Sept. 11, 2007
IOWA CITY — Jack Trice Stadium hosting a Super Bowl? Iowa playing a bowl game in September? If big-game ambience is the criteria, then the answer to both questions, according to University of Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz, is a resounding yes.
“I think when you get into a game like this, it’s almost a bowl atmosphere intensity level or playoff intensity level,” said Ferentz at his weekly media conference Tuesday at the Jacobson Athletic Building. “Just by the nature of the whole thing, the intensity is going to be a little bit increased.”
This will be the 55th meeting between the teams with Iowa holding a 36-18 advantage in the all-time series. The Hawkeyes have won 18 of the last 24 meetings and three of the last four, including a 27-17 decision last season at historic Kinnick Stadium. The last time this battle was played in Ames, Iowa State recorded a 23-3 decision. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:37 p.m., on Saturday, Sept. 15, and will be shown live by the Versus Network (Channel 151 on Dish and Channel 603 on DirecTV). Although Iowa is plus-18 in the head-to-head series with Iowa State, Ferentz has been on the winning side 3 of 8 times as Iowa head coach.
“Obviously this is a big game for all of us involved on both sides of the fence,” Ferentz said. “Any time you have an intrastate rival-type ballgame, to think it’s not a big game would be silly. We also know it’s going to be a tough ballgame. This will be a tough trip for us and our job this week is to get ready for it.”
Iowa enters the game with a 2-0 record; the Cyclones are 0-2. As is typically the case in rivalry games, records can be tossed out the window. Ferentz cautioned that this will be first time all season that Iowa will compete in a hostile environment. Although the season-opener against Northern Illinois was held at neutral-site Soldier Field, nearly 70 percent of the audience was supporting the Hawkeyes. Last weekend, Kinnick Stadium was a sea of gold.
“Now we’re going into the first hostile stadium,” Ferentz said. “This crowd is going to be a little bit more of a challenge.”
UI running back Albert Young has had a bittersweet experience with the Iowa-Iowa State contest. As a freshman, he carried the ball four times for five yards and a touchdown before tearing his ACL. As a sophomore, he gained 140 yards, but Iowa lost. Last season he picked up 57 yards on 18 carries with a long of 9. Young speaks for the entire team when he says that Iowa is not looking past any team.
“Last time in Ames they beat up on us pretty good,” Young said. “We went 2-6 in the Big Ten last season so we’re not overlooking anybody. We don’t get caught up in that.”
This will be the 55th meeting between the teams with Iowa holding a 36-18 advantage in the all-time series. The Hawkeyes have won 18 of the last 24 meetings and three of the last four, including a 27-17 decision last season at historic Kinnick Stadium. The last time this battle was played in Ames, Iowa State recorded a 23-3 decision. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:37 p.m., on Saturday, Sept. 15, and will be shown live by the Versus Network (Channel 151 on Dish and Channel 603 on DirecTV).
Iowa enters the game ranked first nationally in scoring defense, allowing three points in two games. The Hawkeyes are second in rushing defense (22.5 yards per game) and sixth in total defense (169.0 ypg). In the first two games Iowa has 17 tackles for loss, eight quarterback sacks, four turnovers, two blocked field goals (both by senior defensive end Kenny Iwebema) and the stingy defense has yet to allow a touchdown.
Ferentz had an opportunity to meet his coaching counterpart — Iowa State Coach Gene Chizik and his wife — last April at a Hall of Fame dinner.
“I’ve read with interest everything going on over there,” Ferentz said. “I’ve just been very, very impressed. You look at his background, he came up the hard road. He climbed the ladder. He’s more than paid his dues. He’s an excellent football coach and will do a great job there.”
Although a highlight of Chizik’s career came as defensive coordinator for the national champion Texas Longhorns in 2005, it will be a pair of senior offensive stars — both Iowa natives — that could give the Hawkeyes the most fits on Saturday. Quarterback Bret Meyer (Atlantic) is fifth in Big 12 history for total offense (8,456) and passing yards (7,751). Wide receiver Todd Blythe (Indianola) is fifth in touchdown catches (27).
“Their team is capable of making big plays,” Ferentz said. “Certainly we’ve seen firsthand what Bret Meyer and Todd Blythe can do. Their kickoff return team has really done a nice job. Then defensively they’ve had a breakdown or two, but other than that, they’ve been playing pretty well on defense.”
To some in the media, there appears to be a natural parallel between the first season for Ferentz at Iowa (1-10 in 1999) and the current situation for Chizik at Iowa State.
“I really haven’t given it much thought,” Ferentz said. “I’m kind of worried about what we’re doing.”
On the injury front, Ferentz said that freshman offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga and sophomore wide receiver Trey Stross will not play. Stross will miss a minimum of two weeks with a leg injury. Two other Hawkeyes have been cleared to play — freshman wide receiver Paul Chaney, Jr., and freshman linebacker Jeff Tarpinian. Ferentz added that freshman quarterback Marvin McNutt has been elected to represent the Iowa first-year players on the team’s leadership group.
Hawkeye captains for the Iowa State game will be senior linebacker Mike Klinkenborg and senior end Bryan Mattison for the defense and Young and fullback Tom Busch for the offense. Ferentz also took a moment to congratulate Iwebema, who was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against Syracuse. Iwebema equaled his own school record by blocking two field goals, leading the Hawkeyes to their first shutout since the 2005 season opener. He added three tackles and a sack. It marks the first time that an Iowa player has won the conference special team award since Kyle Schlicher was honored on Nov. 13, 2004.
“I was glad to see him receive recognition as special teams Player of the Wee for the conference,” Ferentz said. “He did a nice job. Certainly I think his two plays (blocked field goal attempts) were probably representative of what we’re looking for. He made a great individual effort, but also all the other guys involved doing what they’re supposed to do made that possible.”
Click HERE to access the Big Ten Network web site.