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IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz was happy to get a win in the season-opener over Northern Illinois, but he knows the stakes are higher Saturday with Iowa State coming to Kinnick Stadium for an Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series matchup.
“It is a big game for our football team and a big game for everybody in the state,” said Ferentz during Tuesday’s press conference in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “We have a big job on our hands and a lot of work to do.”
If the Hawkeyes are to avenge the 2011 loss — a 44-41 triple overtime defeat in Ames — they must slow the Iowa State offensive attack featuring quarterback Steele Jantz. Last season, Jantz completed 25-of-37 attempts for 279 yards and four touchdowns.
“It was like a highlight reel,” said Ferentz of Jantz’s production last season. “He’s an experienced player, a lot more confident, and had a tremendous game on Saturday against Tulsa, both running and throwing the ball.”
“It is a big game for our football team and a big game for everybody in the state. We have a big job on our hands and a lot of work to do.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
The Cyclones won their season-opener over Tulsa, winning 38-23 at Jack Trice Stadium. Jantz finished 32-of-45 for 281 yards with two touchdowns.
Ferentz said containment was an issue for the Hawkeyes against Jantz during the 2011 meeting, a fact that will be emphasized during this week’s preparation.
“It might be a good idea if we try to keep him contained a little bit,” he said. “You learn in football, somebody has to contain, and we kind of forgot that last year. It’s easier said than done. He’s a very good athlete and with their scheme, it makes it tough.”
The Hawkeyes have won three of the last four, four of the last six, and six of the last nine in the series dating back to 2003. Since taking over as head coach, Ferentz is 6-7 in the series, which has brought a renewed energy to the in-state showdown.
“It has been a rivalry ever since I got here,” said Ferentz. “Both teams are playing well, and it’s going to go right down to the wire. It went down to the wire last year and then some.”
Ferentz said he wouldn’t have envisioned Iowa running the ball 30 times in the opener, let alone giving 30 carries to one back. That’s the workload sophomore running back Damon Bullock had en route to a career-best 150 yards.
Despite Bullock’s production, Ferentz sees Iowa spreading the wealth in the backfield in distributing the carries.
“My guess is we’ll spread it around,” he said. “I think Michael Malloy is going to be playing here. Greg (Garmon) got his feet wet, and he’s a good player, too. My guess is all three guys will do it, and it’s a matter of how much Damon can handle.”
After reviewing the game film, Ferentz saw a number of correctible plays. He said it is a matter of how quickly they can be corrected and translated to the game field.
“You know, the better you run the race, the better chance you have of winning,” he said. “You factor in the team you’re playing, so there are always challenges at hand.”
While Ferentz is eager to face the Cyclones inside the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium, he said the environment will help, but isn’t an all-deciding factor.
“It didn’t help us in 2002, it helped us in the first half, but didn’t in the second half,” he said. “It’s really what you make it. We have won there and here; they have won there and here. It really comes down to which team plays the best.”
Kickoff to Saturday’s game is set for 2:42 p.m. (CT). The game will be televised live on the BTN with Kevin Kugler, Chris Martin and former Hawkeye Chuck Long calling the action.