Don't Wake the Sleeping Lion

Oct. 24, 2003

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Fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes who make it a habit to get up early on the Friday morning prior to a home game of Coach Kirk Ferentz’s nationally ranked University of Iowa football team and trek their way to the Dowtown Sheraton for the Johnson County I-Club breakfast event do so for many reasons.

One reason, undoubtedly, is the opportunity to hear it straight from the coach a day before the game. The message Ferentz delivered on this particular Friday morning was clear even to those who had not yet poured the cream into their morning coffee: Don’t be fooled by this sleeping Lion.

ABC-TV returns to Kinnick for the third straight game when Iowa entertains Penn State Saturday at 11 a.m.

“Their record is very deceiving. They’re a lot like us a year ago when we gave up a lot of passing yards, but not a lot of points. They’ve given up a fair amount of yards on the ground, but they’ve only allowed 12 offensive touchdowns in seven games. That’s pretty darn good,” said Ferentz.

Iowa’s head coach said the 2003 Nittany Lions are very talented, but just a little inexperienced in the lines, primarily. “Like us, they graduated a lot of guys from a year ago who are now playing on Sundays,” said Ferentz.

Ferentz also chuckled at the on-going talk about legendary Penn State Coach Joe Paterno. “I caught a little of ESPN GameDay a few weeks back,” said Ferentz.

“Coach Corso was talking about what Coach Paterno needs to do. Now, don’t get me wrong because I love Coach Corso, but I don’t think anyone needs to tell Coach Paterno how to coach. Make no mistake, there will be a pretty good football team on the visiting sidelines tomorrow.”

Ferentz said it’s likely that he and Joe Pa are singing off the same pages in preparation for this game. “We both would do well to have strong special teams play and to hold on to the football. We’re not bad when we do those things well,” said Ferentz.

Ferentz said his offensive captains for Saturday’s game will be Robert Gallery and Edgar Cervantes. Bob Sanders and Jared Clauss will represent the defense. They’ll be backed up by honorary captain Aaron Kampman, who has a week off from his regular job with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.

Also, former UI linebacker Vernon Rollins was “in the house” and drew special praise from Ferentz.

“We had three young men have surgery this week and that, without doubt, is the hardest part of being a head coach. All three of those guys will be fine, much like Vernon,” Ferentz said of the former Hawkeye who had his career at the UI disrupted by a knee injury.

“Yes, selfishly, the Hawkeyes would have liked to have had Vernon and others who get injured, not be injured and advance on to the next level if they are capable. But, sometimes it doesn’t happen. But I’ve noticed that that type of setback often makes the person whose been injured a stronger individual and one more capable of seeing a much bigger picture, like Vernon has in recovering from his injury and moving on in his life.”

Ferentz also said he expects another electric crowd at Kinnick. “It’s been a fantastic environment all year and, particularly, the games with Michigan and Arizona State. I’d expect nothing different Saturday,” he said.

Kickoff at historic Kinnick Stadium is scheduled for shortly after 11 a.m. The game is sold out and will be televised live to a regional audience by ABC-TV. Brad Nessler, Bob Griese and Lynn Swann will call the action.