History is Nice, But It Doesn't Guarantee Anything

Oct. 5, 2007

IOWA CITY – As a group, coaches are often considered students of history.

However, Kirk Ferentz isn’t buying into the recent history of the University of Iowa football team’s series with Penn State as a predictor of just how things will fall between the two teams this season. The Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions square off Saturday at 2:45 p.m. (Iowa time) with both squads eyeing the opportunity to break into the win column in Big Ten Conference action for 2007.

The game will be televised live by ABC television to the vast majority of the eight-state geographical footprint of the Big Ten. Where it isn’t available in the country on ABC, the game will be available on ESPN2.

Iowa travels to Happy Valley sporting a five-game winning streak against Penn State. The Hawkeyes have also won six of the last seven and four straight inside Beaver Stadium, one of college football’s classic – and hostile – environments. Two of the four wins came in overtime and the last was a 6-4 “thriller.”

“We have played well there,” Ferentz conceded when reminded of the Hawkeyes’ string of success against PSU Hall of Fame head coach Joe Paterno and the storied Penn State football program.

“(We) might want to borrow the 2004 or 2002 ballclub to come join us for this one,” he added with a grin.

Ferentz isn’t kidding himself. Wins against Penn State don’t come easy. Wins against Penn State at Penn State are even more difficult. And wins against Penn State at Penn State when Penn State is as hungry for a victory as the opponent don’t happen because the history books says so.

“What’s important is what we do this week,” Ferentz offered to a question about Iowa’s performance last Saturday against Indiana. But, the answer also speaks to the question of whether history will repeat itself.

“It’s really about all we can worry about. How much improvement can we make? Can we clean up the things we didn’t do well? Can we put ourselves in a position to have a fighting chance to win?”

“Logic would tell you the best chance we would have would be a defensive game. Sooner or later, though, we’re going to break the ice and get it going offensively.”
Kirk Ferentz

Ferentz likes the Hawkeyes’ chances for victory best if the game is a low-scoring affair. And, the numbers say this game should not be a shootout.

Both teams are stout defensively, particularly against the run where they limit their opponent to less than 90 yards on the ground per game. Both team’s offenses have been more productive than what they have been during the first month of the 2007 college football season – Penn State ranks ninth in the Big Ten in total offense, Iowa 11th.

“Logic would tell you the best chance we would have would be a defensive game,” Ferentz said. “Sooner or later, though, we’re going to break the ice and get it going offensively.”

Time will tell. In the meantime, however, Ferentz and his staff and the Hawkeyes will focus their concentration on what can be “cleaned up” while taking satisfaction in what is being done well.

An example of the latter is Iowa’s running game. The Hawkeyes’ ground attack showed signs of significant life against the Hoosiers but the UI was forced to lean on the passing game because it fell behind early.

“I thought we ran the ball fairly effectively and efficiently. That kind of got lost in the shuffle,” Iowa’s veteran head coach said.

A pre-season priority for Iowa was ball protection and Iowa enters this week’s action leading the Big Ten with only five turnovers, a total that includes just two fumbles. And, Ferentz continues to like his starting quarterback.

“Jake (Christensen) has done a pretty good job of making pretty good decisions in tough circumstances. That’s a positive, a big-time positive,” Ferentz said of his sophomore left-hander who set career highs for completions (24) , attempts (42) and yards (308) to go along with three touchdowns against Indiana.

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