14 in the 2010 Orange Bowl, arguably its biggest win in Ferentz’s 20 seasons in charge of the Hawkeyes. He knows the Terrapins will bring a powerful run game to Iowa City.
“It’s not like playing Georgia Tech exactly. But there (are) some parallels, primarily their strength is in running the football. When they throw it, they tend to be real big plays,” Ferentz said.
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AP Sports Writer Dave Ginsburg contributed to this report from College Park, Maryland.