Oct. 15, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — They rested, healed, and improved. Now the University of Iowa football team heads into its toughest challenge of the season.
The Hawkeyes (4-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten Conference) travel to Columbus, Ohio, to face No. 4 Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) on Saturday with a 2:30 p.m. (CT) kick from Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes have won 18 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation.
Both teams are coming off a bye week, and for Iowa, it came at a perfect time.
“We would have been in a little bit of trouble if we played Saturday (Oct. 12). Fortunately we didn’t,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly news conference in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “Based on what we saw over the weekend, it looks like everybody is ready to go.”
“It’s a group effort. We’re a little saltier up front and our linebackers are playing better because of that. You can’t just do it with the front seven. Our defensive backs are doing a good job containing where they have to, and then we’ve had guys come up, support and make tackles, too. It’s everybody doing a good job.”
UI head football coach
That includes leading rusher Mark Weisman (624 yards on the ground) and leading receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley (26 catches, 225 yards) who spent time on the sidelines in the last outing — a 26-14 loss to Michigan State on Oct. 5.
And while the Hawkeyes caught their breath and recuperated, they also got better.
“We worked them hard. For us to be good, we’re going to have to keep improving with each week, including the bye week,” Ferentz said. “I think we improved last week, we got some things done.”
This will be the second time Ferentz squares off against Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. The first meeting was the 2006 Outback Bowl when Meyer was head coach at Florida. Iowa scored the final 17 points of that game, but lost, 31-24.
That isn’t the only familiar connection on the Buckeye staff. Ohio State’s offensive coordinator is Tom Herman, who was at Iowa State in the same capacity from 2009-11.
“They have an effective offensive system,” Ferentz said. “Their quarterbacks have been extremely dangerous and productive and their running backs are outstanding. There is really nothing you can load up on because their receivers are really good. They throw the ball down field, they threaten you. They threaten all regions of the football field. It’s a tough preparation.”
Iowa counters with a defense that, after six games, ranks third in the conference in total defense (290 yards per game), rushing defense (88.5), and passing defense (201.5).
“It’s a group effort,” Ferentz said of the Hawkeye defensive feats. “We’re a little saltier up front and our linebackers are playing better because of that. You can’t just do it with the front seven. Our defensive backs are doing a good job containing where they have to, and then we’ve had guys come up, support and make tackles, too. It’s everybody doing a good job.”
One game after running 16 times for 23 yards against Michigan State’s top-rated run defense, Iowa now faces the No. 2 run defense in the Big Ten in the Buckeyes (86.2 yards per game).
“It’s a tough deal when the run gets shut off,” Ferentz said. “There are some teams that are going to make it very difficult for you to run the football, so you better find some other ways. It’s more fun if you can be balanced.”
The Iowa-Ohio State game will be televised by ABC (ESPN2 reverse mirror) with Bob Wischusen and Rod Gilmore calling the action.