Managing Highs and Lows

Oct. 18, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Conquering the highs and lows is a key to a successful football season.

University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz reiterated that fact Tuesday at his weekly gathering with media inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. And if Ferentz’s Hawkeyes handle the high of a win against Northwestern as well as they did the low of a loss at Penn State, it promises to be another exciting day in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.

Iowa (4-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) seeks its fifth consecutive home victory and its fourth win in a row against Indiana (1-6, 0-3) when the teams collide Oct. 22 with an 11 a.m. (CT) start. It is Homecoming for the Hawkeyes.

“When the players get here Tuesday, they have got to be focused on our next opponent and really focused on what they are doing,” Ferentz said. “I’m hoping that’s the case today.”

Iowa gained 253 yards and scored three points in a loss at Penn State on Oct. 8. A week later, the Hawkeyes rolled to 379 yards and 41 points in a win against Northwestern.

“We only came back good, we didn’t come back great or amazing,” UI running back Marcus Coker said. “There’s always something we need to improve on. We had a good game, but there are a lot of things we did wrong and we need to fix. We need to remember that.”

Last season Coker received his first start of the season at Indiana. He gained 129 yards on 22 carries and made it three years in a row that a Hawkeye true freshman running back gained more than 100 yards against the Hoosiers. Iowa won, 18-13, last season in Bloomington when Indiana wide receiver Damarlo Belcher dropped a pass in the end zone with 28 seconds remaining.

“As everybody knows, we have had a really difficult time with them the last two years,” Ferentz said. “Last year’s game went down to the last snap. Two years ago we were very fortunate to get that thing turned around because it wasn’t looking too good.”

In 2009, the Hawkeyes rallied for 28 points in the fourth period to overcome a 24-14 deficit and defeat Indiana, 42-24.

So while the Hawkeyes enjoyed the win against the Wildcats, it’s now all about the Hoosiers.

“You realize it’s just one win and we still have six more tough Big Ten opponents left and that starts with this week,” UI quarterback James Vandenberg said. “We can’t dwell on a win or a loss very long or it will hinder you.”

“It’s the 24 hour rule,” UI cornerback Shaun Prater said. “You have to move on if it’s a win, loss or draw. We have to move onto the next opponent and we’ll look to beat those guys as well.”

Ferentz said he is glad to return to Kinnick on Saturday, where the challenge this week will be to clean up areas that require improvement. Linebackers James Morris and Anthony Hitchens, defensive tackle Thomas Nardo and running back Jordan Canzeri all have a chance to return to action this week. The Hawkeyes gained cornerback B.J. Lowery against Northwestern and he responded with two tackles.

“He practiced well last spring and he had a good August until the injury,” Ferentz said. “That gives you a little bit more depth in the secondary now and a little bit more competition, and then special teams, he gave us a good jump there. That’s one we needed. A lot of these little nicks really show up on special teams, so to get a guy back like that really helps.”

De’Andre Steps Up
A minor hamstring injury to Canzeri four days before Iowa’s game against Northwestern opened the door for sophomore running back De’Andre Johnson. Johnson performed well, carrying the ball three times for 18 yards at the end of the game.

“We have to get some other guys involved and take some load off Marcus (Coker),” Ferentz said. “Hopefully we can do that and work in that direction. De’Andre got three runs and he did a nice job and that was good to see. He’s a good football player and he just has to get his feet on the ground here a little bit more firmly so hopefully he’ll do that and I think he’s making strides.”

Through the first six games, Coker has gained 578 yards on 201 carries. Those figures represent 72.2 percent of Iowa’s rushing yardage and 63.2 percent of the team’s rushing attempts.

Indiana is last in the Big Ten in rushing defense (227.4 yards per game); Iowa is 12th in rushing offense (133.5).

Grading the Tight End Position
Ferentz was asked about the progression of the tight end position after no tight end hauled in any of Vandenberg’s 14 completions against Northwestern.

“Outside of a week ago (at Penn State), we have been scoring pretty readily,” Ferentz said. “Not readily, but we have put points on the board. It doesn’t matter who’s catching — one game it’s this guy, and another game it’s that guy. The bottom line is trying to get points, so whoever is helping us out, that’s good. Typically during the course of the season we will get spread around, so it will work itself out.”

Ferentz said C.J. Fiedorowicz played his best game last Saturday, and another tight end, Brad Herman, looked like he would catch a touchdown pass, but protection broke down and Vandenberg scrambled.