Ferentz Likes Start for Hawkeyes

Sept. 19, 2006

IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz told the media assembled for his weekly visit Tuesday that he hopes things start to come together for the Fighting Illini of Illinois the day after his nationally ranked Iowa Hawkeyes leave Champaign, Ill.

Ferentz’s squad travels to Illinois this weekend for its 2006 Big Ten Conference opener. Game time is set for 11 a.m.

“With new faces in a new system, it’s just a matter of time before things start to click and fall together,” Ferentz said of the Illini. “Let’s just hope it comes together after we’re out of there.”

The Illini have a roster filled with a good number of returning starters and a fair amount of freshmen and junior college transfers. Ferentz also noted that the Illini gained almost 400 yards of offense last year in Kinnick Stadium.

“They have talent and lots of it. Their running back position is deep and talented. They’re just working through the process of installing new faces into a new system,” said Ferentz, who noted that, at this time of year, the Hawkeye coaching staff continues to look at “us” versus “them.”

“We’re still at that part of the season where we spend just as much time looking at ourselves as we do looking at the opponent. Make no mistake, we have plenty of things to clean up, work on, strengthen up…whatever the words are.”

Ferentz said he’s delighted his team is where it is record-wise. Iowa has notched a pair of home victories over Montana and last week against instrastate rival Iowa State. Sandwiched between was a gritty peformance at Syracuse.

“We’ve had to work hard each week. We’re growing. We’re learning about ourselves,” said Ferentz. “They certainly haven’t been walks in the park.

“I’m not displeased with anything we’re doing, but we have plenty of progress to make. So far, so good.”

Ferentz said he really enjoyed the environment last week at Kinnick for the annual battle with ISU for the Cy-Hawk Trophy and three points in the Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series.

“Outstanding. From the walk through the Krause Family Plaza pre-game until the final gun. It was tremendous,” he said.

Ferentz also said he is pleased with his running game despite a slow start statistically.

“I like what we have been doing up-front and I know we have good backs. Generally, I like what we’re doing and where we’re going. We’ll just plod along down that path,” he added.

Ferentz acknowledged the efforts of Dominique Douglas and Devan Moylan, who stepped up as “Next Men In” against the Cyclones.

“We’re going to need that, a guy stepping up when another goes down for whatever reason. I thought both Dominique and Devan did exactly that last week in helping us get the win over Iowa State,” Ferentz said.

“We got lucky with Dominique,” said Ferentz. “We saw something that others didn’t. I really like his blocking. Remember, though, he’s a young guy so he’ll likely have some of those `Young Guy Moments,’ too.”

-Illinois and Iowa had a common foe the last two weeks. The Hawkeyes defeated Syracuse (20-13, 2OT) on the road, while the Fighting Illini lost to the Orange (31-21) at home.

-Illinois has lost nine-straight conference games, dating back to 2004. The Fighting Illini’s last league win came against Indiana (26-22) on Nov. 6, 2004 in Champaign. Furthermore, Illinois is 1-23 in Big Ten play the last three years.

-Illinois played 16 true-freshmen in its first three games, a total that ranks second in the nation behind Temple’s 19.

Iowa opens its 2006 Big Ten Conference schedule Saturday at Illinois. Game time is set for shortly after 11 a.m.

-DT Mitch King ranks first in the Big Ten and second nationally in sacks per game (1.67) and first in the conference in tackles for loss (2.0) and 10th nationally. WR Andy Brodell ranks second in the league in punt returns (12.1) and 21st in the nation.

-Iowa ranks 20th nationally in scoring defense (12.33), 22nd in total defense (249.0) and 25th in punt returns (13.27).

-There are 12 players on the Iowa roster from the state of Illinois, while there are no Iowans on Illinois’ roster.

– Illinois is the last team to shut out the Hawkeyes. The Fighting Illini blanked Iowa 31-0 on Oct. 14, 2000 in Champaign. The Hawkeyes have not been shutout in 70 contests.

– QB Drew Tate completed his first career touchdown pass against Illinois as a true freshman in 2003. The native of Baytown, TX, connected on a 13-yard pass to WR Matt Melloy.

The National I-Club and the UI Alumni Association invite all fans to the “Hawkeye Huddle” from 9-11 a.m. prior to the Illinois game Saturday. The “Hawkeye Huddle” will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn, located at 1501 South Neil Street in Champaign. The free reception features refreshments, snacks, Hawk Shop door prizes, Herky, and the Iowa cheerleaders.