Sept. 26, 2003
The nationally ranked Iowa Hawkeyes open defense of the Big Ten Conference championship they claimed a year ago Saturday when Coach Kirk Ferentz’s squad travels to East Lansing, MI, for an 11 a.m. (Iowa time) date with the Spartans of Michigan State. MSU is 3-1 — a mark that includes last week’s spirited victory over Notre Dame — and is progressing nicely under new head coach John L. Smith.
Here’s what Ferentz had to say about his team and their opponent on the final day of preparation for the start of the 2003 Big Ten season:
“Needless to say, we have been pleased with our effort and performance so far this season. Entering Big Ten play takes on special meaning for our program and all of the league’s teams. It is exciting for us and a great challenge to travel to East Lansing and square off against a much-improved Michigan State football team. Obviously, Coach Smith and his staff has had a great impact, marked by a 3-1 start and an impressive victory at Notre Dame last week.
“Defensively, Smoker is a veteran quarterback who is playing with great confidence. He has made a smooth transition to Coach Smith’s offense and it’s an offense that plays to his strengths.
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
“On offense, we are still a little shorthanded, but our guys have risen to the occasion. Michigan State has a very talented front seven on defense and the Spartan secondary appears to be as good as we’ve seen this season.
“Defensively, Smoker is a veteran quarterback who is playing with great confidence. He has made a smooth transition to Coach Smith’s offense and it’s an offense that plays to his strengths. Along with great play from its offensive line, MSU has benefitted from an outstanding job by their top running back. He reminds us of Fred Russell. They also have a nice set of receivers. Shabaj reminds us of Tim Dwight, who was a pretty sharp player for the Hawks.
“This will be a great challenge for us. Our goal is to earn our first victory in the Big Ten. However, it won’t be easy because we’re on the road and playing a very fine football team.”