Underdog Hawkeyes prepare for Penn State

Sept. 22, 2009

Complete Ferentz press conference transcript

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Everyone remembers Daniel’s kick and for University of Iowa fans, what a kick it was.

A 31-yard field goal by Daniel Murray gave the Hawkeyes a 24-23 victory over previously unbeaten and second-ranked Penn State on Nov. 8, 2008, inside Kinnick Stadium. Iowa has not lost a football game since.

Now both teams enter the Big Ten Conference season-opener with 3-0 records in what has developed into one of the more interesting rivalries in the league. UI head coach Kirk Ferentz downplayed the thought that Murray’s heroics in ’08 might provide added Nittany Lion motivation.

“I’m sure they’re going to want to win the football game,” Ferentz said. “My guess is, if we had missed that field goal and they had beaten us last year, they’d still want to beat us. I don’t think that’s going to be a huge factor.”

The game will be televised by ABC to a national audience with Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit and Lisa Salters calling the action. Kickoff from Beaver Stadium is 7 p.m. (Iowa time). A sellout crowd of 109,000 (plus) is expected.

Two things are certain: Beaver Stadium will be loud and it will be white. For just the third time in the stadium’s 50 years, Penn State will attempt to transform the arena into a `Whitehouse.’ Iowa will prepare for all gameday situations, including the use of piped-in music for practice.

“That’s part of our routine, home or away,” Ferentz said. “We do it on Wednesday’s, particularly for the offense. I’m not as worried about the defense. We used to do it in the ’80s and we did it when I was in the NFL. It’s part of our routine. If they think it helps, then it helps; that’s good.”

Ferentz has coached the Hawkeyes to six victories in eight meetings against the Nittany Lions. Penn State holds an 11-10 advantage in the all-time series.

“I’ve got a short memory,” Ferentz said. “The last trip over there wasn’t so pretty (a 27-7 win by Penn State on Oct. 6, 2007). We got spanked pretty good. If you’re going to play well against Penn State, you better play your best football. Two years ago we got handled pretty easily over there. It seemed like we were going uphill all day long and we’re going to have to take another couple steps here to play well against this team.”

Ferentz acknowledged that the Hawkeyes improved and took a step forward Sept. 19 during a 27-17 victory against Arizona. Following a five-punt, 51-yard average, UI punter Ryan Donahue was named co-Big Ten Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. He knows field position could play a key factor in this week’s game as well.

“We had a pretty big win against them last year and I know none of them have forgotten it,” Donahue said. “We expect them to come out guns-a-blazing and we’re going to do the same. The crowd is always into it there. Their fans are really good.”

Penn State enters the contest ranked either No. 4 (USA Today Coaches) or No. 5 (Associated Press) in the country, meaning that for the first time this season, the Hawkeyes will not be favored.

“We’re going to have to make the most of our opportunities,” Ferentz said. “It’s like any game when you’re the underdog — you’ve got to play your absolute best, hopefully minimize your critical mistakes, and if you get some opportunities, you’ve got to cash in, even though they’re going to be few and far between. We’ve got to try to be ready to go when they show up.”

Iowa and Penn State are ranked 1-2 in the Big Ten in several statistical categories, including net punting average (Iowa first, 44.3; Penn State second, 43.4), pass defense (Iowa first, 162.7 yards per game; Penn State second, 166.0), opponent first downs (Penn State first, 33; Iowa second, 41), time of possession (Iowa first, 33:09; Penn State second, 32:07) and scoring defense (Penn State first, 6.7 points per game; Iowa second, 12.0).

“Penn State is an excellent team with a lot of great athletes,” UI linebacker Pat Angerer said. “It doesn’t get much bigger than this.”