Hawkeyes looking for a couple steps forward

Sept. 9, 2008

Coach Ferentz press conference transcript

IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz isn’t looking for one step forward Saturday when the undefeated Hawkeyes entertain intrastate rival Iowa State.

“We’ll have to take a couple steps this week,” said Ferentz of the matchup with the 2-0 Cyclones. “The level of competition definitely goes up.”

The game will be televised by the Big Ten Network with an 11:03 a.m. kickoff. It will be the 33rd consecutive sellout of Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes have won three of the last five meetings between the teams, including the last two in Iowa City (27-17 in 2006, 17-10 in 2004).

Last season a 2-0 Iowa team slumbered into Ames and was handed a 15-13 loss to winless Iowa State. This time, the Hawkeyes should be focused squarely on the Cyclones, who have averaged 46 points per game during blowout victories against South Dakota State and Kent State.

“We have a bigger challenge this week than we’ve had the last two, no question about that,” Ferentz said. “Iowa State has improved from a year ago. We’re very impressed with what we’re seeing about them. They’re playing hard, well-coached, good scheme.”

One of the keys for Iowa will be keeping hold of the football. Iowa State has benefitted from 10 turnovers in two games. Last week, during a victory against Kent State, the Cyclones scored touchdowns on drives of one, five and 20 yards.

“They’re playing opportunistic football which is what good football teams do, and they’re creating a lot of positive situations,” Ferentz said. “The other thing that has factored into their production has been their special teams. They’ve played excellent in all phases. They’re playing well.”

As much as Ferentz glowed about the Cyclone improvement from a year ago, he also stressed that his team has four days of practice to improve from the one that has averaged 44 points per game offensively and defensively has not allowed a team inside its 20-yard line.

“The challenge for us is to get a lot better than we’ve played the last two weeks,” Ferentz said.

It will mark the second consecutive start for sophomore quarterback Ricky Stanzi, who completed 8 of 10 passes for 162 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-0 rout of Florida International on Sept. 6. Jake Christensen was 8 of 12 for 99 yards and a touchdown.

“So far (Ricky) has played well,” Ferentz said. “This is pretty much based on what’s happened since August. I’ll say it one more time, I think both guys have really done a good job in all the situations they’ve been in.”

The major unknown for Stanzi is how he will react after absorbing a big hit, or how he holds up if the Hawkeyes surrender anywhere near the total of 46 sacks as they did a year ago.

“There are a lot of things he hasn’t experienced yet,” Ferentz said. “He hasn’t been sacked 40-some times. Those things are not fun. I’m sure Rick will do well, but there are a lot of unknowns yet. It’s not like we’re ready to crown him king or anything like that.”

Ferentz is pleased, but not giddy, over the two previous Hawkeye romps inside Kinnick Stadium. The memory is still fresh from last season’s last-second loss to the Cyclones, which started Iowa on a four-game tailspin.

“Like our football team,” Ferentz said. “We’ve played hard but we really haven’t done anything either yet.”

Twice during the press conference — once on his own accord and once via a reporter’s question — Ferentz touched on the topic of his involvement with the Iowa State series.

“Yesterday I got to open the paper and saw a little picture of my face, nice smile on my face, cited a 2-20 record against Iowa State since I’ve been here (actually 3-6 as head coach),” Ferentz said.

Later, he squelched the notion that he doesn’t take the Iowa State game seriously.

“We think every game is pretty important,” Ferentz said. “I thought the last two were important, too.”

Such is the case during the week of the Iowa State game. Like most football fans in the Hawkeye State, Ferentz enjoys the annual fall rivalry.

“I hope they never discontinue it,” he said. “It’s a good thing for football in general and certainly it’s good for football in our state.”

News from the injury front keeps improving for the Hawkeyes. The lone certain holdout for the Iowa State game is sophomore linebacker Jeff Tarpinian.

Iowa captains will be defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul and offensive linemen Rob Bruggeman and Seth Olsen.