Nov. 2, 2007
IOWA CITY – November. For college football teams, it’s the month that the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders.
The Iowa Hawkeyes have three games in the last month of the regular season for college football 2007. The first is Saturday – November 3 – against the Northwestern Wildcats. Kickoff at Ryan Field is set for shortly after 11 a.m. The game will be televised live by ESPN2.
The Hawkeyes’ success in November under Kirk Ferentz is well documented. In the last six seasons – when Iowa was making trips to the FedEx Orange Bowl, the Capital One Bowl, two Outback Bowls and two Alamo Bowls – Iowa won 14 of 21 games played in the 11th month on the calendar.
Victories in two of three November games this season will make the UI eligible for post-season competition for the seventh consecutive season. The wiser course of action would be for the Hawkeyes to take the momentum of last weeks’ thrilling come-from-behind double-overtime over Michigan State and string together a series of victories.
Such a streak would add another layer of confidence on a squad that is dominated by younger players in need of both confidence and game action. And, a winning streak would likely send the Hawkeyes shooting up the Big Ten Conference’s bowl game ladder.
However, in a season of “nothing-comes-easies,” the focus needs to be on the Wildcats and only the Wildcats. Consistency is the key to winning in November – and winning on the road in the Big Ten – and Iowa is far from a consistent football team.
“We have not practiced day in and day out the way you need to. When you’re young like we are, that comes with the territory. You don’t like it, you don’t accept it, but it’s a fact so you work hard to work through it.”
“We have not practiced day in and day out the way you need to. When you’re young like we are, that comes with the territory. You don’t like it, you don’t accept it, but it’s a fact so you work hard to work through it,” said Ferentz earlier this week.
Iowa’s head coach added that the inconsistency is more likely to impact the offense than the defense – which makes the Hawkeyes’ turn-about against the Spartans last Saturday so gratifying.
“We’ve had to fight for everything this year,” Iowa’s veteran head coach said. “The first lesson is if you go out and compete, you give yourself a chance to win. Hopefully, what our guys did last week builds their confidence because we’ll need that and more Saturday.”
Northwestern has been a thorn in Iowa’s side recently. Two years ago in Evanston, the Wildcats rallied in the final minutes to take a victory away from the UI. Last year, they dominated the Hawkeyes in Kinnick.
“The last two years they’ve been prepared to play and played the full 60 (minutes), and we haven’t. In fact, last year, we might have won the coin toss but not much outside of that. I’m not sure we even won that,” said Ferentz.
Albert Young, Iowa’s determined senior running back and one of the 12 seniors who continue to provide the UI outstanding leadership, put the Hawkeyes on his shoulders last week, scoring two third quarter touchdowns while racing to season highs in carries and yards. Young and Iowa’s running game will be called upon to do the same against the Wildcats – but not to the total exclusion of the passing game.
“We’re going to have to complete some passes,” Ferentz said. “We just have to. We’ve got to be able to be more productive in the passing game or otherwise it is going to become much tougher to run the ball.”
The Hawkeyes completed only five passes against the Spartans, but the last one went for 23-yards and a touchdown and matched Michigan State’s score in the first overtime, sending the game into the second overtime period. The scoring strike from Jake Christensen to Paul Chaney, Jr., came on a second and 20 and in a pressure-packed situation.
“They brought the blitz and the line did a nice job of picking it up. Albert made his block, and it was a great throw and catch by Jake and Paul. We’re not a bad football team when we execute but, again, the problem is consistency,” added Ferentz.
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