Aug 27, 2013
"Football, you only get 12 shots, so every game is critical," Ferentz said Tuesday during his news conference inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. "In 2009, we got off to a 9-0 start: in 2008, were 3-3; 2004, we won the league, we were 2-2; and in 2002, we were 2-1 after three games.
"To portray this as the Normandy invasion is not quite that level of importance, but it's an important game."
The Hawkeyes need to be ready from the get-go with the Huskies coming to Kinnick Stadium for the 2:42 p.m. (CT) start. Northern Illinois, a team that finished 11-2 overall and played in the Orange Bowl a season ago, has 16 starters returning, including senior quarterback Jordan Lynch.
"The one thing about Northern, if you just focus on the quarterback, you're missing the boat. There is three years of success there."
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz on Northern Illinois
All Lynch did in his first season as a starter was rack up 3,138 yards passing and 1,815 yards on the ground. He ranked in the top 10 in the nation in 10 categories and became the first player in NCAA Football Bowl Series history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and run for more than 1,500 yards in a single season.
Ferentz cautions, however, that Northern Illinois isn't a one-man show.
"The one thing about Northern, if you just focus on the quarterback, you're missing the boat," said Ferentz. "There is three years of success there."
Northern Illinois has three straight 11-win seasons and seven bowl appearances in the last decade. The Huskies are currently receiving votes in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches' Preseason Poll.
Ferentz says he is more confident with the 2013 Hawkeyes than he was this time last season, but he cautioned there are no certainties.
"There are no guarantees how things are going to unfold and there's no sense in worrying about how they unfold," he said. "What's really important is how you move forward, and that has been the mindset we've tried to take since (last) December."
Following competition throughout spring ball and during fall camp, Ferentz says it was clear that sophomore Jake Rudock was the team's top option as the starting quarterback. Now he needs to go out and play.
"He doesn't have to be the leader of our football team right now," said Ferentz. "The big thing is he needs to just go out and play as well as he can play."
Ferentz says he isn't going to make the quarterback position a three-ring circus. Rudock earned the starting position, and he's going to let him run with it.
"We're going to let him play, he has earned that over time," said Ferentz. "You don't want someone looking over your shoulder. That's not productive any way for him. He needs to be looking at what is in front of him."
Ferentz says the difference between a good year or a down year lies in the ability to win the close games. Iowa led the country with six regular season games decided by three points or less in 2012, where it went 2-4. The Hawkeyes are 3-9 in such games the past three seasons.
"Conquering the close game, if you can do that, you're going to have a good year or a chance for a good year," said Ferentz. "If you can't, you're going to come up short. That's one of the challenges, and it is something we try to point out to our guys on a continual basis."
Ferentz said freshman running back LeShun Daniels, Jr., and junior transfer wide receiver Damond Powell will play for the Iowa offense Saturday, while the staff is mulling over a one or two defensive candidates.
Ferentz also announced captains for the opener, as voted on by their peers, and they include: senior linebackers James Morris and Christian Kirksey, senior offensive tackle Brett Van Sloten, and junior running back Mark Weisman.
Saturday's game will be televised on the BTN with a trio of former Hawkeyes -- Paul Burmeister, Chuck Long and Danan Hughes -- calling the action. Long will be recognized on-field during pregame as a part of a ceremony dedicating Kinnick Stadium's new Wall of Honor.