Sept. 25, 2007
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IOWA CITY — Race winners are seldom decided out of the chute. The same theory can be applied to the 2007 football season at the University of Iowa.
Don’t feel sorry for the UI football team after back-to-back losses by a total of six points — UI Head Coach Kirk Ferentz isn’t. In fact, there was a sort of “wait and see” tone to his weekly press conference this afternoon at the Jacobson Athletic Building.
“This is one of the best groups of young people I’ve ever been around,” Ferentz said. “We haven’t run the whole race yet, but I’ve been around these guys a little bit now, and we’ve got a great group of young people.”
Iowa (2-2 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) entertains Indiana (3-1, 0-1) for Homecoming on Saturday, Sept. 29, at historic Kinnick Stadium with an 11:05 a.m. kickoff. Iowa dropped its conference-opener at Wisconsin last week, 17-13, while the Hoosiers lost at home to Illinois, 27-14. Last season Indiana outscored Iowa 24-7 in the final 34 minutes en route to a 31-28 upset of the No. 13 Hawkeyes in Bloomington. Ferentz said that this edition of Hoosiers is playing better than the team in 2006.
“We’ve got a great challenge on our hands playing Indiana, a team that played us extremely well last year and they’re playing better now than they were a year ago,” Ferentz said. “It’s going to be a heck of a challenge for our football team. One, getting off the mat and the secondly, having to prepare for a very, very good football team.”
Iowa has won seven consecutive Homecoming games, including a 47-17 decision against Purdue last season. The Hawkeyes are 51-39-5 during their previous 95 Homecoming games.
Indiana opened the season by averaging 44.3 points per game during its three victories. Quarterback Kellen Lewis is one of the most dynamic players in the league, averaging 314.5 yards per game in total offense. He has completed 56.6 percent of his passes for an average of 226.5 yards per game and 11 touchdowns. Four Indiana receivers have at least 10 receptions, led by Ray Fisher with 19. The primary threat for the end zone is 6-foot-7 James Hardy, who has six touchdowns and 16 catches this season. Lewis is also the team’s top running threat (88.0 yards per game, three touchdowns).
“(Lewis) was a young guy when we played him last year,” Ferentz said. “He’s doing a great job right now running their offense. Offensively, Indiana poses a lot of problems.”
The season has ended for Iowa receiver Andy Brodell, who suffered a severe hamstring tear at Wisconsin. The news was a bit more optimistic for tight end Tony Moeaki, who is expected to miss “a couple weeks” according to Ferentz. Moeaki dislocated his elbow and broke a bone in his hand on the same play last Saturday.
“We’ve got a great challenge on our hands playing Indiana, a team that played us extremely well last year and they’re playing better now than they were a year ago. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge for our football team. One, getting off the mat and the secondly, having to prepare for a very, very good football team.”
UI Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
On an encouraging note, the emergence of several newcomers has helped ease the pain of a thinning receiver corps. Three freshmen — James Cleveland, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Paul Chaney, Jr., all had four catches against the Badgers. Colin Sandeman returned three punts for 26 yards and a long of 16.
“The (touchdown) catch Derrell made was just outstanding,” Ferentz said. “Whether you’re a senior or freshman, that was just a great play and against a good defender. Certainly in the receiver position a lot of guys are getting an opportunity.”
Freshman kicker Daniel Murray made the most of his opportunity Saturday by kicking field goals of 41 and 37 yards. Ferentz was also pleased with the production from freshmen Jacody Coleman and Jayme Murphy and sophomore Dana Brown.
“It was good to see the other guys jump in and do a good job,” Ferentz said. “Those guys are into it, they’re doing some good things. We’re getting some efforts and we’ve just got to keep pushing forward.”
Sophomore receiver Trey Stross will begin practicing today which will give quarterback Jake Christensen even more weapons to choose from. Last week Christensen completed 17 of 37 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. For the season he has connected on 52.9 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and an average of 174.5 yards per game.
“I thought Jake kept his composure and played well in tough circumstances,” Ferentz said. “I thought he grew from the week prior. I think he’s been growing each and every week, so that’s certainly a positive.”
A portion of the press conference was spent talking about what Ferentz dubbed “fantasy football.” Among the thoughts tossed out were moving linebacker A.J. Edds or fullback Tom Busch to tight end in Moeaki’s absence, putting running backs Albert Young and Damian Sims on the field at the same time, or getting quarterback Arvell Nelson on the field as a receiver.
“We have enough to win with,” Ferentz said. “We just have to put something together.” He did add that “anybody who can chip in right now, auditions are open.”
Iowa’s stingy defense will be challenged by Indiana’s wide-open, spread offense. But the Hawkeyes have more than held their own during the first four games, averaging just 8.8 points a game and winning the turnover battle, 8-3. Senior linebackers Mike Klinkenborg and Mike Humpal lead the team in tackles with 32 and 30 respectively. Humpal and senior defensive back Adam Shada both have two interceptions and junior defensive tackle Mitch King has seven tackles for loss (41 yards).
Iowa captains for the Indiana game are Young and Sims on offense and Klinkenborg and senior end Bryan Mattison on defense.
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