Aug. 26, 2008
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — On page 70 of the 2008 Maine football media guide there is an entry for year-by-year results. During the 1990 season, then first-year head coach Kirk Ferentz led the rebuilding Black Bears to a 24-17 victory against Rhode Island for his first collegiate coaching victory.
It was No. 1 of 12 victories at Maine, jump-starting the career of Ferentz, one of the most respected and successful coaches in the nation. After a stint in the National Football League and nine glorious seasons at the University of Iowa, Ferentz and Maine cross paths again. This time they will be on opposite sidelines Saturday, Aug. 30, at Kinnick Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:03 a.m.
“Our focus is on us and what we choose to do and how our performance is going to be,” Ferentz said Tuesday at the first of his weekly press conferences. “Most noticeably right now, we’re anxious to see what kind of improvement this team demonstrates and also how they progress and develop. This will be our first opportunity.”
Ferentz said that a reunion with Maine doesn’t bring a lot of extra emotion or baggage.
“Other than I know some of the guys across the sideline,” he said. “I’ve never been wild about playing guys that I’ve worked with. There are an awful lot of folks up in Maine that I still stay in touch with that were very, very good people to me when I was up at that university.”
Iowa was 6-6 overall last season, 4-4 in the Big Ten Conference. Maine, a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, was 4-7, 3-5. Both the Hawkeyes and Black Bears won three games in a row at the end of the 2007 season before dropping the season finalé.
“Our first objective is to win the game,” Ferentz said. “Our goal is to play with cohesion, play clean, not hurt ourselves and give ourselves a chance.”
Ferentz said that injuries will keep four UI players from seeing action against Maine — tight ends Tony Moeaki and Michael Sabers, wide receiver Trey Stross and offensive lineman Dan Doering. He added that offensive lineman Dace Richardson is attempting to rehabilitate his ailing knee with a long-shot return date for the 2009 season. In other personnel news, Ferentz said that running back Nate Guillory did not begin classes this fall and will transfer.
“Nate did a nice job this camp,” Ferentz said. “I thought he exhibited growth and practiced well. We wish him all the best. He leaves here in good standing.”
“I have great respect for their program. Jack Cosgrove is an outstanding coach who has done a great job with the program there. This is no new thing for them to travel to a BCS conference place. I remember distinctly when they were playing Nebraska and it was 15-7 in the fourth quarter. That got my attention. They’ve been on the road, they’ve played in big stadiums. I’m sure they’ll come in here revved up and ready to go and we expect a tough contest.”
UI head coach
Guillory transferred to Iowa during the second semester last season and participated in spring and fall drills. When he arrived, the Hawkeyes lacked depth in the offensive backfield. Because of the addition of Shonn Greene, the marked improvement of Paki O’Meara and a solid and impressive recruiting class, the running back position now appears to be an area which could be a pleasant, positive surprise.
“We had a good feel for who Shonn was and what he was before he got here and he’s had a good month,” Ferentz said. “Paki O’Meara has elevated his play a great deal and our newcomers have done a nice job as well. I’m pretty confident that we’re going to play well at the running back position. Based on what we’ve seen, we’re pretty optimistic that we’re going to be productive in the backfield and that’s good to see.”
When referencing Greene, Ferentz said: “He’s had a good camp. I don’t know if he’s quite at optimal condition right now, but he’s close. He’s worked hard, his attitude is great. He’s a mature guy and we’re excited about getting him back.”
Maine is no stranger to going on the road to face a school from the Bowl Championship Series. In 2004, the Black Bears defeated Mississippi State, 9-7. They played at Nebraska in 2005 (25-7 loss), Boston College in 2006 (22-0 loss) and Connecticut in 2007 (38-0 loss). Maine plays at Florida State next season.
“I have great respect for their program,” Ferentz said. “Jack Cosgrove is an outstanding coach who has done a great job with the program there. This is no new thing for them to travel to a BCS conference place. I remember distinctly when they were playing Nebraska and it was 15-7 in the fourth quarter. That got my attention. They’ve been on the road, they’ve played in big stadiums. I’m sure they’ll come in here revved up and ready to go and we expect a tough contest.”
The majority of the UI starting lineup has been set, but Ferentz said there is still good competition going on at left guard (Andy Kuempel, Rafael Eubanks), middle linebacker (Jacody Coleman, Pat Angerer) and kicker (Daniel Murray, Trent Mossbrucker).
“I think it’s fair to say that because of the competition, we’ll probably play a couple different players at several positions,” Ferentz said. “We’ll continue the evaluation until the picture becomes a little bit more clear. Now it’s just a matter who does the best in game situations. We’ll keep watching.”
“I think there is a pretty good chance that both will play,” he said. “They both performed well in camp. For the most part we’re playing better with both guys. They both have the capability to move our offense and that’s a good thing.”
Both Christensen and Stanzi should benefit from a more seasoned and improved offensive line.
“We’re gaining ground,” Ferentz said. “We’re making progress. We’re getting there, but we’re not clicking just yet.”
The last time the Hawkeyes took the field at Kinnick Stadium was Aug. 16 for Kid’s Day Scrimmage, which Ferentz described as “not a highlight of the camp, that’s for sure.” The good news, according to Ferentz, is that the squad has “had some better days since then.”
The last `official’ game for the Hawkeyes on the Kinnick turf was a 28-19 setback to Western Michigan on Nov. 17, 2007.
“The last outing in Kinnick wasn’t a great memory,” Ferentz said. “We can mope about it or we can hopefully use it to motivate us. It’s just going to be good to start playing again. It’s been our plan to forge ahead here.”
Saturday will be Varsity Club Day at Kinnick Stadium, with six inductees entering the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame. One of those receiving the Hall call is former All-American tight end Marv Cook. The 1958 UI football team that went 8-1-1, 5-1 in the Big Ten is also holding a reunion.