Oct. 9, 2007
IOWA CITY — It’s Blackout Saturday for the Iowa football team on Oct. 13 against Illinois, but a more important color for the Hawkeyes is blue — as in the blueprint to success.
When asked if Iowa would follow a blueprint used by Illinois to make great strides in its record from 2006 to this fall, Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said, “We’re just trying to follow the blueprint we’ve been using — it worked pretty well in the past. There’s nothing wrong with our blueprint.”
And why not? The Ferentz blueprint has created one of the most respected college football programs in the nation. Iowa has participated in six consecutive bowl games and crafted a 31-7 record from 2002-04. The Hawkeyes have had winning seasons in five of the last six years.
“Where we’re at right now is not where we want to be,” Ferentz said. “It wasn’t by design, but nobody’s panicking here and I don’t think anyone in our house is on the ledge and we’ll work through it”
Iowa will have to work through it without junior offensive lineman Dace Richardson, who is having season-ending surgery to repair structural damage in his knee. Ferentz said that there will be a minimum of six months recovery and that a medical redshirt should be a “slam dunk” if Richardson is able to resume his career. Senior linebacker Mike Klinkenborg and senior defensive back Devan Moylan remain questionable. Ferentz called both Klinkenborg and Moylan “a long shot” to play against Illinois. According to Ferentz, junior tight end Tony Moeaki is still “at best two weeks” away from returning from an elbow and hand injury.
Illinois and Iowa kickoff at 11:02 a.m., Saturday, in a game televised by ESPN2 from historic Kinnick Stadium. The No. 18 Illini are 5-1 overall, 3-0 in the Big Ten. Iowa, which is searching for its fifth consecutive victory against Illinois, is 2-4, 0-3.
The teams share four common opponents — Syracuse, Indiana, Penn State and Wisconsin. Illinois is 4-0 against that group, while Iowa shares a victory against Syracuse. Illinois quarterback Isiah “Juice” Williams runs the Illini option offense to the tune of 278 rushing yards and 618 yards through the air. Running back Rashard Mendenhall has rushed for 772 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also has 18 pass receptions for 173 yards and two more scores. The leading receiver for the Illini is Arrelious Benn with 29 catches for 337 yards and a touchdown. The defensive star for Illinois is linebacker J Leman, who has 71 tackles (five for a loss), 1 ½ sacks and an interception.
“We’re playing an excellent football team in Illinois,” Ferentz said. “They’re having a very successful year and I don’t think that comes as a major surprise if you’re paying attention. They had a lot of veteran guys a year ago when we played them and many of those guys are back from last season. It’s not a fluke that they’re 3-0 in the league or that they’ve won five straight. They’ve got a lot of momentum right now.”
“What happened in that fourth quarter — there were some sparks and we’re big into sparks right now. Anything we can see that is positive is good and we’ll try to build off that experience and be better this week.”
Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
Iowa looks to continue the momentum it started in the fourth period at Penn State when the Hawkeyes passed for 119 yards, rushed for 20 more and picked up six first downs.
“What happened in that fourth quarter — there were some sparks and we’re big into sparks right now,” Ferentz said. “Anything we can see that is positive is good and we’ll try to build off that experience and be better this week.”
Despite repeated questioning at his weekly media conference Tuesday, Ferentz refused to use injuries as an excuse for Iowa’s 2-4 record. The two-deep roster released by the Iowa sports information department this week includes 22 freshmen, 11 sophomores, 10 juniors and nine seniors.
“When it comes to injuries, there’s absolutely no way to predict those things,” Ferentz said. “When they occur, you just deal with them the best you can. To say they don’t impact a football team or affect a team’s performance, that would be a little bit naïve, but again, they’re part of the game. It just makes the equation a little bit tougher to solve, but we’ll keep working on it. Nobody is going to be down about it or dwell on it.”
Iowa has won 28 of its last 33 games at home, dating back to the 2002 season. Iowa recorded a 22-game home winning streak between 2002-05 and the Hawkeyes boast the 16th-best home winning percentage in the nation from 2003-07 (23-5, .821).
“We’ll take the players that are going to practice today and this week and try our best to get them ready to go,” Ferentz said. “Our objective is to win the game this Saturday. That’s our goal.”
Several relatively new faces saw action against Penn State and Ferentz hinted that more playing time could be ahead for sophomore defensive end Chad Geary, junior defensive tackle Anton Narinskiy, freshman defensive end Christian Ballard and freshman defensive end Adrian Clayborn.
“They’re a young group there,” Ferentz said. “They continue to improve in practice. We’ve seen them do some good things the last couple weeks on the game film. We’ll keep bringing them on as long as they keep practicing well, which we anticipate them doing.”
Iowa captains for the Illinois game are senior linebacker Mike Humpal and senior defensive end Bryan Mattison for defense and senior running back Albert Young and senior fullback Tom Busch for offense. Busch will also represent special teams.
“If your attitude is positive and good, your work ethic coincides with your attitude,” Ferentz said.
The Hawkeye attitudes have remained positive and so has the team’s turnover margin. Iowa ranks first in the Big Ten and ninth in the country in turnover margin (plus-8).
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