Nov. 11, 2014
- Hawkeye Football Game Day
- 2014 Fall Camp Central
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- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz is done looking back, the Hawkeyes are moving forward.
Iowa (6-3 overall, 3-2 Big Ten) heads to Illinois (4-5, 1-4) for its final road game of the regular season, where it squares off against the Fighting Illini on Saturday at 11:01 a.m. (CT) at Memorial Stadium. It is the first meeting in the series since 2008.
“Illinois is a team that is playing hard,” Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly news conference inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “A couple of games ago they beat Minnesota, so we’ll have to do our best to get ready to go there.”
Illinois defeated the Gophers, 28-24, two weeks before Minnesota downed Iowa, 51-14.
The Illini are expected to have sophomore quarterback Wes Lunt back under center Saturday. Before going down with a fractured fibula Oct. 4 at Purdue, the Oklahoma State transfer ranked in the top 20 nationally in six passing categories, including 313.8 passing yards per game.
Lunt’s return forces Iowa to prepare for three Illinois quarterbacks — Lunt, senior Reilly O’Toole, and sophomore Aaron Bailey. Ferentz calls all three a little different, but make no mistake about it; the Illini will let the ball fly.
“They’re going to throw the ball,” said Ferentz. “They do a lot of different things and make you prepare for a lot of looks. They’re built to throw the football, they have good receivers, and Lunt is a good thrower.”
For the Hawkeyes to turn their fortunes following the road loss at Minnesota, Ferentz says the special teams, turnovers, and ball protection have to improve.
“You can’t put yourself in the hole (with special teams), and it’s hard to win Big Ten games if we’re 0-for-3 (in the turnover battle),” said Ferentz. “It is age-old, you have to protect the football, and then we just have to play better in every phase.”
Illinois is the third-straight opponent that has a bye week leading up to its game against Iowa, but Ferentz says that does not decide outcomes.
“If you want to use that as a crutch, you can,” said Ferentz. “It still gets down to who plays the best on Saturday. We have ample time to get ready.
“It’s not like the game is being played Wednesday or Thursday. It’s about what we do this week in terms of our preparation and most importantly, what we do at 11 a.m. Saturday.”
The Hawkeyes will likely be deeper in the offensive backfield in Champaign with junior Jordan Canzeri working his way back from an injury suffered at Maryland on Oct. 18. Canzeri was available in Minneapolis, but didn’t play because Ferentz didn’t think he looked great in practice.
“I don’t think putting Walter Payton in would have changed things Saturday,” said Ferentz. “There is no sense in having him go backward. We expect him to be healthier and hopefully he’ll be part of our rotation Saturday (at Illinois).”
Ferentz also confirmed a lower leg injury of linebacker junior Travis Perry, which will force him to miss the final three games of the regular season. The injury will push senior Quinton Alston back inside, while redshirt freshman Josey Jewell will start at the weak-side position.
Saturday’s game will be televised live on BTN with Cory Provus, J Leman and Rebecca Harlow on the call.