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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Winning games in October and November has been more of a trademark for Kirk Ferentz-coached University of Iowa football teams than running the table in September.
That could be the case again in 2012, as an inexperienced group continues to grow in front of our eyes. Although it didn’t show up on the scoreboard Saturday during a 9-6 loss to Iowa State, the young Hawkeyes are moving in the right direction.
“We improved in a lot of areas this past week,” Ferentz told hawkeyesports.com Sunday in an exclusive interview. “We have to keep our foot on the gas. It’s always better to get off to a good start, and we’re trying to do that, but you think back to ’04, we were 2-2 and ended up winning the Big Ten championship.”
Iowa opened the 2004 season with wins against Kent State (39-7) and Iowa State (17-10), before losing at Arizona State by 37 and at Michigan by 13. The Hawkeyes won their final eight games, including a 30-25 win over LSU in the Capital One Bowl.
“In football, chances are you’re going to lose somewhere in the course of the year,” Ferentz said. “The first thing you can’t do is let one loss beat you twice. You have to move on. We spend Sundays critiquing the game and watching the tape, then we go out and make corrections on the field.”
Some obvious improvements came in pass protection from the offensive line. On Sept. 1, Iowa was sacked six times; seven days later, they go an entire game without allowing a sack.
Supporting the strength of the Iowa and Iowa State defenses is the fact the Hawkeyes averaged just 2.4 yards per 28 rushing attempts. The Cyclones averaged 2.5 yards on 41 runs.
“Some of the things in the running game are a matter of details and getting those things nailed down,” Ferentz said.
A slight bit of footwork here, the angle an offensive lineman takes, depth of receivers on their routes, finishing plays, making correct reads…all little things, but when the Hawkeyes get them straightened out…
“Collectively, if we can improve a small percentage, it will show up in a big way,” Ferentz said.
Up next is Northern Iowa, a second consecutive in-state rival. In the last meeting in 2009, the Hawkeyes used back-to-back blocked field goal attempts by Broderick Binns and Jeremiha Hunter to hold on for a 17-16 victory.
“They’re off to a good start,” Ferentz said. “They played Wisconsin extremely tough (26-21 loss in Madison) and came back and won at home very convincingly (59-0 against Central State University). We know they’ll be fired up and they will be ready. They have proven they aren’t intimidated to travel on the road to Big Ten schools or other conferences.”
The Hawkeye offense has averaged 182.5 yards per game in its first two outings, but Iowa is still searching for its first touchdown through the air.
“We’re not where we want to be and it’s showing up mostly in the red zone,” Ferentz said. “We haven’t been able to finish drives with touchdowns and that’s something you have to do to be successful offensively. We had a couple opportunities (Saturday against Iowa State) and didn’t get the job done. There are some plays out there we had an opportunity to make that we didn’t convert.
“Our passing game was coming around in the month of August. Now we have to keep working to refine and make the plays that are doable out there.”
To watch the entire Sunday conversation with Ferentz, click HERE.