Sept. 4, 2007
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IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz will coach his 100th game for the Hawkeyes this Saturday against Syracuse and in his words, it’s been all his pleasure.
“I really wasn’t aware of it,” Ferentz said of the milestone. “If you had taken a poll probably about eight years ago, you could have got pretty good odds on that one. I’m just happy to be coaching anywhere right now. I’m really happy to be coaching here. And the fact that I’m here just means a lot of people have done a lot of good things over the last eight years, or else I wouldn’t be here.”
Ferentz and the Hawkeyes have compiled a record of 56-43 during the first 99 games and Iowa is looking to go 2-0 to start a season for the sixth time during Ferentz’s nine-year tenure. The Hawkeyes won four consecutive games to open the 2006 campaign.
Iowa is coming off a 16-3 season-opening victory against Northern Illinois on Sept. 1 in Soldier Field in Chicago. Syracuse dropped its first game, 42-12, to Washington at home. Kickoff for the Iowa-Syracuse game is 7:07 p.m. (CST). The Big Ten Network will televise the game to a cable audience. Announcers are Mark Neely, Glen Mason and Marshall Harris.
It’s a good bet that the Hawkeyes will not be comparing records or Week 1 scores after the scare Syracuse put into them a year ago at the Carrier Dome. Iowa used a defensive stand for the ages to preserve a 20-13 double-overtime victory in 2006. Syracuse had four attempts at tying the game from Iowa’s 1-yard line in the second extra session, but the Hawkeyes held on each attempt to earn the win.
“I’ve never seen anything or experienced anything like that and I doubt I ever will again,” Ferentz said. “I think most of us can say that. It was a totally unusual situation. You’ve got to give our defense an awful lot of credit. To hold up like that was phenomenal. The last couple plays, just outstanding.”
Saturday’s game marks the second-ever trip for Syracuse to historic Kinnick Stadium and its first since 1976 (a 41-3 Iowa victory). Orange quarterback Andrew Robinson was very productive in his first start last week, completing 20 of 32 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown. He completed passes to 10 different receivers. Syracuse will undoubtedly test the air again this Saturday. Not only did the Orange net just eight rushing yards on 29 attempts against Washington, but Iowa’s defense limited Northern Illinois to 21 yards on 21 carries.
“I think people are going to throw the ball against us, we know that,” Ferentz said. “That’s going to happen all year long. As long as we’re not giving up the big ones, we’ll survive. We’ll give up the short stuff. But if they start throwing over our heads, which Northern Illinois hit one on us, that’s not a good thing. The big plays are the things we want to try to be able to control.”
If the adage is correct that teams improve the most during the first and second weeks of the season, then the Hawkeyes must be doing something right. Iowa has been victorious in five of its last six outings during the second week of the season. Ferentz knows this is a big week, but he is also keeping his eyes on a bigger picture that includes the entire month of September.
“This is a big week for everybody in college football,” Ferentz said. “I think this is a big month. We really need to make a lot of strides the next few weeks if we’re going to have a chance to be a good football team.”
“I guess you should say takeaways, ball security, being able to run and being able to stop the run are pretty fundamental to winning. At least for the way we play. So that was a positive and if we can continue along those lines, it’ll be great.”
UI Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
Specifically, Ferentz said the team would strive for a reduction in penalties. The Hawkeyes were whistled for 10 miscues at Northern Illinois, with six of those coming on special teams.
On the injury front, Ferentz said that junior offensive lineman Dace Richardson “worked out on Sunday” and “should be working full speed this week.” The news wasn’t quite as encouraging for redshirt freshman receiver Paul Chaney Jr., who is still not available for the Syracuse game. It was with great regret that Ferentz informed the media that junior offensive lineman Alex Kanellis, who prepped at Iowa City West High School, has finished his career because of the reoccurrence of concussions.
“Obviously we’re sorry to see that happen,” Ferentz said. “It’s really the worst thing you deal with in football. You hate to see anybody get hurt and you certainly hate to see a player end his career prior to when it was anticipated. It’s a tough situation, one we feel badly about. I know Alex had high expectations and was doing a great job.”
Gone are the days when you could count on a college football game beginning at 1 p.m. Iowa’s first two games support that — the kickoff last week was 2:34 p.m., and it will be 7:07 p.m., this week. Iowa is 2-3 all-time in night games.
“(Night games) are OK,” Ferentz said. “They were great in high school. At least where I grew up, that’s what you did. They’re unusual now, but I think they’re going to become more a part of our life. So I think the more we play at night, the more use we get to it. (Games used to be at) 1 o’clock, and then 11 o’clock seemed unusual. Now it’s a little bit of everything.”
Historically, the start times have not deterred Hawkeye who, on Sept. 8, will help sell out Kinnick Stadium for the 25th consecutive time, dating back to 2003.
“I want to express my appreciation for our fans, first and foremost for turning out the way they did in Chicago,” Ferentz said. “It was a great environment for us to play in. Certainly I think the whole trip went well.”
Ferentz also feels for the black and gold faithful who can not make the Hawkeye games in person and will not have television access to the Syracuse game.
“I empathize with our fans and I think all of us want every game, be it football, basketball, any sport, to be accessible to our fans,” Ferentz said. “If they can’t make it here to see a game live, then we want them to be able to see it on TV.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Jim Delany. I think he’s a pretty sharp guy. I can’t imagine we’d be going down this road if he didn’t have good reason to think it was going to be successful. But we’re going to go through some bumps, I know that, and hope they’re not too many.”
On paper from a coaching philosophy standpoint, Iowa had an impressive opener against Northern Illinois. The Hawkeyes were plus-three in turnover margin (and Iowa did not have a turnover in the game) and they rendered the Husky ground attack virtually ineffective. To top it off, Iowa rushed for 250 yards and a touchdown.
“I guess you should say takeaways, ball security, being able to run and being able to stop the run are pretty fundamental to winning,” Ferentz said. “At least for the way we play. So that was a positive and if we can continue along those lines, it’ll be great.”
Ferentz is not concerned with the number of dropped passes by his receivers last Saturday, saying the group as a whole has been consistently solid during practices.
“We’ve been catching the ball in practice,” Ferentz said. “It was a little bit of a surprise (that we dropped so many against Northern Illinois). It was probably a combination of concentration and jitters. I don’t know, but hopefully we’ll work through that.”
Captains for the Syracuse game are running backs Albert Young and Damian Sims (offense), middle linebacker Mike Klinkenborg (defense) and cornerback Charles Godfrey (defense/special teams).
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