Oct. 31, 2003
The Iowa Hawkeyes look to put together back-to-back wins in Big Ten Conference play for the first time in 2003 Saturday when Coach Kirk Ferentz’s squad entertains Illinois inside historic Kinnick Stadium. Kickoff is set for shortly after 11 a.m. The game is a sellout and it will be televised live by ESPN Plus.
A victory Saturday against the Illini will also mark two firsts for Iowa’s head coach. Ferentz has yet to beat Illinois since being named Iowa’s head coach five seasons ago. A win will also push Ferentz’s all-time record at the UI to one game over .500 — another first.
“We are well aware Illinois got off to a tough start last year and then roared back for a strong finish. We will need to be focused and prepared for this Big Ten battle.”
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz
Nothing would be more important, however, than win No. 7 in 2003. It would mean a move up the post-season bowl game ladder both within the Big Ten and nationally. A win will also undoubtedly push Iowa up in the national polls and the next Bowl Championship Series standings heading into next week’s game at Purdue, another of the Big Ten’s six nationally ranked teams who still has its eyes squarely set on a Big Ten title.
Here’s what Kirk had to say about the Illini as he took the Hawkeyes into final preparations for home game No. 6 in 2003.
“It was great to get back in the win column last week against Penn State. We are excited to be playing again at home against a Big Ten rival in Illinois. The Illini started out with some very tough losses prior to conference play and then experienced many injuries that have affected their football team. We are well aware Illinois got off to a tough start last year and then roared back for a strong finish. We will need to be focused and prepared for this Big Ten battle.
“On offense, they have thrown the ball very well over the past few years and have a very strong run game. They are led by senior quarterback Dustin Ward. He has plenty of experience and can throw the ball effectively. On defense, the Illini have a good group of linebackers and safeties, which is the core of this unit. Their special teams play extremely hard and play with pride.
“As we look at this ball game, we hope this is an opportunity to continue to improve as a team. The formula is the same for us: Play well on defense, protect the football, and continue to improve our play on special teams.
“And, of course, we look forward to playing in front of another sellout crowd in Kinnick.”