Sept. 25, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz says Minnesota's 4-0 start to the 2012 season is no fluke, and the Hawkeyes will need to move on and move forward if they are to hoist Floyd of Rosedale for the first time since 2009.
"They're coming in here with a lot of momentum," said Ferentz on Tuesday at his weekly press conference inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. "They're playing well in all phases -- offensively, defensively and special teams. We've got a big challenge on our hands."
Minnesota has won the last two games in the series, both coming at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The Gophers won 27-24 in 2010 and 22-21 last season.
Ferentz says the 2012 Minnesota squad is more talented than the previous two.
"All you have to do is watch them on film," said Ferentz. "They're playing well, with confidence, and fast."
"I'm glad he's our quarterback, and I'm glad he's going to be our quarterback the next eight games. He's a heck of a player, and a heck of a young man."
Minnesota enters Saturday's game with sophomore Max Shortell taking the snaps under center as the starting quarterback. Filling in for the injured MarQueis Gray, Shortell has completed 31-of-53 attempts for 491 yards and four touchdowns.
"You lose your marquee player and your quarterback, and it doesn't slow you down at all," said Ferentz of Gray's injury Sept. 15. "One guy is a really strong runner (Gray), and the other guy is more of a thrower (Shortell). They've had success with both. It's impressive what they have done."
Their return gives Iowa a trio of options in the backfield following the emergence of sophomore Mark Weisman, who has gained 338 yards and scored six touchdowns over the last seven quarters.
With Bullock and Garmon on the mend, Ferentz says having more than one alternative in the backfield makes a good situation.
"The good news is, in August we weren't sure what we had, and right now, I think we have two guys that are really good prospects at the position," said Ferentz. "We think Garmon is going to be OK, too. (Running backs coach) Lester (Erb) would say we're probably going to need three guys, so we'll keep moving him along."
Over the past two games, Iowa's offense has made strides. The Hawkeyes averaged 12 points and 286 yards of total offense during the first two weeks. Against Northern Iowa and Central Michigan, Iowa averaged 29 points and 429.5 yards of total offense.
¬"We've done some things pretty well the last couple of weeks, and I've seen improvement," said Ferentz. "Not enough improvement, but we've seen improvement. Our thing right now is consistency in all areas."
Even with quarterback James Vandenberg's offensive production slightly down in 2012, Ferentz isn't ready to write off Vandenberg's senior season.
"I'm glad he's our quarterback, and I'm glad he's going to be our quarterback the next eight games," Ferentz said. "He's a heck of a player, and a heck of a young man."
Saturday's game is set to begin at 11:01 a.m. (CT) inside a sold out Kinnick Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway and Lewis Johnson calling the action.