Nov. 6, 2007
IOWA CITY — There is never an opportunity to relax during the Big Ten football season and nothing could be more evident for Iowa than this weekend when rival Minnesota comes to historic Kinnick Stadium, dragging behind an eight-game losing streak.
Even though the Gophers are 1-9 overall, 0-6 in conference play, they boast a dangerous offense that averages 407.4 yards and 26.5 points per game. Minnesota is fourth in the Big Ten in passing offense, with 240.7 yards coming through the air.
The Gophers also possess Floyd of Rosedale, their bronze reward for a 34-24 victory over Iowa last season in Minneapolis.
“We’re eager to be back home in Kinnick this week,” University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “Minnesota is competing real hard, they’re playing hard and competing well. Bottom line is it’s probably a pretty good match-up and a tough rivalry game.”
Iowa (5-5, 3-4) is searching for its first three-game winning streak since defeating Syracuse (20-13 in double overtime), Iowa State (27-17) and Illinois (24-7) in weeks 2-4 last season. Kick-off is scheduled for 11:05 a.m. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network to a national cable audience.
Only two teams — Ohio State and Michigan — have longer league winning streaks than Iowa following a 34-27 double overtime win against Michigan State on Oct. 27 and a 28-17 win on the road at Northwestern on Nov. 3. Iowa linebacker Mike Humpal leads the Big Ten and is ninth in the nation in tackles per game (11.1). The Hawkeyes also lead the conference in punt return average (13.2) and turnover margin (plus-11). Iowa is 21st and 10th in the nation respectively in those categories.
Ferentz said that team attitude has played a major factor in Iowa’s recent success.
“Our attitude has been really good and it starts with our older guys,” Ferentz said. “It’s been an interesting year, but our attitude has never wavered. If anything, it’s gotten stronger. Our older guys are really doing a good job there. I’m very appreciative of that.”
Minnesota’s primary weapon is quarterback Adam Weber, who is third in the league in total offense (281.3) and fourth in passing yards per game (235.3). His leading receivers are Eric Decker (59-756-6) and Ernie Wheelwright (53-656-9). The Gophers only allow 38.8 penalty yards per game (second in the conference), but they surrender a league-high 548.5 yards per game.
“Our strength right now is on defense and theirs is on offense. Their offensive football team is really moving the ball well. They’re scoring points and doing a good job. Conversely, our defensive guys are in the same boat. Then when you flip it over, they’re playing some young guys defensively right now just like we’re playing young guys offensively.”
UI Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
“Our strength right now is on defense and theirs is on offense,” Ferentz said. “Their offensive football team is really moving the ball well. They’re scoring points and doing a good job. Conversely, our defensive guys are in the same boat. Then when you flip it over, they’re playing some young guys defensively right now just like we’re playing young guys offensively.”
It was noted that the Hawkeyes have fallen short in their two previous “trophy games” this season — losing on the road to Iowa State (15-13) and Wisconsin (17-13). Iowa will attempt to bring Floyd of Rosedale back to the Jacobson Athletic Building with a win Saturday against Minnesota.
“Yeah, the atrium is a little vacant right now,” Ferentz said. “You want to win all your trophies — you want to win every game you’re involved with, trophies or no trophies.”
There were two topics that Ferentz brushed aside — his last two halftime “pep talks” and the bowl possibilities for the Hawkeyes.
“(A bowl) would be great, but that’s way down the road right now for us,” Ferentz said. “Right now I’d be really happy just to win this week.”
Question: Anybody tape your halftime speech?
Answer: “That’s really overrated, I think. For whatever reason, we haven’t been able to get off to a good start the last couple weeks.”
Ferentz was jovial at the media gathering, laughing off the notion that Iowa might exploit a limping Minnesota team.
“The thought of us exploiting someone is a little bit amusing,” Ferentz said. “They’re looking at us saying, boy, look at those stats.”
Perhaps the most interesting correlation of the afternoon was when Ferentz compared some of quarterback Jake Christensen’s rocket throws to a 1965 episode of The Munster’s, titled “Herman the Rookie.”
“Obviously it goes back to my days as a younger person,” Ferentz said. “You guys ever watch The Munsters, where Herman Munster went out for the Dodgers and the whole team quit because he kept throwing the ball so hard? That was Terry Bradshaw as a rookie. It didn’t matter what the pass was, it was all the same speed, 100 miles an hour.”
Ferentz said that senior defensive back Adam Shada and sophomore linebacker Pat Angerer will miss the Minnesota game and that sophomore defensive end Chad Geary “is up in the air,” but will still probably need another week to recover from an elbow injury. He said senior defensive back Devan Moylan will petition the NCAA for another season because of injury.
Iowa captains against the Gophers will be fullback Tom Busch and running back Albert Young on offense and Humpal and defensive end Bryan Mattison on defense.
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