Oct. 14, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Recent improvements on special teams have impressed University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz as the Hawkeyes reached the midpoint of the regular season.
More precisely, Ferentz glowed about kickoff and punt return coverage, areas that have been less-than-notable in years past.
“The last couple weeks we have made some real strides,” Ferentz said Sunday in an exclusive interview with hawkeyesports.com. “I’m not happier about anything more than I am about our special teams. In our two Big Ten games we played a little bit more like we were hoping to see. If we can build on that, it would be a positive for us.”
During a 19-16 double-overtime victory at Michigan State on Oct. 13, the Hawkeyes limited the Spartans to minus-1 yard on two punt returns; on four kickoff returns, Michigan State averaged 17 yards per return. During a 31-13 win against Minnesota on Sept. 29, the Gophers returned three kickoffs for an average of 8.7 yards per return, and four punts for an average of 7.5 yards per return.
Iowa (4-2 overall, 2-0 Big Ten), one of two undefeated teams in the Legends Division, hosts Penn State (4-2, 2-0), one of two undefeated teams in the Leaders Division, on Oct. 20, with a 7 p.m. (CT) kickoff.
“It is such an electric atmosphere,” Ferentz said. “Kinnick is a great place to be regardless, but night games have an added level of electricity.”
The Michigan State game took a physical toll on the Hawkeyes. Running back Mark Weisman, who rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown in East Lansing, suffered an injury to his lower leg on a touchdown run in the fourth quarter. He has been in a protective boot since Saturday afternoon.
“We’ll take it day-by-day,” Ferentz said. “It’s a significant injury, but not to the extent of some of the injuries we have seen. If he can’t go, we’ll go with the guys that are healthy. You’re looking at Greg Garmon, who came in (at Michigan State), Jordan Canzeri has been practicing well the last month, and Mike Malloy has been working as well. Those will be the three guys at this point that we’ll focus on this week.”
Penn State defeated Iowa 13-3 last season in State College, Pa.; the Hawkeyes won 24-3 in the last meeting inside Kinnick Stadium in 2010.
“Their players have done a remarkable job,” Ferentz said. “They got off to a slow start, but they have played well for several weeks in a row with confidence. You can tell they are playing for each other and that is something to be respected. I can assure you they have a lot of good players on that roster and they are playing well right now.”
To watch the entire Sunday interview with Ferentz, click HERE.