Next Ohio State

Oct. 13, 2004

After a relatively quiet bye week, Head Coach Kirk Ferentz and his Hawkeye squad have turned their sights on Ohio State, the only team that Ferentz hasn’t defeated in his six-year tenure at Iowa.

“All in all, I think the bye week went pretty well,” Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly meeting with the press. “We worked on some things and made some improvements. Hopefully, we improved as a football team.”

The Hawkeyes will need all the help they can get going up against a “dangerous” Buckeye team that has dropped the first two games of the Big Ten Conference season. If OSU (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today; No. 25 AP) loses on Saturday, it will be the first 0-3 league start for the team since 1988.

That history, though, doesn’t really have an affect on Ferentz. For the coach, any OSU team is dangerous.

“I think anytime you’re playing Ohio State you’re playing an excellent football team,” he said. “I think they’re looking for some answers right now. They’re not as experienced as they were last year, but they have a good team.”

Ferentz said that the Hawkeyes and the Buckeyes are both looking for answers, especially in the running game. Iowa has lost three running backs this year to injuries alone, as well as Fred Russell to graduation.

“We’ve had an inordinate number (of injuries),” Ferentz said. “There are a lot of things you can’t worry about. We had a nice run in 2002. It’s been the opposite this year, but in the long run it evens out. It doesn’t do us much good to sit around and worry about it. We have to work on finding solutions and moving forward.”

One of those solutions is true freshman Damian Sims, who will see playing time against OSU on Saturday, Ferentz revealed Tuesday.

“I don’t think we can afford (not to play him),” the coach said. “We’re playing every game to win, obviously. To go into a game without at least three running backs, especially here, would be a silly thing to do. We’re going to plan on playing him. He’s in the program.”

Ferentz also said Tuesday that OSU’s first two losses of the season, against Northwestern and Wisconsin, were really not that helpful in determining Iowa’s strategy.

“They both have two totally different styles of play and attack,” Ferentz said of Northwestern and Wisconsin. “I think the thing that you learn is that you have to go out and play aggressively. You have to play to win the football game regardless of your style.”

Recalling last year’s lost in Columbus, Ferentz did say that once Iowa has a confirmed game plan, it better execute it perfectly.

“We’re playing every game to win, obviously. To go into a game without at least three running backs, especially here, would be a silly thing to do. We’re going to plan on playing him. He’s in the program.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz on Damian Sims

“The bottom line is that you have to go out well-prepared and no matter what you choose to do, you better execute or you’ll get yourself in trouble,” he said. “If you get into trouble, you can bet they’re going to capitalize on it. Ohio State does as good a job as any in the country as far as making your mistakes hurt.

“We learned that lesson last year. We made a couple of mistakes and boy did they cost us dearly. It cost us an opportunity to win it.”

Jonathan Babineaux and Matt Roth will lead the defense, and Ed Hinkel will lead the offense. For the first time this year, punter David Bradley will be a captain and lead the special teams.

A bye week meant no new injuries for the injury-prone team, but several Hawks were able to have surgery and start recovering.

Mike Follett had back surgery on Monday and was released from hospital on Tuesday. Follett and Jonathan Zanders, who’s out with a fractured clavicle, are not likely to return for the season.

Remaining in the doubtful category for the Ohio State matchup are Calvin Davis, Sean Considine and Mike Humpal. Considine and Ferentz had both hoped that his foot injury would be resolved by now, having the safety miss only the Michigan State game.

Matt Melloy has had two good weeks, according to Ferentz, and that means the wide receiver will see more playing time against the Buckeyes.

Saturday’s 2:35 p.m. start time is the first afternoon game at Kinnick this season, but the parking lots for tailgaters will open at 7 a.m. like always. Keeping the lots open longer should reduce traffic problems, according the university officials.

The Hawkeye Express train ride to the game will have its first whistle at noon.

Musco portable lighting will be used for the first time this season at Kinnick. It will be the fifth time that Iowa has played under the lights in the 75 years of Kinnick Stadium.

Barry Pump,