Iowa Football

Iowa Hawkeyes know they just need to get a 'W'

Players say they won't focus on last 2 weeks, 2 losses, but moving ahead instead

Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Brandon Smith (12) loses control of the ball as he is tackled by Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Keaton Ellis (2) in the fourth quarter at an Iowa Hawkeyes football game with the Penn State Nittany Lions at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.  (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Brandon Smith (12) loses control of the ball as he is tackled by Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Keaton Ellis (2) in the fourth quarter at an Iowa Hawkeyes football game with the Penn State Nittany Lions at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Take a deep breath, and step away from the ledge. Flush the last two weeks and move forward.

Maybe, just maybe, things aren’t as bad as everyone thinks.

“I believe we have a good football team,” Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said very early in his weekly press conference Tuesday. “Certainly room to improve. The bottom line is it’s a fine line between winning and losing. There’s a handful of plays out there that we weren’t good enough in executing to give ourselves a chance. I think our guys are working hard. Our focus moving forward is on the things we can correct and coach a little bit better. That’s what we’re paying attention to there.”

Yes, opportunities were lost in defeats to Michigan (10-3) and Penn State (17-12). Statements weren’t made.

But there still is a ton of season left, these guys insist. Half of it, to be exact.

You can’t let two straight losses lead to three. You have to stay together as a team, or there’s a chance this whole thing really does go kablooey.

Purdue is at Kinnick Stadium for an 11:01 kick Saturday morning.

“Unhappy with the losses, but, at the same time, I think everyone realizes that we still have the opportunity to accomplish a lot of our goals,” said quarterback Nate Stanley. “Everyone is doing a great job of pushing themselves and making sure that they stay positive and doing everything they can to get ready to play this weekend.”

“It’s a team-oriented deal,” Ferentz said. “Everybody is accepting responsibility and ownership. Read (defensive lineman Chauncey Golston’s) quotes. If it takes a shutout, we’ll get a shutout. That’s the right attitude. That’s the nature of football. We’re going to be in a game, chances are sometime this season, where nobody can stop anybody. You always have one or two of those during the year. It’s on the offense at that point to get the job done. That’s the beauty of teamwork. Everything I’ve seen and witnessed is our guys care about each other. They understand this is a tough challenge. We’re going to push through it together.”

As Ferentz alluded, the main reason for the Michigan and Penn State losses was offense. Can’t score 15 points total in two games and expect to win.

Iowa hasn’t been able to run the football or protect Stanley. You know that, they know that.

The Hawkeyes have struggled with consistency and chemistry up front, partly because of injuries, and that’s the genesis of the scoring issue. But there’s more.

Iowa has been able to move the ball into the opponent’s territory, into the red zone, but has had to settle for field goals too many times. There’s a reason Keith Duncan leads the Big Ten Conference with 13 of them.

Then there are the turnovers. Iowa had six of them against Michigan and Penn State and forced one.

“We want the W. That’s what we need to work on. Getting the win and getting in the end zone,” said receiver Nico Ragaini. “We know we’ve got stuff to work on. We know we can’t keep putting up the points that we have the past two weeks. If we want to get a win this week, we know we have to put some points on the board.”

“I think there’s a fine line between pressing and trying to do too much, and then playing up to your ability,” said tight end Nate Wieting. “I think having intent with what you’re doing and what you’re doing when you’re practicing is a good thing. What we are focusing on now is just being a little bit better at each position. And, collectively, that will add up to results.”

Iowa should be able to score more points Saturday, as Purdue ranks 13th in total defense and passing defense and is 12th in scoring defense. The Boilermakers give up 27.6 a game.

But even if it somehow ends up 3-0, as long as Iowa has the ‘3,’ everything will be all right. Or at least a lot better.

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“Have to keep pushing, keep fighting,” Ferentz said. “We have a chance to play Saturday, get back in the win column. That’s where our focus has to be. That’s our concern as coaches, make sure our players understand. Can’t worry about yesterday, but what’s in front of us today, what the opportunities may be.

“The way the season plays out, it’s entirely in our hands. We have control of our destiny. We’re not going to be undefeated, we’ve proven that. But everything out there is out there for us. We have to keep playing.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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