Sept. 29, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Three times during head coach Kirk Ferentz’s 11 seasons, the University of Iowa football team has started with a 4-0 record.
The Hawkeyes have never begun 5-0.
That could change Saturday, Oct. 3, when No. 13 Iowa hosts Arkansas State (1-2) with an 11 a.m. kickoff from Kinnick Stadium. The game will be televised by ESPN2.
Under Ferentz, the Hawkeyes opened the 2003 season 4-0 before falling, 20-10, at Michigan State and eventually finishing 10-3 with a victory in the Outback Bowl. In 2006, Iowa won its first four games before losing at home to No. 1 Ohio State, 38-17. The Hawkeyes finished 6-7 with a loss in the Alamo Bowl.
“Historically speaking, (UI sports information director) Phil Haddy caught me off guard the other day when he said this is the third time we’ve been 4-0,” said Ferentz at his weekly media conference inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “I can tell you this: We’ve never been 5-0.”
Iowa’s last 5-0 start was in 1995 when the Hawkeyes eventually finished 8-4 with a win in the Sun Bowl.
As is typically the case, Ferentz opened Tuesday’s press conference with a medical update. This time it was music to Hawkeye fans’ ears.
“Medically, it’s been a long and winding road,” Ferentz said. “(Senior offensive tackle) Bryan Bulaga was cleared yesterday to resume full activity, including playing, so unless some unforeseen circumstance takes place, I think we’re in good shape there.”
Tight end Tony Moeaki is “improving,” but Ferentz said the staff is trying “to be smart” with bringing him up to game speed.
Bulaga has missed the last three games — victories against Iowa State, Arizona and Penn State — with a thyroid condition. Ferentz said the illness “passed in time with proper supervision.”
Ferentz was asked if Bulaga would regain his starting position at left tackle.
“If he has a good week at practice. Usually when we have a proven, established player, if they’re out for injury or medical reasons, we put them right back in the lineup when they get back. How much he plays, I don’t know that; we’ll have to wait and see how the week goes.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
on Bryan Bulaga’s status
“If he has a good week at practice,” Ferentz said. “Usually when we have a proven, established player, if they’re out for injury or medical reasons, we put them right back in the lineup when they get back. How much he plays, I don’t know that; we’ll have to wait and see how the week goes.”
The challenge now for the Hawkeyes is to remain grounded following a 21-10 victory at No. 4 Penn State with a dangerous Arkansas State team coming to town.
“We’ve got an awful lot of respect for their football team and their program,” Ferentz said. “(Head coach) Steve Roberts has done a great job there and they have been bowl-eligible three of the last four years.”
Ferentz said that the Red Wolves, with quarterback Corey Leonard (150 passing yards per game, no interceptions) and running back Reggie Arnold (80.3 rushing yards per game, seven touchdowns), remind him of personnel on Northwestern teams that knocked the Hawkeyes off in 2005 (28-27) and ’08 (22-17).
“They’re a lot like a very nice Northwestern attack,” Ferentz said. “Leonard is a lot like (former Northwestern quarterback Brett) Basanez and that’s probably a pretty good comparison. The running back looks a little bit like (former Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton). Those guys are good football players and these guys are pretty proficient.”
Arkansas State is affiliated with the nine-member Sun Belt Conference. The Red Wolves have finished 6-6 in 2005, ’06 and ’08. In the 2008 season-opener, Arkansas State traveled to Texas A&M and upset the Aggies, 18-14. In 2007, the game after Texas defeated Iowa in the 2006 Alamo Bowl, the Red Wolves traveled to Austin and lost to the Longhorns, 21-13. In 2006, Arkansas State walloped Oklahoma State, 35-7.
“They beat Texas A&M last year and they’re not going to be intimidated coming in here, I can assure you,” Ferentz said. “We’d better be prepared well and we’d better be ready to go at kickoff on Saturday. About a week after we got the papers signed, they beat Texas A&M, so I was like, oh, great.”
For the first time this season, the Hawkeyes will have a change in their four game captains. Representing the offense will be Moeaki and quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Linebacker Pat Angerer is from the defense and defensive end Adrian Clayborn will represent the defense and special teams.
“I guess (Adrian’s) become a special teams enthusiast now,” said Ferentz, in reference to Clayborn being honored by the Big Ten Conference as Special Teams Player of the Week (Angerer was named Defensive Player of the Week).
Iowa has won eight games in a row and its last five games at Kinnick Stadium. A sixth-straight home victory would be a history-maker of sorts. That would give the Hawkeyes a 5-0 start to the 2009 season — a beginning like no other in Ferentz’s illustrious coaching career.