Nov. 11, 2008
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — It will take more than Kirk Ferentz’s disdain for egg nog to keep the University of Iowa football team focused Saturday against Purdue. A dash of leadership heading into senior day should offer an assist.
The suddenly trendy Hawkeyes entertain Purdue on Nov. 15 with an 11:03 a.m. kickoff inside Kinnick Stadium. Last season the Boilermakers posted a 31-6 victory, but they haven’t won in Iowa City since 1992 — a streak of five losses.
One of the challenges for the Hawkeyes is to scrape themselves off the ceiling following a 24-23 win against No. 3 Penn State last week. Ferentz, the UI head coach, said the memory of staying home for the holidays last season should inspire the team to pursue wins No. 7 and 8 against Purdue and Minnesota the next two Saturdays.
“We had six wins last year and we were all sitting around the fireplace for Christmas and chest nuts and all that stuff roasting, music playing,” Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly media conference. “I’m not a big fan of egg nog. I’m hoping we can do a little better. We’re going to have to earn it. It’s going to be tough, though.”
Iowa is 6-4 overall, 3-3 in the Big Ten Conference. Purdue is 3-7, 1-5. This will be Purdue head coach Joe Tiller’s final road game. The winningest coach in Boilermaker history is 86-61 in 12 seasons at Purdue and 125-91-1 overall in 18 seasons.
According to Ferentz, understanding what type of team the Hawkeyes have should also keep them grounded this week.
“We’re a team that has to play hard and work hard and prepare hard and we have to stay true to that,” Ferentz said. “I anticipate every game on our schedule to be tough. I thought every team or game would be winnable. I also thought every game was an opportunity to lose, too.”
The traditionally pass-happy Boilermakers feature a 1,000-yard rusher in Kory Sheets, who is fourth in the conference and 25th in the nation with 1,017 rushing yards (101.7 per game). He is second in the Big Ten in all purpose yards (149.8) and scoring touchdowns (14 in 10 games) and third in scoring (8.4 points per game). Although he hasn’t played in two games, Boilermaker quarterback Curtis Painter is third in the league in passing yards per game (220.2). He has completed 55.9-percent of his attempts for 1,762 yards, six touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Receiver Greg Orton has caught 55 passes for 612 yards and three touchdowns. Other favorite Purdue targets are Desmond Tardy (45-631-3), Keith Smith (35-342-1) and Sheets (29-222-1). Linebacker Anthony Heygood is second in the Big Ten with 102 tackles.
“We had six wins last year and we were all sitting around the fireplace for Christmas and chest nuts and all that stuff roasting, music playing. I’m not a big fan of egg nog. I’m hoping we can do a little better. We’re going to have to earn it. It’s going to be tough, though.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
“Purdue is a team we have great respect for,” Ferentz said. “We’ve been competing against them for the past nine years and I don’t think anybody has done a better job in the Big Ten than Joe Tiller. He’s an outstanding football coach and he has really impacted that program in a very dramatic, positive fashion.”
There is still some explosiveness left in the Boilermaker offense. On Nov. 1 they racked up 48 points during a six-point victory at home against Michigan.
“Purdue is a feisty group and tough up front,” Ferentz said. “They have a lot of veterans up front and they have a lot of veterans in that line who are playing well. You look at Purdue’s overall success and everybody thinks about the offense. It’s been excellent, but their defense has been very consistent and very good all the way through.”
Purdue ranks seventh in the league in total offense (356.0) and 10th in total defense (376.3). The Boilermakers are last in scoring offense (21.7), punting (32.0 net yards per punt), field goals (10 of 18) and PAT kicking (23 of 26).
Saturday’s game will mark the last time the Hawkeye senior class will perform inside Kinnick Stadium.
“The whole senior class — and it’s not a big class — has done a great job,” Ferentz said. “You start at the top with Mitch King and Matt Kroul. Those guys are four-year players and that’s really rare, especially being linemen.”
Ferentz said that tight end Tony Moeaki re-injured his leg against Penn State and is doubtful for the Purdue game, along with offensive lineman Andy Kuempel. For the seventh consecutive week, Hawkeye captains will be Rob Bruggeman, Shonn Greene, King and Kroul.
It was a busy week tracking the awards handed out to Hawkeye players and coaches following the upset of Penn State. Tyler Sash was named Big Ten Conference Defensive Player of the Week, Greene was named one of 10 semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award (nation’s top running back). Greene (national player of the week) and defensive coordinator Norm Parker (coordinator of the week) were recognized by rivals.com.