3-0 Panthers Will Provide a Challenge

Sept. 16, 2014

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    IOWA CITY, Iowa — Season-opening road tests can be challenging, but University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz says this week’s challenge is amplified with the Hawkeyes facing an undefeated Pittsburgh team Saturday at Heinz Field.


    “The statistics reflect what they are,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz on Tuesday at his weekly news conference inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “They’re a very good football team, and we have a big challenge ahead of us.”

    The Panthers’ offense has been potent early, ranking 15th nationally at 44.7 points per game in victories over Delaware, at Boston College, and at Florida International. Pittsburgh ranks fourth nationally at running the football at 344.3 yards per game — 181.3 coming from sophomore James Conner.

    “Pitt is not throwing for much right now because they haven’t had to,” said Ferentz. “They’ve demonstrated they can run it, and they’ve run it against everybody. When you look at the film, they’re impressive up front and the running back is a good player.”

    Ferentz sees a lot of Wisconsin in the Panthers and for good reason. Third-year head coach Paul Chryst was a member of Bret Bielema’s staff in Madison in 2002 and served as the Badgers’ offensive coordinator from 2005-11.

    Ferentz says the Iowa offense has shown glimpses this season with long and productive drives, but the trouble has been consistency. He is steadfast in the identity he seeks offensively.

    “One thing I am firm on, we have to have the ability to be balanced, and we would hopefully play in a physical nature,” he said. “We’re not going to be a finesse offensive football team. We have to have the ability to run or pass.”

    Iowa’s rushing attack should be back at full strength at Pittsburgh after gaining 129 yards on 44 attempts against Iowa State. Ferentz expects junior Jordan Canzeri to play against Pittsburgh after getting dinged up on a kick return against the Cyclones.

    Iowa is also trying to find the right mix and rhythm to get sophomore LeShun Daniels, Jr., back in the mix. Daniels, Jr., didn’t have an attempt against Iowa State on Sept. 13.

    “We’re not ruling anything out (with LeShun),” said Ferentz. “We haven’t found the right rhythm or tempo. We’ll keep working at it.”

    Ferentz confirmed sophomore Anthony Gair will make his first start at free safety at Pittsburgh, filling in for Jordan Lomax, who will miss the first half after being ejected for targeting against Iowa State — a rule Ferentz says is hard to officiate.

    “There are going to be a lot of mixed opinions,” said Ferentz. “My feeling when it all started was when everybody in the stadium says, `Whoa,’ that’s when a guy should get tossed out. I thought Jordan was trying to avoid targeting. That was my view of it, but it’s easier said than done.”

    Ferentz is stressing the importance of moving on from a last-second loss to Iowa State.

    “We all have to move on,” he said. “Whether we win or lose, that’s how it goes. We can worry about it out-of-season. We need to worry about what we’re doing and matching up against our opponent.

    “People that can’t do that aren’t going to do very well over the long haul. That’s how it is, and it’s easier said than done.”

    Saturday’s game will be televised on ESPNU with Adam Amin, John Congemi, and Niki Noto on the call. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:01 a.m. (CT).

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