Monday, September 06, 2004

This Is Ferentz's Best Defense at Iowa

The defense Iowa throws at Iowa State this week will be the best in Kirk Ferentz’s six seasons as the Hawkeyes’ football coach.

So says Dan McCarney, the former Iowa player and assistant who is in his 10th year as the Cyclones’ coach.

“There’s no question Iowa has one of the top defenses in college football, and you’d anticipate that after the year they had last year,” McCarney said today. “Most of them are all back. They have seniors starting up front, and Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway are two of the really, really outstanding linebackers in all of college football.

“Greenway got some national honors this week, and he was very deserving. They also have a veteran secondary.”

McCarney said “it’s hard to find holes, hard to find daylight” in an Iowa defense that was instrumental in a 39-7 season-opening victory last week over Kent State, which had minus-13 yards rushing.

“They are really an outstanding unit, and we know we’re going to get an awful lot of pressure on our football team and our offense this week.”

Sixteenth-ranked Iowa will be a heavy favorite to beat Iowa State for the second straight time in a game that starts at 11:05 a.m. Saturday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes will be playing an Iowa State team that limited favored Northern Iowa to 99 yards of offense in a 23-0 victory last week.

The oddsmakers weren’t that impressed. They’ve made Iowa a 26 ½-point favorite over the Cyclones. Fans will likely spend the rest of the week trying to figure out how the Hawkeyes are going to score that half-point.

All I can figure out is that maybe someone will have to be assigned to rate the baton twirlers in the marching band from each school to come up with that half-point.

In Iowa’s 40-21 victory over the Cyclones last season in Ames, Sean Considine blocked two punts. Considine is now a senior Hawkeye free safety.

McCarney said Northern Iowa used some maneuvers in attempts to block punts last week, but nothing worked.

“Those blocked kicks against us by Iowa last year were among the biggest factors,” McCarney said. “They were the better team last year. Two blocked punts are inexcusable. We’ve got to do a better job of coaching. We spent a lot of time with that in the off-season, and hopefully we’ll improve.”

Asked about Matt Roth, Iowa’s 6-4, 270-pound senior defensive end, McCarney said, “We won’t see one better. I haven’t seen one better in recent years. He’s that type of player. He has tremendous speed, he has tremendous athleticism, he’s explosive.

“He explodes on you when he tackles people. But he’s not the only one who plays that way on the defense. He truly is one of the best defensive players in the country.”

HERE & THERE......

Asked if he was surprised that Iowa State was the underdog in last week’s game against UNI, McCarney said, “Yeah, I guess, but with the type of season we had last year, nothing really surprises you. You kind of start from scratch on trying to get some honor, credibility and respect back in your program. We took one step Saturday, and we hope each week we can bring some of that back that we worked so hard to build here at Iowa State.”……Reporters keep asking McCarney why he didn’t want to go along with the Big Ten’s instant replay experiment in the game at Iowa. “The coaches couldn’t challenge anything,” he explained. “I wasn’t comfortable with an experiment for a game of this magnitude.” McCarney added that he’ll be surprised if the Big 12 Conference doesn’t have instant replay sometime in the future……McCarney said he was “real proud” of the defensive effort his team turned in against UNI. “We didn’t have a lot of missed tackles and we didn’t give up big plays,” he said. “We played with relentless effort and desire. In the end, we got a shutout. We played with a lot of grit and determination.”…….McCarney, whose teams beat Iowa five times in a row before the loss in 2003, said the rivalry with the Hawkeyes is “alive and well.”…….McCarney said Ferentz “has done a marvelous job” as Iowa’s coach…….With Saturday being 9-11 on the calendar, McCarney was asked about the significance. “I remember what happened three years ago very vividly,” he said. “It was a feeling of shock and disbelief.”…….McCarney said early that week in 2001 that he and Ferentz were talking about “how we’d honor the people who were killed. Then we found out on Thursday that the game would be postponed until after Thanksgiving. Everything was put into perspective.”…….When the game was finally played on Nov. 24, 2001, Iowa State won, 17-14, at Ames.

Vol. 4, No. 253
Sept. 6, 2004