Hawkeyes Positioned for Curtain Call
Nov. 19, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The curtain dropped on the 2012 football season sooner than University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz would have liked. For all intents and purposes, the curtain crashed to the floor with a loud thud in Ann Arbor, Mich., during a 42-17 loss to the Wolverines.
The Hawkeyes (6-4 overall, 3-3 Big Ten Conference) will play well beyond Saturday's confrontation against Michigan (7-3, 3-3) this season. But the memory of that loss to the Wolverines -- when the hosts outscored Iowa 35-3 in the middle quarters -- is still fresh.
"We never even got our hands up, especially in the second quarter," Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly news conference inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. "(Michigan has) a lot of the same faces back from a year ago; I can't remember a Michigan team that wasn't extremely talented. We've still got a lot of work to do on our end, so it's going to be a tough task for us."
Wolverine quarterback Devin Gardner completed 18-of-23 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns last season against Iowa. His leading receiver with five catches and 133 yards was Jeremy Gallon. Both players will be suited up inside Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 23. Kickoff is 11 a.m. (CT).
But as Ferentz emphasized Tuesday that no team or week is the same once you flip the page on one season and start anew. Both Iowa and Michigan are 2-3 in their last five games. The Hawkeyes are coming off a bye week following a 38-14 win at Purdue on Nov. 9; Michigan snapped a two-game losing streak Nov. 16 with a 27-19 win at Northwestern in triple overtime.
"We're a totally different team than we were a year ago," Ferentz said. "We put that behind us at the end of November a year ago and we have been looking forward. The one thing that doesn't change is we play Michigan, they have a lot of talented players, they're very well coached, and it's going to be a tough match-up."
The Hawkeyes have five players with at least 142 rushing yards this season, and Ferentz said the bye week has allowed the backs to be fresher with rested legs. Sophomore Jordan Canzeri is coming off a 165-yard performance at Purdue; junior Damon Bullock added 85 yards. Iowa junior Mark Weisman provided the most production from the backfield last season at Michigan, rushing for 63 yards and catching three passes with one touchdown.
Fifteen Iowa seniors will "swarm" for a final time in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, including the starting linebacker trio of Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey, and James Morris. The three have combined for 248 tackles and 20 ½ tackles for loss this season.
"The deeper story to me is the leadership they have given," Ferentz said. "Leadership is all about what you do in terms of demonstrating your commitment. Those guys practiced hard last spring, in camp, and they have played well all year."
Ferentz has gone through two Senior Days as a father -- most recently last season -- and he understands the bittersweet nature of the day. It isn't much easier for coaches.
"You should get used to it, but you don't," he said. "Anybody that runs the race to become a senior and go through their senior year here...the level of commitment that takes, mental toughness, the work these guys do behind the scenes, it's amazing."
Iowa and Michigan will go bowling in late December or early January, but the focus for Ferentz remains on Nov. 23.
"We're not too worried about that," Ferentz said. "We have a tough opponent this week."
The Hawkeyes have won 3-of-4 in the series with Michigan, including the last two in Iowa City. Iowa won 30-28 in 2009 and 24-16 in 2011.