By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The only course of action for the University of Iowa football team is to push forward and improve leading into Saturday’s battle for Floyd of Rosedale.
The Hawkeyes, 3-2 overall and 1-1 in Big Ten Conference, head to Minneapolis on Saturday to face Minnesota (3-1, 0-1) at 11 a.m. (CT) in TCF Bank Stadium. The contest will be televised by ESPN2.
“Our players have been invested and giving good effort, but right now we’re not playing well enough,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said during a Tuesday news conference in the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center.
“The most important things are making the makeable-type plays, playing clean football, and eliminating self-inflicted wounds. Winning and losing tends to be a fine line, and when you’re winning things get magnified and some things you’re not doing well get overlooked.
“Conversely, when you come up on the short end, the things you don’t do well tend to be more magnified, too.”
Minnesota has a potent offense that averages 228.2 rushing yards en route to scoring 36.3 points per game. The Gophers have had three running backs post 100-yard games this season and they have a dual-threat quarterback under center.
Senior Mitch Leidner is completing 63 percent of his passes for 840 yards and five touchdowns. He also has 141 yards on the ground with three touchdowns.
“He’s a big, physical player,” said Ferentz. “He can run throw and he’s a leader. That’s everything you want in a quarterback.”
“I don’t think any of us are playing perfect or coaching perfect. We’re all frustrated right now; we came up short twice. There is not a person in our organization that can’t do a better job, and that’s what we’re all trying to do.” — Kirk Ferentz
The Gophers run behind a behemoth offensive line that averages 322 pounds. The offensive attack also has a 6-foot-10, 275-pound tight end at its disposal.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for us matching up size-wise,” said Ferentz. “We’re going to have to do a great job with our technique and the biggest thing on defense is everybody has to be where they are supposed to be. We have to tackle better.
“Those are two areas that have cost us big plays.”
Big plays and missed tackles have been an Achilles’ heel for an Iowa defense that has surrendered an average of 210 rushing yards over the past three games.
“A missed tackle against Tony Dorsett is a little bit more understandable than if you’re tackling me,” said Ferentz. “If you’re playing good defense where the ball is in the phone booth you should be able to make that tackle.
“We have to be able to make that tackle or it’s going to be a long season. Those are things that are coachable and addressable. The faster we get there, the better off we’ll all feel.”
Ferentz doesn’t anticipate any starting lineup changes against Minnesota. Fans clamor to see the reserves when the team faces adversity, but Ferentz tends to look at the big picture.
“Typically, we don’t like to be reactionary with our decisions,” he said. “Hopefully you’re looking at things and being rational and basing it over the big picture and not a momentary blip.”
Ferentz sees leadership from his team collectively. The attitudes are good and players are working hard, but he says the Hawkeyes need to perform better.
“I don’t think any of us are playing perfect or coaching perfect,” he said. “We’re all frustrated right now; we came up short twice. There is not a person in our organization that can’t do a better job, and that’s what we’re all trying to do.”