Three weeks into the season the Iowa Hawkeyes rank 92nd in the country in rushing and are tied for 89th in total offense. While those number may seem alarming for an offense that returned a number of starters from last year they apparently aren’t to head coach Kirk Ferentz, who told the weekly Big Ten teleconference that he is not surprised by his teams lackluster start.
The Hawkeyes are 2-1 as they get set to visit Pitt and Ferentz says the offense is trying to find the right rhythm and right mix. “Sounds like that’s the focal point right now. We’ve had some really good drives this year, some long drives and productive drives, but we haven’t done it consistently enough,” Ferentz says. He says that was especially true in the second half in the loss to Iowa State.
Ferentz defended third year offensive coordinator Greg Davis who has been heavily criticized for his love of the horizontal passing game. “Greg’s an outstanding teacher, he’s an outstanding human being, he’s a solid person. If you coach, especially if you coach and you have a long career, you are going to go through some lows and highs,” Ferentz says. He says if you can’t deal with the lows and highs as a coach, then you probably will have to do something else.
Ferentz says there is no obvious solutions to fixing the offensive woes. “If you are not doing as well as you would like to do, typically there’s going to be scrutiny, introspection, whatever. It’s usually it’s a pretty intricate deal,” Ferentz says. “If it is just one area or one point, then usually you see coaching staffs trying to adjust that, change personnel, etcetera, but I don’t think that’s the case right now. We just have to do better.”
Since beating Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl after the 2009 season the slide to mediocrity has been steep. In the last four plus seasons the Hawkeyes are 29-25 overall and just 15-17 in the Big Ten and while the negativity has grown even louder in the wake of another loss to Iowa State Ferentz says it is something they need to put behind them. “We’ve all got to move on, whether we win or lose that’s how it goes,” Ferentz says.
The challenge this week is preparing for their first road test at 3-0 Pitt. “They are really playing well right now at 3-0 obviously and they are playing well on both sides of the football,” Ferentz says.
Pitt’s James Conner ranks second in the nation with 544 yards of rushing. In his third year at the helm Paul Chryst has developed the Pitt offense into one of the best running attacks in the nation. The Panthers have averaged 344 yards on the ground in their 3-0 start, which ranks fourth in the country. Despite the gaudy numbers Chryst says there is plenty of room for improvement as he says they can still be a lot better and that’s the great thing about it, they can “keep grinding and keep getting better.”
Chryst says the run game will get a challenge from an Iowa defense that has always prided itself on stopping the run under Ferentz. He says they are a physical offense and physical deffense and he is excited about getting the play them.