IOWA CITY - When Northwestern rallied to knock Iowa out of the chase for the Big Ten football championship a year ago, it sent the Hawkeyes on a trek down skid row.
Losses to Ohio State and Minnesota followed and a conference season which opened with three wins in four games against rated opponents ended with a 4-4 reality check.
The sting of those losses hasn't faded.
"We all remember how bad we felt at the end of the regular season last year. We had the bowl game left, but at the end of Big Ten season, everything sort of fell apart," senior offensive linemen Markus Zusevics said. "We're determined not to go down that road again. We're going to finish this season as strong as we can."
As they work toward Saturday's 11 a.m. game at Purdue, the Hawkeyes find themselves at a familiar intersection.
Michigan State all-but-ended Iowa's division title hopes last weekend, grabbing a 31-7 lead by halftime and handing the Hawkeyes a humbling 37-21 defeat.
Road tests at Purdue and Nebraska are all that remain for the Hawkeyes, winless in three road games this season and in need of at least one victory in their final two games to avoid finishing below .500 in Big Ten play for the just the second time in the last 11 years.
"There won't be a letdown this year," Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater said. "This is a new year, a new team. The finish to this season is in our hands."
Prater said last year's experience is also still on the Hawkeyes' minds.
He said the way Iowa stumbled across the finish line of the 2010 regular season was "tough to take," adding that it provided a lesson that the Hawkeyes don't want to repeat.
"We talk all the time about the 24-hour rule. Win or lose, you live with Saturday's outcome for 24 hours and then you push forward," Prater said. "I always try to live by that. By the end of the day Sunday, it's time to push forward."
Prater said that didn't happen a year ago as one loss led to two and then to three as the season ended.
"We didn't bounce back the way we should have, the way we are capable of, and bouncing back is something we're talking about this week," Prater said.
Iowa has rebounded with a win following each of its first three losses this season.
"Doing it again is what we're talking about this week," Prater said.
Coach Kirk Ferentz views resiliency as a strength of this year's team.
"I'm sure our guys look at the standings, know what the situation is," Ferentz said. "There's still a lot to play for and any time - and this goes back to (his first season at Iowa in 1999) - the minute we are out of the race we are trying to build for the next one."
The objective is to prepare physically and mentally to overcome obstacles in the future that impeded progress in the past.
"Our deal has always been just to try to work hard every day and when you do that, you're putting something in the bank account," Ferentz said. "Sooner or later, you're going to save enough hopefully to get what you want to get."
What Iowa seniors want now is the chance to finish the regular season stronger than the Hawkeyes did a year ago.
"We're going to go as hard as we can and see where that takes us," wide receiver Marvin McNutt said. "We didn't play the way we are capable of last weekend, so we're glad to have a chance to get back after it. We'll continue to fight, continue to keep our heads up. That's about all we can do."