Keeping on the Gas

Sept. 20, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz intends to keep his foot on the gas of the Hawkeye program as it nears the end of the crucial month of September.

Ferentz met with media Tuesday in the player’s auditorium of the Hayden Fry Football Complex as Iowa (2-1) prepares for the University of Louisiana at Monroe (1-2). Kickoff on Sept. 24 is 11 a.m.

“We have to keep our foot on the gas and keep improving,” Ferentz said. “We had a lot of good teaching examples on the film (from the Pittsburgh game) of things we need to work on and clean up.”

ULM presents an interesting challenge both offensively and defensively that Ferentz said will “eat up practice time all week.” Last season, Warhawk quarterback Kolton Browning completed passes to 17 different receivers; 11 different ULM players have caught passes this season. A 3-3-5 defense has limited opponents to 108.3 rushing yards a game.

And two of the three ULM opponents were No. 11 Florida State and No. 20 Texas Christian.

“We have to maintain our focus; we’ve seen a lot of teams with a spread offense and we have to be ready for some crazy formations,” said UI linebacker Christian Kirksey. “We need to take it a play at a time and make sure we start strong. The Pittsburgh game will really get us ready for this game.”

Defense is an area the Hawkeyes progressed in their last outing. After falling behind 27-10 with 12:09 remaining in the game, Iowa limited Pittsburgh to 60 yards on its final 15 plays — and no points.

“We gave up some big plays defensively, but we made progress,” Ferentz said. “That’s a credit to that. But I think after looking at the film, maybe there’s some hope we can develop into a decent defense here before it’s all over.”

Special teams also stepped up, holding the Panthers to two kickoff returns for 19 yards.

“It was a whole team effort,” said UI senior Tom Donatell, who made a huge tackle on Iowa’s final kickoff. “The offense started clicking and finishing drives, the defense was getting three-and-outs, and special teams took it upon themselves to help out the team. It is a true team win to come back from that many points.”

Iowa’s chances appear good Saturday if it can keep the Warhawks from getting off to a fast start. ULM has outscored its opponents 31-28 in the first quarter, but the Warhawks have scored just one touchdown in the second half all season — a rushing score during a 35-7 win over Grambling State.

Ferentz said the Hawkeyes will “do whatever it takes at any given point to try to help our football team,” including using the no-huddle offense if and when it is necessary.

Iowa has a bye week after the ULM game before opening the Big Ten Conference season Oct. 8 at Penn State.

Ferentz said the Hawkeye receiving group took positive steps forward during the 31-27 win against Pittsburgh. UI wide receivers caught 22 passes for 317 yards, tight ends caught four passes for 67 yards and running back Marcus Coker caught five passes for 15. One of the emerging jewels of the group is redshirt freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley. After struggling in August with a foot injury, Ferentz said Martin-Manley picked a “good time to surface.” Two of his four receptions against Pittsburgh were touchdowns.

“I think Kevonte was committed or looking at a (Mid-American Conference) school at that time,” Ferentz said. “We really liked him. He came out with his mom and uncle for a visit in December; it looked like a good marriage and that’s kind of how it all went.”

There is more good news after the Pittsburgh victory. The Hawkeyes appear “fairly healthy” right now, according to Ferentz, and the players who have been inactive are also progressing.