Posted by: marcmwm | September 8, 2008

Yes, they really do want to beat Iowa State

This is recorded fact that, yes, the Iowa Hawkeyes do want to beat Iowa State. And yes, they do think about Iowa State occasionally when it’s not Iowa State week.

I asked coach Kirk Ferentz about his 3-6 record against ISU. He said the series hasn’t been even, with the ’98 game being the watershed moment, when ISU went into Kinnick and won, 27-9, despite being 28-point underdogs.

When asked about the Hawkeyes working on ISU durinng fall camp, here’s what Ferentz said:

“I don’t know that we performed real well in any phase last year up there. It’s a game where we had our opportunities to win, but we came up short. Credit goes to them, they totally outplayed us in the game. It was a great environment, which it always is up there, it’ll be a good environment here. We just have to do a better job executing. That’ll be our task this week.”

That was straight out of the “Matrix,” the dodging of that one, I mean.

Cyclones on Ferentz’s radar

By Marc Morehouse

(Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Florida International running back A’mod Ned (center) is hit by Iowa’s Chad Geary (left), Pat Angerer (second from left, partially obscured) and Troy Johnson (right) during the second half Saturday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. Iowa won, 42-0.

IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz is 3-6 against Iowa State. Maybe it’s getting to him, maybe it’s not.

Probably it is.

During the Hawkeyes’ fall camp, more than a month and two games before Iowa State, Ferentz had Iowa State on his mind. The Hawkeyes (2-0) spent a couple days during their three-week camp working on the Cyclones (2-0). Every once in a while, Ferentz mentioned the ISU game to his players.

“He’ll have guys from Iowa talk to us about growing up here and knowing more about the rivalry to make guys from other states understand this is Ohio State-Michigan, but better,” Iowa wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos said. “This has to be the most important game of the year. We’ve got to treat it like we’re playing for a Big Ten championship.”

Sounds like it’s somebody’s Super Bowl.

“I don’t know if it’s greater (emphasis this year), but it’s an important game,” Ferentz said after the Hawkeyes’ 42-0 victory Saturday over Florida International. “It’s always been important to us. We clearly haven’t done a great job in that series over the long haul. We need to get better. Better in that regard.”

The 3-6 record comes with a little explanation. When Ferentz arrived in 1999, the Hawkeyes were coming off a 3-8 plunge in Hayden Fry’s final season. During Fry’s last run, the Cyclones finally caught up with him, snapping a 15-game losing streak with a 27-9 victory at Kinnick Stadium.

Ferentz said the ’98 game was instrumental in breathing life back into the series. Since ’98, the Cyclones have won seven of the last 10.

“It was a huge game in the series,” Ferentz said. “They were a 27-point underdog (28, actually), and they earned a win here. Since that time, it hasn’t been even. They’ve outplayed us since that time.”

So, 3-6 is cushioned by the rebuilding that was going on early in Ferentz’s career as Iowa coach. Still, Ferentz dropped his first five games against Iowa State. The games ranged from a 24-14 stroll in 2000 to an all-time classic 36-31 upset at Kinnick in 2002. In the last nine seasons, the biggest margin for ISU has been 23-3 in 2005. The closest was last season’s 15-13 squeaker in Ames.

Last season’s game might be the reason Ferentz had an Iowa State scout team assembled a month ago.

“I don’t know that we performed really well in any phase last year up there (in Ames),” Ferentz said. “It’s a game where we had our opportunities to win, but we came up short. Credit goes to them, they totally outplayed us in the game.”

In Saturday’s postgame, Ferentz was asked about some remarks ISU Coach Gene Chizik is rumored to have made about Iowa during an ISU booster function.

“I got an e-mail, from two people, I think it was,” Ferentz said. “There are a lot of things that are rumored to be said, that’s how I look at it.”

So, there’s that.

Of course, all of Hawkdom might not even realize ISU is coming to town.

The quarterback thing might be drowning out everything else.

