Nov. 13, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — When football losses occur and multiply, it is easy to point to what went wrong. University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is in the business of finding solutions.
Ferentz gathered with reporters Tuesday for his weekly news conference in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. He didn’t want to speak for Hawkeye fans, a group he described as being “as good as they come,” but he said that if his staff and players are frustrated by losing four straight games, he understands it is a human response for fans to be frustrated, too.
“All I can tell our fans is we’re working as hard as we possibly can,” Ferentz said. “I can’t make any guarantees; we didn’t 13 and a half years ago, and one thing I promised back then is we would work hard to be successful, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The Hawkeyes (4-6 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., on Saturday to face a Michigan team (7-3, 5-1) that has won two games in a row, and five of its last six. The Wolverines are 5-0 at Michigan Stadium this season, including a 38-31 overtime win against Northwestern on Nov. 10.
“They’re a veteran football team, strong in a lot of areas and have to travel to Ann Arbor,” Ferentz said. “They give you some things to keep you up late at night, especially on third down — they do some things that are very, very challenging. But the biggest thing is, they really play hard and they’re very sound fundamentally.”
Iowa has defeated Michigan three straight times, a point that is undoubtedly being emphasized to the 23 senior Wolverines who will participate in Senior Day on Saturday. The Hawkeyes won 24-16 last season, with B.J. Lowery preserving the decision when he deflected a fourth-down pass attempt in the end zone. Iowa was victorious, 38-28, in Ann Arbor in 2010, and 30-28 in Iowa City in 2009.
“As far as year-to-year and week-to-week, we’re not the same team we were a year ago and they’re not, either,” Ferentz said. “There is no tie in to years before that.”
“All I can tell our fans is we’re working as hard as we possibly can. I can’t make any guarantees; we didn’t 13 and a half years ago, and one thing I promised back then is we would work hard to be successful, and that’s what we’re doing.”
UI head football coach
While it is impractical to compare teams from year-to-year, it is interesting to note what happened the last time the Hawkeyes suffered four losses in a row: they bounced back to defeat No. 18 Illinois, 10-6, in 2007. Another good omen is the fact Iowa’s last victory was on the road, in the state of Michigan, against Michigan State, 19-16 in double overtime, on Oct. 13.
Ferentz knows the result against Michigan will be decided on the field of play, not based on fluky trends.
“If you’re hanging around waiting for luck, you probably should get in a different profession,” Ferentz said. “We’re trying to focus on things that we need to do better, and every game is a different circumstance. We have the same amount of time to get ready for this game as Michigan does, and we have to utilize our time as well as we possibly can and try to be smart as possible about the decisions we make going into the game and during the game, and then execute better, especially in critical areas. That’s the key.”
Injuries to key players on both sides add another level of intrigue to the game. Ferentz said fullback Brad Rogers might be able to return on special teams, and although leading rusher Mark Weisman (661 yards, eight touchdowns) is improving, “you can’t count on him” to be ready to play Saturday.
For Michigan, quarterback Denard Robinson is listed as the starter, with Devin Gardner his backup. Robinson has passed for 1,319 yards and rushed for 946 in nine games; Gardner has thrown for 520 and run for 68. Last week against Northwestern, Garden threw for 286 yards and ran for 47.
“Robinson is just so quick and elusive, so there will be more designed runs with him in there,” Ferentz said. “It’s like trying to play a guy who is a good running back who also can throw it back there. Gardner is a little bigger guy, but he can run it, too, and when he gets outside, he’s dangerous; he throws the ball well, too. It’s a little bit different.
“The thing that doesn’t change is they have a really good line; those guys are big, physical guys, veteran guys up front, and the tight ends do a nice job. They’ve got a couple of receivers they can really go to.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 11:01 a.m. (CT). The game will be televised to a national audience by ESPN, with Dave Pasch, Brian Griese, and Jenn Brown calling the action.