IOWA CITY – The only athlete using the term “practice” more than the Iowa Hawkeyes football team is Allen Iverson.
When given questions about the 27-16 win over Northern Iowa, the answer was simple – practice.
“The difference to me last week was Thursday,” senior offensive lineman James Ferentz said. “We came out Thursday and we were crisp. Guys knew their assignments and what needed to be done. I think that made a huge difference coming into a game on Saturday because you earn that confidence throughout the week.”
And continuing that confidence into this Saturday?
“I think it all starts with preparation,” quarterback James Vandenberg said. “I think last week we prepared really well. We had three really good practices. I think that reflected on how we performed.”
The week of preparation began Tuesday for Central Michigan and the peak could come Thursday. James Ferentz pointed to it as the most important day leading into a game.
It’s a high tempo, no hitting, players in shells type of day to make sure each player has and knows his assignments for the upcoming week.
“We were very crisp, we weren’t making mistakes,” James Ferentz said. “The energy was high, the tempo was high and that’s important because it’s not a day off, it’s another day to prepare.”
But there are times when players walk off the field on Thursday, knowing it wasn’t the crispest of practices.
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“The biggest one that comes to mind is the Insight Bowl last year. We didn’t have the best Thursday,” James Ferentz said. “There was a blitz pickup area that we didn’t perform very well and you into Saturday, just kind of, you’re not doubting yourself, but there are definitely some question marks.”
The Hawkeyes lost to Oklahoma 31-14 in the bowl game last year.
This Thursday the players should walk away with a little more confidence in their assignments. For only the second time in four games Iowa will have past tape on the opponents starting quarterback.
“It helps. You get some film on a guy who has been playing a while and you know his strengths and weaknesses,” linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “The other guys it was kind of hard because you didn’t know what to expect so it’s definitely going to help.”
Discipline meets discipline
When Iowa and Central Michigan take the field Saturday, one is going to have to beat the other. Don’t expect one to hand the game over.
The Hawkeyes enter their game against Central Michigan having just two giveaways in the first three games. It’s a mark that has the Hawkeyes 16th best in the nation.
Even more impressive is the fact that the Chippewas have not been penalized once this season, which is tops in the country.
“A team with no flags right now in the season, I would take it that they’re pretty discipline,” wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. “It brings a tougher game. It will bring a better game obviously. If a team gives you yardage, that helps you obviously. “
As discipline as they are with the officials, Central Michigan does turn the ball over. It ranks 118th in the nation in turnover margin at -5. On the other side Iowa has turned its opponents over six times for a margin of +6.
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“You just try to put pressure on the offense. You obviously can’t plan for a turnover or what the offense is going to do with the ball,” senior defensive back Micah Hyde said. “You just try to put as much pressure on them as you can.”
Getting in the endzone
James Vandenberg knew it was coming. Through three games he has zero passing touchdowns.
“I had a feeling it might come up,” the Iowa quarterback said.
Vanderberg and his wide receivers have had a touchdown pass overturned to replay. They’ve have another make it down to the one yard line. They’ve even had a few passes tip off the receiver’s hands in the endzone.
“We’ve been talking about that. We’ve been getting on each other about that,” Martin-Manley said. “We’ve been close. I’ve been down to the one. Keenan (Davis) has been down there two or three times this year. They took it away. He smelled the endzone so we’ve been getting on each other about that.”
Vandenberg had seven touchdowns through three games last year. He finished with 25 touchdowns. It’s a number he’s not worried about replicating.
“It’s not something I’ve really thought about actually. It’ll happen,” Vandenberg said. “I we go 11-1 and I throw zero touchdown passes, nobody’s really going to care.”
Make room Nate
The next extra point Mike Meyer kicks will put him in very impressive company. If Meyer can split the uprights on Iowa’s next touchdown it will be his 60th consecutive make, tying him with Nate Kaeding.
Kaeding holds the Iowa school record for points in a season with 373. He also made 166 extra points, which is also a program best.
“If you can even get remotely mentioned with Nate, I'm not in the comparison game, but if you're in the same discussion, that's good,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That's the kind of guy I'd like to be included with in that group, that's for sure.”