Oct. 25, 2011
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa football team prides itself on winning road games. The Hawkeyes head to Minneapolis in search of road win No. 1 on Saturday.
“We need it as a team,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz at his weekly press conference Tuesday inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “We need the win on the road, we haven’t done that.”
Iowa is 0-2 away from Kinnick Stadium this season, having fallen at Iowa State (44-41) in three overtimes on Sept. 10, and at Penn State (13-3) on Oct. 8. The team’s last road victory came at Indiana (18-13) on Nov. 6, 2010.
“We’ve had two chances to win games on the road and haven’t gotten it done yet, so that’s something we’re definitely focused on this week,” said UI junior quarterback James Vandenberg. “It’s something we pride ourselves on being able to win on the road, and we’re all looking forward to being able to do.”
The Hawkeyes have won eight of the last 10 meetings in the series against the Golden Gophers. Last season in the first-ever match-up in TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota defeated Iowa, 27-24, in the regular season finale to hoist the Floyd of Rosedale for the first time since 2006.
“We’ve had two chances to win games on the road and haven’t gotten it done yet, so that’s something we’re definitely focused on this week. It’s something we pride ourselves on being able to win on the road, and we’re all looking forward to being able to do.”
UI junior James Vandenberg
With a lot of moving parts on the defense because of injuries, the Hawkeyes have surrendered 55 points over the past two games. Iowa’s opponents have converted 63.9 percent of its third-down conversions. Northwestern was 16-of-22 on Oct. 15, while Indiana converted 7-of-14 attempts last week.
“Anytime we give up any points, that’s not good,” said Ferentz. “The first thing that jumps out at you if you look at the stats is third down.
“I would say if we’re looking for one thing to start with is the makeable third downs — third-and-longs, third-and-mediums — where our personnel should be getting off the field. We have to do a better job there.”
Another cog to the defense, former back-up quarterback A.J. Derby, has made a switch to linebacker, but Ferentz said his immediate contributions could come on special teams. Against Indiana, Derby made his debut on the kickoff team in the second half, where he tallied his first career tackle.
“We gave him a crash course last week,” said Ferentz. “That’s the first place he can hit the field, and I think it’s realistic based on what we saw Saturday.
“He basically ran down and did something he’s never had training for. He did it better than most guys do after training. Based on that one play, that’s certainly something easy to get excited about. Now we can build from there.”
The last two weeks, sophomore Marcus Coker is performing like the running back many envisioned following his breakout performance in the 2010 Insight Bowl. He finished with 124 yards on 22 carries against Northwestern and 139 yards on 23 carries against Indiana.
“His yards-per-carry was up around six last weekend and pretty good the week before (5.6 yards per carry),” said Ferentz. “It’s an indicator of what we’re seeing on the field. He’s running a little bit more decisively now, a little more confidently.”
“Our offensive line has done a really good job of controlling the tempo up front the last two weeks and gotten Coker going early,” said Vandenberg. “He’s a full back to handle once he gets a head of steam going, and they’ve been creating holes for him to do that.”
The Hawkeyes could be close to adding another option to plug in alongside Coker. True freshman running back Mika’il McCall, who had nine carries for 61 yards in the season-opener before going down with a foot injury, has been cleared medically.
“He did some good things last week, and we’ll see what this week brings,” said Ferentz. “Last week he was out there in gear, all that type of thing. It’s a matter of how quickly he can get caught up and how good he feels.
“There’s a big difference being cleared medically and really being able to play. That’s the next hurdle for him to overcome. We’ll give him some work this week and see what happens.”
The Hawkeyes play at Minnesota on Saturday beginning at 2:42 p.m. (CT). The game will be televised to a national audience on the Big Ten Network with Eric Collins, Chris Martin and Dionne Miller calling the action.