Four in a Row?

Sept. 20, 2003

The Iowa Hawkeyes look to extend their winning streak to four games, which has not been done by an Iowa team since 1997, when they face Arizona State at 5:05p.m. inside Kinnick Stadium tonight.

No. 14 Iowa will face its first nationally-ranked team in the 16th-ranked Sun Devils, while playing its first night game of the season. The fixture comes on the heels of the Hawkeyes’ 40-21 victory over intrastate rival Iowa State, which broke a five-year drought against the Cyclones.

While last week’s win was a significant development for Iowa in terms of rivalries, it also demonstrated to Ferentz that his team is improving.

“That’s our No 1 objective,” said Ferentz. “We’re looking at a great, challenging football team ahead of us now in playing Arizona State. All the accolades they’ve garnered have been merited.”

“We’re looking at a great, challenging football team ahead of us now in playing Arizona State. All the accolades they’ve garnered have been merited.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz

The Sun Devils finished third in the Pac 10 last season with an 8-6 record, losing to Kansas State 34-27 in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl.

This season, ASU has tallied wins against Northern Arizona and Utah State, while quarterback Andrew Walter has gone 35-for-61 with one interception for 501 total yards.

Walter, whose name is in early consideration for the Heisman Trophy, leads the Sun Devils’ offensive attack. He ranks 20th in the nation and fourth in the Pac 10 in passing efficiency at 155.50. And last season, Walter broke ASU’s single-season offensive performance with 3,661 yards.

“(Walter) is just an outstanding performer and really emerged last year,” said Ferentz. “He’s more of a thrower. I’m not saying he’s like (Miami of Ohio quarterback Ben) Roesthlisberger, but he’s closer to him than to a Brad Banks for sure. He’s extremely accurate, very decisive and very quick to let the ball go. It’s going to be tough to get to him or to pressure him.”

Indeed, it’s going to be the largest test yet of the Iowa defense, which has been one of Ferentz’s team foundations.

So far this season, the Hawkeyes have six interceptions for 55 yards. Both Grant Steen and Jovon Johnson have snagged two for 20 yard returns. And Matt Roth leads the team in sacks with three for 22 yards.

Overall, the defense has held three opponents to 979 total yards of offense, but 627 yards have been on pass plays. Opposing quarterbacks have connected 60 times in 106 plays, averaging 10.4 yards per catch.

With ASU’s strength lying in the passing game, the state of Iowa’s defense could be questionable. However, Ferentz has seen some signs the defense is ready.

“Our hopes coming into this season was that our defense had been good, but it hadn’t been great, and I think our guys are striving to do that,” said Ferentz. “We have a lot of challenges ahead of us. One big one (today). But our guys have a lot of pride, and I think they’re trying to step it up. So far, so good.”

When Iowa has the ball, its 14th-ranked rushing offense will face ASU’s 11th-ranked rushing defense.

Through just two games so far, ASU’s opponents have been held to 122 rushing yards. From the 237 yards gained, 115 have been taken away.

On the other hand, of Iowa’s 1,046 total yards of offense, 695 yards have been on rushing, and the Hawkeyes have only lost 40 yards in 122 attempts.

Coach Ferentz wasn’t kidding when he said the Hawkeyes’ face a “real, real challenge” today.

The last time the two teams met, the Sun Devils’ defense picked apart Iowa’s offense, holding the Hawkeyes to just 209 total yards, in their 17-7 Sun Bowl victory in 1997.

Whether or not a similar situation will be repeated later today is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for certain no matter what the outcome.

“We’ll learn more about ourselves on Saturday,” said Ferentz.

By Barry Pump,