Sophomore Ricky Stanzi made plays and made a lot of friends in the Kinnick bleachers, going 8-for-10 for 162 yards and three touchdowns Saturday. He showed accuracy, touch, poise, escape ability. In his first career start, he showed he might be ready to run the show.

“Whatever coach wants, that’s what we’ll do,” Stanzi said. “Just need to go out there with the right mind-set. It’s a big week.”

Saturday was the latest turn in the quarterback story. Stanzi got his shot as a starter and put on a show. But it was against FIU, one of the worst programs in Football Bowl Subdivision, loser of 23 of its last 24 games.

That’s one thing that junior Jake Christensen, whose streak of 13 starts ended Saturday, has over Stanzi without debate. He is 8-6 as a starter. He was sacked 46 times last year. He’s seen degree of difficulty miles higher than FIU. Some of it’s been good, some of it’s been bad.

“We don’t know what (Stanzi) is going to do when he gets drilled,” Ferentz said. “That’s part of football. Unfortunately, Jake got way more practice at that (last year) than any of us would’ve liked.”

So far this season, Christensen has completed 17 of 27 for 221 yards, two TDs and an interception. He started Week 1 and rotated in Saturday. Stanzi this season is 17 of 24 for 252 yards and three TDs. He rotated Week 1 and started Week 2.

Stanzi’s completion percentage is a little higher (70.8 to 63.0). His pass efficiency rating is 200.28, tops in the Big Ten, compared to 148.76 for Christensen.

Saturday was a turn in the story. It wasn’t a conclusion.

Ferentz didn’t give the job to anyone. When the depth chart Iowa releases on Tuesday was brought up, he was asked if QB would come with a slash between Stanzi and Christensen.

“I might as well, huh?” Ferentz said. “Right now, I don’t have a strong feeling either way.”

Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s not.

Probably it is. Maybe.



  1. Marc, The play selection vs FIU was like a final exam for QB. Plays that involved long balls to the end zone, catching receivers on the run, or a stationary target on a curl, touch passes to the fullback in the flat. Bottom line, Stanzi executed across the pallet, while Jake had a couple beautiful passes to Brandon and DJK, and a TD to Colin, he also threw a bounce pass to the flat, missed the FB, threw late and behind DJK, threw under the coverage for worthless high percentage cheese that left us 3 yds short and had to punt,,,,,
    there is no question Stanzi performed better vs. FIU. What we don’t know is whether this is typical of what was seen in practice for the month of August, but there is a reason why the coaches have taken this competition from the practice field into the regular season.

    Bottom line: ISU is going to blitz, and Stanzi has demonstrated the ability to stretch the field vertically, and every other direction, which should send a clear message to Chizik and Co. that they blitz at their own peril. I like Jake, he’s tough and can take a hit, but we proved 5 times last year you can’t win games by surviving sacks, you have to execute.

    I want to win this one vs ISU, not just survive another one, and I believe from what I’ve seen, that Stanzi gives us the best chance to do that.

  2. Your post makes me wonder, Greg. What was that competition really like in August? I’ve read a few internet posts about how Stanzi had some incredible days, like 20 of 23 in the scrimmage before the open scrimmage.

    Remember last season when Ferentz mentioned the quarterback not making “makeable” plays? Well, the quarterback did that Saturday, with the obvious caveat that it was Florida International, the worst Division I football team that I’ve seen in my 18 or whatever years of covering games at Kinnick.

    That will be a big key Saturday, Greg, how Iowa handles the blitz. They’re coming, you know that. Iowa has to hurt that. Forget QB, this is where the receivers absolutely have to show growth from last season. Like the offensive line, this group needs to take its share of blame for last season’s offensive woes. It’s a group that’s also running out of excuses. It needs to show real growth. I think their performance against FIU (again, the worst) was a big step in the right direction. They were dependable. That’s a start.

  3. Whoops. Sorry, Pete, I called you Greg. My bad.

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