The Iowa Hawkeyes prepare for their Big Ten opener this weekend when they visit Penn State. The Hawkeyes had last week off after closing out the non-conference portion of their schedule with a record of 3-1.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says they have played five good quarters of football and he says now that they move into conference play the games mean more and there will be a whole new level of intensity. He feels the Hawks are ready for the league race. Ferentz says it seems like it has been a month since they have played and going into Penn State they will have to be at their absolute best.
Ferentz says the defense still has a long way to go but he has seen significant progress in the past few weeks. He says they have some young players and some that aren’t very experienced, but they are doing some good things.
Former walk-on Tom Nardo has given the Hawks a lift on the defensive line. The Pennsylvania native has worked his way into the lineup as a fifth year senior and Ferentz says he remembers wondering why Nardo turned down a scholarship at William and Mary to walk-on at Iowa. He says Nardo has worked hard in a quiet way and he says having three guys who went on to the NFL ahead of you, it is not easy to break through.
Iowa has dominated the series against Penn State with eight wins in the last nine meetings. Ferentz says there is no magic formula and that the Hawks have played well in those games. He says they will need to do the same this weekend and says typically Penn State teams don’t beat themselves.
Ferentz says he is not awe-struck coaching against Joe Paterno any longer but does maintain a high level of respect. He says there are not many coaches who have impacted college sports like Paterno. Ferentz compares Paterno’s influence to former Hawkeye wrestling coach Dan Gable, former Alabama coach Bear Bryant and basketball coach John Wooden.
Penn State is 4-1 and opened the Big 10 race last week with a 16-10 victory over Indiana.