Nov. 13, 2007
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IOWA CITY — Western Michigan is coming to town Saturday and University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz is understandably guarded.
For starters, Ferentz can’t remember a “crazier” college football season than 2007. Second, a win against the Broncos might be needed to secure a seventh consecutive bowl appearance for Iowa. And finally, Ferentz admits that at times his over-achieving team appears to be held together by “Scotch tape and paper clips.”
“This is a big football game for our team and we know we have a lot of work to do,” Ferentz said. “Western Michigan has a lot of guys back that started for an excellent team last year. They are better than their record indicates. They play hard and they play well.”
The Broncos enter the game at Kinnick with an overall record of 3-7 and a string of three consecutive losses. Ferentz pointed out that three of the Bronco setbacks came against West Virginia, Missouri and Indiana and three others came by a total of eight points (39-38 to Akron, 27-23 to Ball State and 34-31 to Central Michigan). Western Michigan will have 11 days to prepare for the Hawkeyes, who enter the contest at 6-5.
Western Michigan is led by 6-foot-2 wide receiver Jamarko Simmons, who has 77 receptions for 887 yards and six touchdowns this season. He hauled in double-digit receptions this season against West Virginia (14), Indiana (14), Missouri (10) and Akron (10). Quarterback Tim Hiller has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 2,378 yards and 16 touchdowns (14 interceptions) and three receivers other than Simmons have more than 32 pass receptions. Brandon West (690 yards, four touchdowns) and Mark Bonds (585 yards, seven touchdowns) carry the bulk of the ground load. Leading tacklers for the Broncos are linebacker Boston McCornell (83 tackles, 7 ½ for a loss) and free safety Anthony Gebhart (76 tackles, two interceptions).
“I’m looking at this as an even game going into it,” Ferentz said. “I’m sure (Western Michigan) is going to come in here confident. I don’t think they are looking at us like we are the Green Bay Packers or the New England Patriots or the Cowboys. We need to worry about playing better and giving it our best.”
Iowa has won 32 of its last 38 games at home and owns a record of 17-1 against teams from the Mid-American Conference. The one loss came against the Broncos, 27-21, on Sept. 9, 2000.
Iowa captains are senior fullback Tom Busch, senior running back Albert Young, senior defensive end Bryan Mattison and senior linebacker Mike Humpal. Ferentz said that freshman linebacker Jacody Coleman is doubtful for the game and the team is in a “wait and see” mode on senior defensive back Adam Shada and sophomore defensive end Chad Geary.
“Geary has been cleared, it’s just a matter of whether he can play his position effectively,” Ferentz said.
Ferentz spent little time talking about last Saturday’s 21-16 victory against Minnesota, other than to say that the program was “thrilled to get the win and finish 4-4 in the Big Ten.” In that game, the Hawkeyes rolled to first-half leads of 14-0 and 21-7 and held on to reclaim Floyd of Rosedale, the traveling trophy bronze pig. Incidentally, according to Iowa sports information director Phil Haddy, Floyd weighs 98.3 pounds.
“It’s just something that’s always been important to us. Not to be getting better as the year goes on, that’s not the sign of a healthy program in my mind. You also have to be focused on self-improvement. That’s how you’re supposed to live. When that message isn’t getting across, it’s not a good sign.”
UI Coach Kirk Ferentz
Iowa looks to extend a couple streaks against the Broncos. The first is a 30-game home sellout streak — less than 800 tickets are available for purchase — and the second is extending a three-game winning streak to four. It will be Senior Day for the Hawkeyes and the seniors are a group that Ferentz has praised time and again this season.
“One thing that’s been constant — I’ve said this repeatedly — it’s just the attitude of the football team and it starts with the guys up front,” Ferentz said. “These guys took over the challenge in January and they have been constant all the way through.”
The Hawkeyes have found a way to claw their way to six victories and go from 2-4 on Oct. 6 to a team that became bowl-eligible for the seventh consecutive time.
“All we have to do is look back at the last five weeks,” Ferentz said. “There is nothing that’s come easy for us. Anything good we’ve had happen, we’ve really had to work for it and earn it. If we can get through this one, we ought to feel kind of good about what we’ve done. You obviously feel a lot better if you finish stronger and that’s the goal right now.”
Iowa also has the calendar on its side and Ferentz-coached teams are notoriously dominant in the month of November. From 2000-05 the Hawkeyes have gone 17-5. This season they are 2-0 in November.
“It’s just something that’s always been important to us,” Ferentz said. “Not to be getting better as the year goes on, that’s not the sign of a healthy program in my mind. You also have to be focused on self-improvement. That’s how you’re supposed to live. When that message isn’t getting across, it’s not a good sign.”
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