Oct. 23, 2007
IOWA CITY — University of Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz spent time during his weekly press conference Tuesday talking about the virtues of the 2000, 2002 and 2005 Hawkeye football teams. He also continued to rave about the intangibles of the 2007 Hawkeye unit that hosts Michigan State on Saturday at historic Kinnick Stadium. Kickoff is 11:02 a.m.
“I’ve said repeatedly, the leadership that we have on this football team is outstanding,” Ferentz said. “The attitude is outstanding.”
This week the Hawkeyes will continue to strive for offensive consistency. Playing with a lead would be an added bonus.
Michigan State enters the game 5-3 overall, 1-3 in the Big Ten. Iowa is 3-5, 1-4. Both teams have played Wisconsin and Indiana this season. The Badgers defeated Michigan State 37-34 and defeated Iowa 17-13. The Spartans defeated Indiana 52-27 on Oct. 13, two weeks after the Hoosiers spoiled Iowa’s Homecoming, 38-20.
No one in the Jacobson Athletic Building — especially Ferentz — is giving up on the Hawkeye season. With four games remaining, there are still 240 minutes of game time to watch this young, inexperienced Iowa group work toward the aforementioned offensive consistency. Ferentz is focused on the present, not the future.
“I’m really hopeful it will happen this week,” Ferentz said. “We made strides in that Illinois game. If we could experience some good things, get a little momentum going, maybe something good would happen. There are still four games left this year. That’s what we’re looking at.”
Injury news for Iowa is improving, although still a bit unclear. Ferentz is optimistic that receiver Colin Sandeman and offensive lineman Rob Bruggeman will return. He said the availability of receiver Trey Stross and tight end Tony Moeaki is still up in the air.
“I’m really hopeful it will happen this week. We made strides in that Illinois game. If we could experience some good things, get a little momentum going, maybe something good would happen. There are still four games left this year. That’s what we’re looking at.”
UI Coach Kirk Ferentz
Michigan State is paced offensively by receiver Devin Thomas, who leads the Big Ten in receiving yards per game (95.9) and all purpose yards (204.2) and is second in kickoff return average (29.9). When the Spartans aren’t putting the ball in the hands of Thomas, they feature two very capable running threats in Javon Ringer (122.6 yards per game) and Jehuu Caulcrick (63.5 yards per game). Ringer is third in the league and 13th in the nation in rushing yards per game; Caulcrick is tied for third in the league and tied for 15th in the nation with 9.8 points per game.
Even though Michigan State is second in the Big Ten in rushing offense (219.8) and kickoff return average (28.1) and third in scoring offense (34.4 points per game), the statistic that is potentially the most worrisome for Iowa is the category “Sacks By.” The Spartans are third in the conference and fourth in the nation with 31 quarterback sacks for 224 yards. Untimely sacks have been an Achilles heel for the Hawkeyes this season, forcing a screeching halt to more than one impressive drive. While the Iowa offense looks to get in sync and string together multiple first downs, the Michigan State defense will have other ideas.
“We better strap it up and be ready to go,” Ferentz said. “We have to be ready to compete. These guys are aggressive. They’re athletic. We better be sharp and execute.”
Ferentz admitted that Iowa’s composition does not lend itself to a team that is adept at playing from behind.
Iowa is holding its own among Big Ten statistical leaders as well. Charles Godfrey is tied for first with four pass interceptions and Mike Humpal is tied for second in tackles per game (10.2). The Hawkeyes are third in the Big Ten and 14th in the nation in scoring defense (17.1 ppg), third in the Big Ten and 23rd in the nation in total defense (318.2) and fourth in the league in pass defense (201.0). The Iowa special teams have also excelled, especially in punt returns. The Hawkeyes are second in the Big Ten and 16th in the nation with an average return of 13.9 yards per punt.
“To me, as long as we’re working the right way and the attitude is good, we’re going to weather the bad times,” Ferentz said. “These guys are doing everything we want them to do and that’s real positive. We have a lot of outstanding people here.”
Iowa captains against the Spartans will be Albert Young and Tom Busch on offense and Bryan Mattison and Mike Klinkenborg on defense.
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