Oct. 2, 2007
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IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa football team is doing things right. It is doing things well. Now the goal is to execute those positives consistently.
Beaver Stadium — home of Penn State University — is not a place where many college football teams go to snap out of a losing funk. But Iowa is not your typical run-of-the-mill football program. In fact, the Hawkeyes have flourished against Penn State, winning five in a row and four straight in State College, Pa. The teams meet again Saturday with a 2:35 p.m. (CT) kickoff. The game will be televised by ABC or ESPN2. Click for distribution map
“If there is any consolation, that’s one thing we’ve done (is played well at Penn State),” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz at his weekly media conference in the Jacobson Athletic Building. “We might want to borrow the 2004 and 2002 ball clubs to join us for this one. Even going back to when Tim Dwight had the punt return (for a touchdown) over there (a 21-20 Iowa victory in 1996). We had a good one over there in 1983 (a 42-34 Iowa victory). It’s a great football environment and a tough place to play. This is one our guys all look forward to.”
Iowa defeated the Nittany Lions 6-4 in the last meeting Oct. 23, 2004 in State College. You have to go all the way back to 1994 to find a Penn State home victory over the Hawkeyes. Ferentz said that based on his team’s performance so far this season, Iowa is probably better suited for a 6-4 defensive struggle ( like 2004) rather than a 42-35 overtime affair (like 2002).
“Logic would tell you the best chance we would have would be a defensive game,” he said.
Both Iowa and Penn State are in pursuit of their first Big Ten victory of the season. Iowa is 2-3 overall, 0-2 in the conference; Penn State is 3-2, 0-2. The Hawkeyes got off to a 2-0 start this season and Penn State started 3-0. This will be the 20th meeting between the teams and Iowa is looking to even the all-time series at 10-10.
“Our focus turned over to this week starting on Sunday afternoon,” Ferentz said. “We’re going to have to have a great week of preparation. We play a very talented Penn State football team.”
On paper, the teams appear similar. Iowa is second in the Big Ten in scoring defense (14.6 points per game) and Penn State is third (15.0). The Nittany Lions have averaged 386.8 yards of offense per game and Iowa has gained 336.0. Whatever advantage Penn State has with its kicking game (a league best 40.6 yards per punt), Iowa negates with turnover margin. The Hawkeyes, Michigan and Indiana are all tied for the conference lead at plus-five in turnovers.
“That was a prominent thing on our plate coming in,” Ferentz said. “Thus far — knock on wood — we’re doing a pretty good job. (Quarterback) Jake (Christensen) has done a pretty good job making good decisions back there in some tough circumstances.”
“We’re optimistic. One thing about this team, it’s had a great attitude to date. I don’t anticipate that changing. We’re just going to keep working hard and do what we can do. We’d be very happy to win the game this week. But it’s going to take a lot of work. It’s going to take a phenomenal effort. That’s what we’re shooting to do.”
Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
Like the team statistics, the passing numbers between the teams are nearly equal. Christensen has completed 54 percent of his passes for 1,066 yards and nine touchdowns. Penn State’s Anthony Morelli has completed 58 percent of his attempts for 1,095 yards and nine touchdowns.
Iowa is coming off a week where it registered season-highs in passing yards (308), total offense (428) and plays (79). Linebacker Mike Humpal, who along with end Bryan Mattison are defensive captains for the Penn State game, had a season-high 12 tackles against Indiana.
“We’re doing some (good) things, but we’re not doing it with consistency,” Ferentz said. “We need to pull the whole thing together to have a good chance to win a football game.”
Offensive captains for the Hawkeyes will be senior running backs Albert Young and Damian Sims. Young had a 27-yard pass reception and a 21-yard run last week against the Hoosiers. Young rushed 15 times for 94 yards and Sims carried the ball seven times for 38 yards and caught two passes for 11 yards.
Ferentz said that four Iowa players will be “iffy” for the Penn State game because of injury. They are linebacker Mike Klinkenborg, defensive back Devan Moylan, linebacker Jacody Coleman and receiver Trey Stross. Receiver/return specialist Colin Sandeman suffered a contusion against Indiana and “should be fine” according to Ferentz.
It is going to take much more than a three-game losing streak to demoralize Ferentz and the Hawkeye team. Although the coach does not dismiss the fact that the mini-skid is challenging he said, “we’re up for the challenge.”
“There are challenges in every situation, so that’s just kind of the way it goes,” Ferentz said. “This is challenging, I’m not dismissing that. But I think we’re up for the challenge. We’re going to go back to work today. We plan on having a good week.”
Ferentz and his staff had directed the Hawkeyes to six consecutive bowl games and five consecutive winning seasons from 2001-05. They know how to right the ship and have been successful at doing it in the past.
“We’re optimistic,” Ferentz said. “One thing about this team, it’s had a great attitude to date. I don’t anticipate that changing. We’re just going to keep working hard and do what we can do. We’d be very happy to win the game this week. But it’s going to take a lot of work. It’s going to take a phenomenal effort. That’s what we’re shooting to do.”
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