IOWA CITY -- November football has a built-in rally cry, which is nice and tidy. Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis is all over it.
"He has a saying 'November is what they remember,'" offensive tackle Brett Van Sloten said Wednesday. "It's something along those lines."
The thing about "November to remember" is that it's the happy ending everyone in college football shoots for. Certainly, no one wants to "Dismembered in November."
This year's Iowa Hawkeyes (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) have put themselves in position for a memorable month, which is progress compared to 2012. Last week's victory at Purdue marked off bowl eligibility and snapped a six-game November losing streak that dated back to a victory at Purdue on Nov. 19, 2011.
The Hawkeyes go into this weekend's bye, its second this year, with an eye on the possibilities. It's a stark contrast to 2012. Last season, Iowa was bailing water, finishing with six straight defeats including all four in November. This year progress is on the line with Michigan and Nebraska on the horizon.
"In pro football, you better be good in December and in college football, if you're going to have a good team, you better be good in November," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Wednesday. "If you're going to have a good team, you certainly have to win in November."
Ferentz pronounced Iowa's health as "really good" on Wednesday. He said if the Hawkeyes had a game this week, one player might be doubtful, but that player "should be good to go on Sunday." And no, that player isn't senior defensive end Dominic Alvis, who's missed three games with a back injury. This is a different player and a different injury. Ferentz said Alvis is progressing and hopes to know more next week.
It's as simple as the 2013 Iowa edition has improved as the season has progressed. Last year's team withered. Case in point is the 22-yard TD pass quarterback Jake Rudock made to give Iowa a 14-7 halftime lead at Purdue. Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen played off Kevonte Martin-Manley and baited Rudock into the throw.
Allen jumped, but Rudock had enough steam on the pass to beat him.
"That's fair," Ferentz said at the statement that maybe it was a throw that Rudock doesn't make early this season. "It was a big-time throw. . . . We're encouraged by the way Jake is doing things."
Rudock said his health is good. He sat out much of the second half of the Wisconsin game on Nov. 2 with a sprained left knee. He played with a brace against Purdue.
"I don't know," Rudock said when asked if he hesitated on a few running opportunities at Purdue. "Sometimes, it's just kind of there, you see the hole and you go. Other times you might want to scramble around to find an open passing lane. I can't definitively say yes or no to that one."
Sophomore Jordan Canzeri provided a sign of life in the running game last week. He carried 20 times for 165 yards and a TD. It was Iowa's first 100-yard performance since Mark Weisman gained 147 against Minnesota on Sept. 28. It was Iowa's first 100-yard effort in a November game since Marcus Coker went for 139 against Purdue on Nov. 19, 2011.
"Was really pleased with his first extensive job carrying the football and not getting creamed like he did in the bowl game a couple of years ago [Canzeri started in the 2011 Insight Bowl, a 31-14 loss to Oklahoma]," Ferentz said.
Canzeri fumbled against the Boilermakers, his second fumble this season. That didn't send Canzeri to the bench, in fact he carried a play later. Ferentz is to the point where he feels there's more to gain than to lose with Canzeri, who took a redshirt last season while recovering from a torn ACL suffered in spring practice in March.
"It's a matter of ball security and that's the only issue that he had," Ferentz said. "That's more a byproduct of him not being tackled a lot over the past two years. I'm not concerned about that at all."