Home. Kinnick. Finally.

Sept. 28, 2007

IOWA CITY — Historic Kinnick Stadium. Home. The Iowa Hawkeyes remember it….faintly.

Iowa has played three of its first four games in 2007 away from their prized football facility. The lone game played in Iowa City was a 35-0 drubbing of Syracuse in a prime time event televised by the Big Ten Network.

The Hawkeyes return to Kinnick on Saturday for an 11 a.m. (Iowa time) Homecoming date with the Indiana Hoosiers. It will also be televised live by the Big Ten Network – the 70th straight television appearance for the UI.

The Big Ten Network is available as part of the basic level of service offered by more than 60 locally-owned and locally-operated cable television systems in the state of Iowa and on satellite television providers DirecTV and Dish Network.

“It’s good to be home,” Kirk Ferentz said on Tuesday during his weekly visit with the media.

It’s always good to be home. And, it’s very good when your team is banged up physically and perhaps emotionally, the latter the result of getting on the team bus for the ride back to Iowa City as single-digit losers in back-to-back games that could have been hard-fought and hard-won “W’s.”

“We’ve been on the road a little bit the last month,” Ferentz added. “So it’s good to come back home, good to be back for Homecoming. I know we’ll have a great crowd.”

The Hawkeyes will, in fact, play before a great crowd. The game has been sold out since early summer and will be the 26th consecutive sellout at Kinnick. And, the Hawkeyes usually enjoy their afternoons in Iowa City. The team has won 28 of its last 32 home games dating back to the 2002 season and its record winning percentage of .854 during the last five seasons ranks 10th nationally.

Iowa won’t collect its third victory of the season just because they’re at home, however. A talented, explosive Indiana team also smarting after having been beaten by Illinois last week in its Big Ten Conference opener has had its way with the Hawkeyes in recent years.

“They are playing very hard and are well-coached. Defensively, they have a lot of guys back and, offensively, the pose a lot of problems,” Ferentz said.

For the Hawkeyes, the most significant challenge is wide receiver James Hardy. The skyscraper of a wide receiver had eight catches for 104 yards and three touchdowns last year in a 31-28 victory by the home team, Indiana.

Ferentz doesn’t believe that one guy beats you although he notes that the Hawkeyes have brought out the best in Hardy.

“He’s a good player with speed and size and he fights for the football. He’s played two excellent games against us,” Ferentz said.

Don’t look for wholesale changes in Iowa’s defense designed to stop this guy this week and that guy that week. For Ferentz, the game is simple: It’s a team game, a contest that requires all 11 players on the field working together.

“You rely on all 11 guys to do their job and, if somebody can do something on top of it, great. But, you’ve certainly got to be in good position. You’ve got to trust that your teammates are in the position they need to be in,” Ferentz said.

The receiver position has been the focus of attention this week and that focus has been as much on what Iowa will line up at that position Saturday. It will be a youthful group, but a talented one – and one that will be bolstered by the return of sophomore Trey Stross to the depth chart.

“The catch Derrell (Johnson-Koulianos) made was just outstanding. Whether you’re a senior or a freshman, that was just a great play and against a good defender,” Ferentz said.

“The good thing about all the young guys is the same thing I said about our team: We have a chance to improve week over week and, in some places, that improvement could be significant,” he continued.

“That’s the challenge that remains ahead of us.”

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