October 16. 2008 10:39PM
Grunt work: First one to discover fire wins
By Marc Morehouse
Bret Bielema Wisconsin coach
IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz didn’t go cave man “ugh” but it might’ve been the next stop.
The topic was Iowa’s offensive philosophy and how it fits Iowa’s recruiting areas. The theory being floated was that Ferentz favors power football because he’s more likely to find big, bulky lineman types like Seth Olsen, Bryan Bulaga and Matt Kroul than to find spread quarterback wizards like Indiana’s Kellen Lewis.
But no, that’s not it at all.
Indiana found Lewis in his native Jacksonville, Fla. Iowa gladly would’ve taken him, Ferentz said. But where Lewis is a spread quarterback wizard at Indiana, he would’ve been something very different at Iowa.
He would’ve been plugged into Iowa’s pro-set power-I offense. He wouldn’t have been a fullback, but he might not have been a quarterback.
“We would take him. We would play in our Neanderthal offense with him,” Ferentz said. “We’ll play with anybody, if they’re good players, we’ll play with anybody. But they still have to play for a Neanderthal, a Cro-Magnon. Bamm-Bamm, Pebbles, all that stuff.”
Saturday morning at Kinnick Stadium, it’s going to be Bamm-Bamm and Pebbles against the Geico Caveman.
Iowa (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) will line up its big, bulky linemen types against Wisconsin’s big, bulky linemen types.
The game will pit two of the Big Ten’s last “traditional” style offenses, ones with fullbacks and a quarterback who occasionally lines up under center and drops back. Iowa-Wisconsin promises to be a black-and-white TV battle of yore that puts a premium on the line of scrimmage.
“It’s what works for you and it’s what you believe in,” Ferentz said. “It’s always been that way in football, what you believe in and what works for you.”
As it turns out, UW Coach Bret Bielema is just as much “Bamm-Bamm and Pebbles” as Ferentz. He does, however, acknowledge that the philosophy is based in who and where the Badgers recruit.
“We feel we can recruit the type of players that we need in our system, especially from the offensive point of view, because of the identity we have here at Wisconsin,” Bielema said. “The way the game has evolved, we’ve become a little bit more of an untraditional type of offense because there aren’t very many teams doing what we do.”
Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State and, when Terrelle Pryor isn’t in at quarterback, Ohio State are the last Big Ten offenses that don’t make extensive use of the spread.
That makes Saturday’s game plan simple: Block, tackle, win. Bamm-Bamms on both sides look forward to it.
“We’re similar ballclubs,” Iowa guard Seth Olsen said. “We pride ourselves on playing physical and winning the line of scrimmage. We have similar offenses where we like to pound the ball in the run game and throw occasionally, when necessary.
“I think it’s a big game up front. It’s big every game, but it’s definitely the key this week.”
Meanwhile, three hours north of Iowa City, Wisconsin guard Andy Kemp echoed those thoughts.
“We’re both the same team,” Kemp said. “It’s all about playing in the trenches and playing physical. Both coaches and both teams harp on that during practices. I see some similarities on both sides. This is one game the O-lines and D-lines live for.”
Both teams will look to launch jumbo running backs.
Iowa’s Shonn Greene (235 pounds) is second in the Big Ten with 133.9 yards a game. Wisconsin’s P.J. Hill (236 pounds) is fifth in the conference with 95.0 yards a game. Wisconsin also has John Clay, a 6-foot-2, 237-pound change of pace.
Last season at Camp Randall Stadium, the Badgers wore down Iowa and came from behind with two fourth-quarter scores. Wisconsin’s offensive line will again have a massive size advantage, going, on average, 6-6, 324 pounds to Iowa’s defensive line at 6-3, 272 pounds.
“They pride themselves on coming across the ball and being big,” Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn said. “I think this, more than ever so far this year, is a battle of the line of scrimmage. I think it’ll be pretty violent.”
And in a game between Bamm-Bamms and Geico Cavemen, this might be as close as it gets to bulletin board material.
“Iowa does run some versions of the spread, more than we do,” Bielema said, “just from the quarterback and the run game that he may or may not be able to execute.”
You heard it. Bielema just said Iowa runs a little bit of spread offense. You heard it.
Them’s fighting words among the Neanderthals.
n Contact the writer: (319) 398-8256 or email@example.com
(Jonathan D. Woods/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes Shonn Greene rolls over a pile of players for a touchdown against the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington, Ind.
Kirk Ferentz Iowa coach