Oct. 11, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It is rarely easy sledding in Division I football, even for a University of Iowa team that is 6-0 and ranked No. 17 in the country.
“How you can adjust to those kinds of bumps in the road is going to be paramount in how a team does at the end of the year,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said Sunday during an exclusive interview with hawkeyesports.com.
You could look at almost every aspect of Saturday’s 29-20 homecoming victory over Illinois — offensive line, defensive secondary, kicking game — and as the game wore on, the Hawkeyes rose up.
“The guys settled down and played well in the second half,” Ferentz said. “We had a lot of guys moving around and filling voids. They hung in there and did a good job in that second half.”
Illinois passed for 317 yards and benefitted from three pass interference calls, but Greg Mabin had an interception, Desmond King had a pass breakup, and the final three Illini attempts were incomplete.
“The ability to bounce back and play better as you go along is critical. You have to keep playing,” Ferentz said. “As the game went on I thought our defense anchored down and did a good job getting it done.”
“Marshall came up with big field goals in the second half which are important,” Ferentz said. “Maybe hidden in the stats a little bit is that Dillon had three good punts — the last two were really big in terms of changing field position. When momentum is starting to swing a little bit, those kinds of plays are really big.”
Kidd punted five times for an average of 46.6 yards per punt. His final three went 49, 44, and 50 yards.
“We hope (an advantage in turnovers is) something we can build on weekly. It is one of the most important stats, if not the most important, when it comes to winning and losing. It was a real factor in the game yesterday — our defense forced a couple takeaways and to convert those into points is even more important. Getting that last fumble recovery and getting insurance points was a big sequence in the game.”
UI football coach
“We hope (an advantage in turnovers is) something we can build on weekly,” Ferentz said. “It is one of the most important stats, if not the most important, when it comes to winning and losing. It was a real factor in the game yesterday — our defense forced a couple takeaways and to convert those into points is even more important. Getting that last fumble recovery and getting insurance points was a big sequence in the game.”
UI senior running back Jordan Canzeri continues to impress. On Sept. 26 he rushed for four touchdowns and Ferentz said he was equally complimentary of Canzeri’s blocking in the game. He had a similar feeling Saturday when he saw Canzeri carried the ball 43 times for 256 yards.
“It is a tribute to his determination and hard work,” Ferentz said. “It is all playing off and his commitment to our football team. That last drive in particular he didn’t even looked at the bench giving even an inkling that he wanted to come out. He had 11 carries in that possession (for 59 yards). That to me was the biggest series we had in the football game. He got good blocking in there, but a big part of that was his effort and determination.”
Iowa (6-0 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) travels to No. 20 Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) on Oct. 17. The Hawkeyes won 48-7 last season in Kinnick Stadium — a game Ferentz calls an “aberration.” Two weeks after that game, the Wildcats went on the road and defeated No. 15 Notre Dame, 43-40.
“It is going to be one of those tough Big Ten contests,” Ferentz said. “We’re on the road and we will have to be at our best to have a chance in this game. We have had great knock-down, drag-out football games with them going right down to the wire. That’s what I expect this year, too.”
Iowa is 2-0 away from home this season and was 3-2 on the road last season.
As is the case with 13 other league teams, the hard-fought, tough, physical Big Ten games have taken its toll on the Hawkeyes on the injury front. Ferentz said Tevaun Smith and Drew Ott will miss the Northwestern game, although as of Sunday evening, it is unknown the severity of an injury Ott suffered against Illinois.
“We have some guys that are hobbled right now and some guys who might not make it at kickoff,” Ferentz said. “Drew Ott, we are not very optimistic there. We will know more when the doctors actually have a chance to examine him and get an MRI on Monday. Tevaun Smith is out, too. For sure those two guys will be out and we may have others.
“A lot of teams have injured players, so you have to fight through it, other guys have to step up. That was one of the highlights yesterday in the ball game — guys like Parker Hesse and James Daniels jumping in there.”