Oct. 14, 2003
The ninth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes look to field a far more competitive team Saturday, when they face No. 8 Ohio State in a match-up between the two defending Big Ten Conference co-champions.
Iowa has used its bye week to aid in the recovery of several players plagued by injuries over the last few weeks, according to coach Kirk Ferentz in his weekly press conference Tuesday.
“That gave us a chance to rest both mentally and physically,” he said. “We needed rest. I know we were a little spent coming out of [the Michigan game]. We were nicked up. I think it gave us a chance to get our feet back up underneath us. We need every ounce we’ve got this weekend, so I guess the timing was good that way.”
According to Ferentz, wide receiver Ed Hinkel seems poised to play Saturday as well as cornerback Jovon Johnson.
Running back Jermelle Lewis is also making significant improvement, and he may see action for the first time this season. Lewis has been recovering from ACL surgery since the spring.
Despite the positive news, the coach confirmed that wide receiver Maurice Brown would not make an appearance against the Buckeyes. However, Brown could be ready by Penn State, Oct. 25.
“He won’t be ready,” Ferentz said. “Rehab is going very well. He’s coming off a significant injury. I think it’s fair to say he won’t play this week, but we haven’t ruled out the week after. Hopefully by the end of the week, we’ll know more.”
“I think it gave us a chance to get our feet back up underneath us. We need every ounce we’ve got this weekend, so I guess the timing was good that way.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz on the bye week
The bye week has also enabled the coaches and players to begin strategizing against a team they haven’t played in two years.
“It gave us a chance to get a jump-start there – certainly more than the average Saturday and Sunday deal,” said Ferentz, who is 0-2 against Ohio State.
The contest will feature two remarkably even-matched teams.
On special teams, Iowa kicker Nate Kaeding, the 2003 Lou Groza Award winner, has gone 8-of-8 in field goals and 19-of-19 in PATs compared to the Buckeyes’ Mike Nugent, who has gone 8-of-9 in field goals and 16-of-16 in extra points.
Both teams also have two of the best defenses in the country.
The Buckeyes lead the national rankings in top rushing defenses, while the Hawkeyes rank 11th. And with 21 sacks, Ohio State ranks second in the Big Ten, and Iowa ranks fourth in quarterback sacks with 17. The Hawkeyes have a better scoring defense with a 13.3 average compared to the 16th-ranked Buckeyes at 15.7.
For Ferentz, however, there is only one statistic that matters.
“The only stat that counts is that they ended their season 14-0,” he said. “They play ball-control offense, great defense and great special teams. They’re smart with the football. They don’t lose games. They make you beat them and that’s what Wisconsin did to them. To me, the bottom line is production.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com