THE BIG GAME: The T-R tells you why Iowa will win
Kirk Ferentz’s rsum speaks for itself.
In his previous 14 seasons, the Iowa football team has advanced to 10 bowl games, two BCS games and won at least 10 games four times – including a three-year stretch from 2002 to 2004.
But since 2010, Iowa is just 20-20.
Ferentz tried to shake things up the past two seasons with several coaching changes. The fans are waiting for these moves to spark a change in the current downslide of the program.
That downslide includes the Cy-Hawk Series, where Iowa is just 6-9 against the Cyclones in the past 15 meetings. That is a far cry from when the Hawkeyes won 15 straight during the Hayden Fry era.
“This is the 2013 season and we’re 1-1 right now,” said Ferentz at his weekly press conference. “We want to win every week. I mean, plain and simple, and I am sure they feel the same way. They’ve got 11 opportunities left and we have 10. Every game is awfully important.”
The games are important. And in the past two seasons – and most of the games at Jack Trice Stadium – the Cyclones have seemed to want the victory a little bit more than the Hawkeyes. Iowa has won three of the last five in the series and 21 of the past 30, but Ferentz is just 2-5 in Ames since taking over the program in 1999.
“This game is for bragging rights,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. “The fact that this series has gone back and forth recently makes it more of a rivalry. It is a fun rivalry and it is no different this year even though we have both lost a game.”
Iowa fans want to get on board with the new staff. They just haven’t been given a reason to do so.
A win against the Cyclones on Saturday would be a step toward changing their mindset.
The past two seasons have resulted in two three-point wins for Iowa State, a 44-41, triple-overtime thriller at home in 2011 and a 9-6 decision in Iowa City last year.
The Hawkeyes are in need of a win. The fans want a reason to trust that Ferentz and his new coaching staff are the right men to lead the program moving forward.
Grabbing possession of their second rivalry trophy would be a nice step toward gaining that trust back.
“If you have a chance to possess a trophy, that’s a good thing,” Ferentz said. “It stands for winning the game, so that is important. If there is one at stake, we want to get it just like I am sure they do, too.”
The key for Iowa to be able to reclaim the Cy-Hawk Trophy is to cut down on its turnovers and fix the penalty issue that plagued the Hawkeyes against Missouri State this past weekend.
Iowa moved the ball with regularity in its first two games but had trouble scoring points because of three turnovers against Northern Illinois and 10 penalties against Missouri State.
“We are not going to win games consistently playing the way we did on Saturday,” Ferentz said. “We took one penalty intentionally, but we had nine for 95 yards, and that is not going to cut it. it hasn’t been an issue but it sure was Saturday.”
The Hawkeyes should be able to run the ball on offense. Iowa has rushed for 500 yards in its first two games. Mark Weisman leads the way with 298, which ranks ninth in the nation coming into the weekend.
On the flip side, Iowa State’s defense was gashed for 229 rushing yards by Northern Iowa. The Panthers averaged 6.9 yards per carry in the win over the Cyclones back on Aug. 31. They also gained 457 total yards.
“We need to tackle better,” Rhoads said. “We had eight missed tackles on two of UNI’s touchdowns. We can’t have that. We need to take care of our gaps and be in that space.”
As good as the rushing offense has been for Iowa, new offensive coordinator Greg Davis has given Hawkeye fans little reason to believe in the passing game.
The Iowa wide receivers haven’t created a lot of separation and most of the passing plays call for sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock to throw the ball three yards down field on third and seven.
That is not an recipe for success. Especially since Rudock and some of the young receivers will be playing in their first road game of their college careers Saturday when the Hawkeyes invade Jack Trice Stadium.
“Nothing was easy for UNI in that win,” Ferentz said. “We’re going to try to run what we do. We’ll try to run the ball, throw the ball, and do a little bit of everything and just try to figure out what’s available and then go that direction.”