Sept. 24, 2004
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After being held to 27 carries for 56 yards last week against Arizona State, there’s no question Iowa needs to improve its running game. Whether the Hawkeyes can do that against the third-best rushing defense in the league is a major question going into Saturday’s contest in Ann Arbor.
“It would certainly help,” Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’re a better football team–anyone is–if you can run the ball with some success. And that’s something we have not been able to do really consistently at any point in the season.”
Running back Jermelle Lewis rushed 30 times for 102 yards against Iowa State but had 10 carries for 14 yards against the Sun Devils a week later–underlining the week-by-week nature of the primary part of the Iowa offensive attack.
Ferentz’s diagnosis says the problems are “tied into a lot of things.”
“We’re not going to change an awful lot,” he said. “What we need to do is try to do what we’re doing a lot better and just keeping working at it, and hopefully, we’ll see some progress here shortly.”
One thing to look at on Saturday is the offensive line. While Ferentz admits Lewis’ own performance looked sub par from the sideline last week, he says the game tape revealed sparse routes for the senior back.
“If you look at the tape, you could see what he was seeing,” Ferentz said. “We haven’t given him a lot of clean holes or clean openings where he had a chance to really hit it up in there. That’s what we need to do. We have to get that cleaned up so he can put his foot down and be ready to go.”
Quarterback Drew Tate, who had Lewis’ perspective on the game, says ASU’s defense threw off any chance at a running game.
“I think it’s hard when you have that many guys in the box to run the ball,” he said. “They had seven guys in the box and their safeties were 10 yards deep on the snap. I don’t care who the back is or who the linemen are, that’s going to be tough.”
But the QB, who led his high school team with more than 12,000 career passing yards, does agree with the coach about the importance of a running game.
“We really haven’t distinguished ourselves in any area right now, but certainly if you have a solid, established line, it’s a great benefit. That and a quarterback give you a chance to get started. And I think it’s well documented that we’re playing a young quarterback and a young line, which has been musical chairs at best. We’re going to continue to work on that, and we’ll settle in somewhere here.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
“You have to run to win,” Tate said. “I’m sure you can’t be last in rushing and last in passing and win games. There’s something wrong. There are a lot of games left, and we’re in the Big Ten now and the season starts over. We just have to start over and just work.”
And whether Iowa can improve in the fourth week, Tate said: “It depends on what kind of looks Michigan gives us.”
Right tackle Pete McMahon, who’d watched plenty of game tape on Michigan even early in the week, said his offensive line is equal to the task.
“I think we’ll be able to block the guys,” McMahon said. “They’re a good defense. They always are–they’re fast, they’re big. I think if we play the football we’re capable of playing, we’ll be able to block them.”
Against ASU, McMahon blamed concentration errors and a snowball effect.
“One mistake kind of led to another, and we repeated mistakes,” he said. “You can’t have that.”
“We really haven’t distinguished ourselves in any area right now,” Ferentz said of his offense, “but certainly if you have a solid, established line, it’s a great benefit. That and a quarterback give you a chance to get started. And I think it’s well documented that we’re playing a young quarterback and a young line, which has been musical chairs at best.
“We’re going to continue to work on that, and we’ll settle in somewhere here.”
Iowa’s offensive line has been picked apart by injuries, starting last year with the loss of David Walker and center Brian Ferentz. It didn’t improve after Iowa State when Todd Plagman sprained an ankle.
“It’s no different than it was in 2000 or 2001,” Ferentz said. “It’s the same situation, where we’re trying. All we have to do it work on what we can do and try to move it along.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com