Sept. 13, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz looks for the Hawkeyes to learn from their first defeat of the season and move on heading into Saturday's game against Pittsburgh.
Iowa enters the game with a 1-1 record after dropping a three-overtime 44-41 decision at Iowa State on Sept. 10. The Panthers bring a 2-0 record into the contest under first-year head coach Todd Graham after downing Maine, 35-29, last weekend at Heinz Field.
The Hawkeye defense will face a familiar offensive style in Pittsburgh with the team employing a high-paced, spread offense, similar to Iowa's first two opponents in Tennessee Tech and Iowa State.
"What we are going to see Saturday is probably a lot like we've seen the last two weeks," said Ferentz at his weekly press conference inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. "The bad news is I hope there is no carryover.
"We're going to have to do a better job defending. That's first and foremost right now, but at least there are some parallels and similarities."
The Pittsburgh offense has an added dimension with running back Ray Graham, the country's leading rusher with an average of 161 yards per game.
"The first thing we would tell you is he's a strong runner, really a strong, aggressive type guy, so you know you're going to have to tackle him," said Ferentz.
Ferentz said the Hawkeyes need to shore up special team units, specifically the kickoff team.
"I'm concerned about our kickoff team right now, mainly because we've been riding a roller coaster it seems like forever," he said. "When we hit, we hit pretty well, but when we miss, we miss badly, and with the work that we have to do defensively right now, to think we can let somebody start with the ball on the 40, 45, 50 or the other side of the 50 week in and week out, it's not just realistic."
Wide receiver Marvin McNutt, Jr., had four catches for 61 yards at Iowa State. Ferentz isn't fretting about his senior's production.
"I'm not too hung up on that one," said Ferentz. "It's kind of like the run-pass ratio. At the end of the year, if we're throwing the ball 85 percent of the time, it probably means we're just getting drilled and that's not a good thing.
"All that stuff will work itself out. The other day the ball went to Keenan (Davis) more. It really doesn't matter where it goes as long as it's going somewhere and we're catching it and moving forward."
After a tough season-opener, sophomore Marcus Coker carried the ball 35 times for 140 yards in Ames. He was the only Iowa running back to carry the football.
"I think he took a step forward Saturday, but clearly has work ahead of him, and he knows that better than anybody," said Ferentz. "I think he got a lot accomplished last week, but now the next challenge for him is to continue on that track because we can't have running backs put the ball on the ground.
"I don't think that's characteristic of him, and I think he's on the right path."
The Hawkeyes suffered their second season-ending injury when Dakota Getz went down on the opening kickoff at Iowa State, which makes Ferentz take a longer look to see who on the roster can help the team now.
"It's a daily process, I think about constantly," he said. "We can't go to the waiver wire. We're not going to make any trades or anything like that. We've got to keep looking at what we have and see what we can do to fortify the team on Saturday."
Kickoff is set for 11:01 a.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins and Mike Bellotti calling the action.