Winning the Close Ones

Oct. 8, 2009

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Official Sports Report, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free. To receive the UI’s OSR or to learn more, click HERE.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — For the first time under Kirk Ferentz, the Iowa Hawkeyes are undefeated through the first five weeks of the season. Even more impressive is the fact the Iowa has won nine consecutive games, dating back to the end of last season. The nine-game winning streak is the second-longest active streak in the country.

Iowa, which last started a season 5-0 in 1995, has been able to rack up the wins in a number of different ways. A dominating defense and strong offensive and special teams performances have contributed to the Black and Gold’s early season success.

Ferentz said that the team is happy being 5-0 after beating Arkansas State and that was the goal heading into the Saturday’s game.

“There are no style points in football, so we don’t have to worry about rankings and all that other stuff,” said Ferentz, who now ranks 18th in all-time Big Ten coaches winning percentage. “We can just try to get to six now. It’s a good feeling.”

Through five contests, Iowa has demonstrated that it can win both the close games and the ones decided by double digits. A year ago, the Black and Gold’s suffered four narrow defeats by a combined 12 points, with three of the losses coming on the road (21-10 at Pittsburgh, 16-13 at Michigan State, 27-24 at Illinois and 22-17 to Northwestern).

So far this season, Iowa has notched two wins of three points or less and three wins of 10 points or more. The Hawkeyes had a one-point thrilling triumph over Northern Iowa (17-16) and a three-point win over Arkansas State (24-21). Iowa also recorded a 32-point victory at Iowa State (35-3), a 10-point win versus Arizona and an 11-point victory at Penn State. Although Iowa’s win at Penn State was decided by 11 points, many Hawkeye fans know it was much closer than the score indicated.

Starting the fourth period against the Red Wolves, it looked as if the Hawkeyes were about to put the game away and expand their 14-point lead. However, a Ricky Stanzi interception was returned 75 yards for a touchdown to cut Iowa’s advantage to seven points and change the complexion of Saturday’s finish.

Ferentz knows that anything can happen in a college football game and it’s impossible to predict outcomes.

“We had opportunities to make it more comfortable,” said Iowa’s head coach. “Any time you give up a score the other way for 75 yards that certainly makes it a bigger challenge. But you know, I’ve been around this long enough where I don’t worry too much about how you get there. It’s just a matter of getting there.”

The Hawkeyes, who are one win away from being bowl eligible, step back into conference play and gun for their 10th consecutive win when they host Michigan Saturday night. Iowa has never won 10 straight contests under Ferentz. Twice before the Black and Gold have won nine straight under Ferentz. Iowa won nine in a row in 2002 and won their last eight games in 2004 and their first contest in 2005.

Senior linebacker A.J. Edds agreed that it is nice being undefeated, but he and his teammates are focused on the bigger picture.

“It’s good to be 5-0,” said Edds. “It’s better than anything you could think of, but at the same time, our goal wasn’t to be 5-0, our goal is to play well for 12 games and see where we are in the end. We can’t get complacent and we can’t comfortable.”

Edds, one of three seniors on the team’s Leadership Group, knows it’s going to be a battle Saturday night and the Hawkeyes will need to be prepared.

“They’re a good team,” said Edds. “It’s going to be a pretty physical, 60-minute game. We’ll see who the best team is at the end. It will be important we can come out and play sound defensively.”

Iowa and Michigan are set to battle Saturday shortly after 7 p.m. Iowa time inside Kinnick Stadium. It will be the Wolverines’ first visit to Iowa City since 2005 and the renovated Kinnick Stadium.