Dec. 30, 2015
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By JAMES ALLAN
LOS ANGELES — Stanford head coach David Shaw has grown to appreciate the University of Iowa football team during preparation for the 102nd Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mututal.
Shaw’s sixth-ranked Cardinal face off against the fifth-ranked Hawkeyes in the Granddaddy of Them all on New Year’s Day inside Rose Bowl Stadium.
He appreciates the Hawkeyes’ offensive consistency and their efficiency in the red zone. Iowa has been a balanced offensive team with 2,496 yards rushing and 2,623 yards passing. The Hawkeyes have converted 43 percent of their third downs.
“You want to be efficient — efficient in the running game, passing game, on third down, in the red zone, and you win football games,” Shaw said during a head coach news conference Wednesday at The LA Hotel Downtown. “You see a methodical, efficient offense that takes advantage of what a defense does.”
“Whether you’re playing in Augusta or the British Open or in the Rose Bowl, at some point you have to block out all the other stuff and you have to concentrate on what the task is. For our guys it doesn’t change. We’ve prepared for 13 games and competed hard in all 13, and now the challenge is to do it 14 times. We’ll have to do it to the best of our ability because that’s what it is going to take to beat this team.”
Kirk Ferentz, 2015 Bobby Dodd Trophy recipient
Defensively, Shaw sees a unit that is robotic in a sense. They’re where they’re supposed to be, when they’re supposed to be and doing their jobs.
“I’m the son of a defensive coordinator, and you see coordination,” said Shaw. “That’s the first thing you see on the first film you watch. It seems like the 15 films you put on, you see the same thing.”
That’s a high compliment for an Iowa defense that prides itself on consistency, and a defense that preaches fundamentals, limiting big plays, and competing every down. It’s what has made the Hawkeyes a top 20 defense nationally.
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz says Iowa can look in a mirror to see a blueprint of the Cardinal. He sees a physical, well-coached team with talented players.
“Any similarities between us and Stanford would be a real compliment to our football team,” said Ferentz. “What you’re looking at are two teams that have competed hard week-in and week-out the entire season. The thing that strikes me is the effort they play with, the teamwork, and cohesiveness.”
A lot is being made of Stanford’s experience. The Cardinal will be playing in their third Rose Bowl in four years. Iowa is in Pasadena for the first time in a quarter century.
“It’s a big factor, but the thing I have shared with our football team is we’ve played in a lot of big games and for us every game this year has been big,” said Ferentz. “We’ve been in a playoff mode since week one and as the season went on, the stakes went up a little bit.”
The stakes are at a near pinnacle for the Hawkeyes, but once the team take the field for the opening kickoff, it’s back to the basics.
“Whether you’re playing in Augusta or the British Open or in the Rose Bowl, at some point you have to block out all the other stuff and you have to concentrate on what the task is,” said Ferentz. “For our guys it doesn’t change.
“We’ve prepared for 13 games and competed hard in all 13, and now the challenge is to do it 14 times. We’ll have to do it to the best of our ability because that’s what it is going to take to beat this team. They’re a championship football team, and there are no weaknesses we can find.
“Our challenge is to see if we can play our best game of the season.”
The 2016 Rose Bowl Game will kick off at 4:10 p.m. (CT) on Jan. 1. The game will be televised on ESPN.