September 5, 2009

TES - 2009 Hawkeye Football Game Notes Week 1

Iowa’s Record:  0-0, 0-0 Big Ten
Iowa’s Rankings (Preseason)
USA Today: #21 (257 votes)
ESPN Power Rankings: #21 (73 votes)
ESPNU Allstate: 
HARRIS: 60 votes

2009 Iowa Football Schedule

September 5th Iowa v. Northern Iowa Panthers 12:05 pm, Big Ten Network *
September 12th Iowa @ Iowa State Cyclones 12:05 pm Fox Sports Net
September 19th Iowa v. Arizona Wildcats 3:35 pm, ABC/ESPN2
September 26th Iowa @ Penn State Nittany Lions 8:05 pm, ABC/ESPN
October 3rd Iowa v. Arkansas State Red Wolves TBD
October 10th Iowa v. Michigan Wolverines HOMECOMING, 8:05 pm, ABC/ESPN
October 17th Iowa @ Wisconsin Badgers 12:05 pm, BTN/ESPN/ESPN2
October 24th Iowa @ Michigan State 7:05 PM, BTN
October 31st Iowa v. Indiana Hoosiers TBD
November 7th Iowa v. Northwestern Wildcats TBD
November 14th Iowa @ Ohio State Buckeyes TBD
November 21st Iowa v. Minnesota Golden Gophers TBD

Outback Bowl 1/1/10 11:00 AM, ESPN
Capital One Bowl 1/1/10, 1:00 PM, ABC

Rose Bowl 1/1/10, 5:00 PM, ABC
Sugar Bowl 1/1/10, 8:30 PM, FOX
Fiesta Bowl 1/4/10, 8:00 PM, FOX
Orange Bowl 1/5/10, 8:00 PM, FOX
BCS Title Game 1/7/10, 8:00 PM, ABC

* UNI game on BTN overflow channel 611-1, on DIRECTV
September 5th, 2009: Iowa Hawkeyes v. Northern Iowa Panthers 0-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley
Prior Games: 14, Iowa leads 13-1
Last Game: 2005, Iowa 45 UNI 21

Hawkeye Stat Pack:

Turnover Margin: 0

Current Line: No line this week.

Scoring Defense 0, Pass Defense 0, Rush Defense 0, Interceptions 0, TD Allowed 0
Big Ten  

Scoring Offense 0. Pass Offense 0, Rush Offense 0, Total Offense 0, Total Defense 0
Big Ten  
Depth Chart for this week:

Game Watch: ‘The Best Game Watch Outside Of Kinnick.’
Opal Bar & Restaurant, 251 East 52nd St. Corner of 52nd and 2nd, 212 593-4321

Getting There:
6/E (no V on weekends) trains to 51st/Lexington Ave. Walk 2 blocks east, 1 block north to the bar.
M15 Bus – downtown on 2nd Ave, uptown on 1st Ave.
M50 Bus from the west side.
Several parking garages are in the area, but we strongly encourage you to take cabs or mass transit to our game watches!,+NY,+NY&ie=UTF8&split=0&gl=us&ei=6M-NSrfjBcm_tgf0-d3fDQ&ll=40.756205,-73.966709&spn=0.004502,0.011394&z=17

2009 Season Kickoff

Hello again my Hawkeye friends! 

As I sit here typing up the game notes on my birthday, this thought comes to mind.  Yeah, getting older kind of sucks, but then again, the older you get, the more Hawkeye games you can go to. What do all those guys who park their 30-foot motor homes in the Kinnick west lot have in common?  Retirement.  So remember that as time marches on for you.

All right then, onto Hawkeye football.  As of this writing, 3 days, 21 hours, 3 minutes away – but by the time you are reading this Thursday night or Friday, we will no longer be counting the days, just the hours. I think I can safely say the summer of 2009 has been a major let down for most of us, so being done with it by bringing on football is just fine by me.

If you spend any time on Hawkeye websites, blogs, message boards, or see my Facebook status updates, you already know the bad news.  Since the 50 Days email went out, two starters have gone down to season ending injuries.  About two weeks back we lost corner Jordan Bernstine to an ankle injury, and it was just confirmed in the Ferentz presser today (Tuesday) that yes, Jewel Hampton’s knee injury is severe enough that he will miss the season.  ACL it seems.  Both players have the redshirt available, Bernstine will return as a junior in 2010, and Jewel a sophomore.  Both primed then, to help make this successful season into a nice string of them.

What does that mean for the Hawkeyes?  The good news is we are talking about football.  There are 20 other starters on the field, many of them are very good, and we will get a chance to see what some of the talented but raw youngsters can do with their opportunities as the season progresses.  Let’s start with the defense, which looks again to be one of the best units in the country.

Consider the hole that is left by Bernstine’s absence and the fact his presumed back-up Shaun Prater is on a two game suspension.  It might seem a bit scary with the pass first tendencies of both Northern Iowa and Iowa State looming in weeks 1 and 2.  Then again, on the other side of the field, Amari Spievey is very quickly becoming one of those shut down corners that quarterbacks must avoid. In fact, he is on the Jim Thorpe award watch list as the season begins.  Our safeties return, Greenwood and Sash, and as they can leave Amari somewhat alone, they can hedge to the other side to provide the new starters (Castillo or Lowe, co-starters on the 2 deep) a little extra help, as needed.  We might also see some of true freshman cornerback Micah Hyde, who has impressed the coaches, and anyone else watching practice, enough to get some minutes at that spot right out of the gate.

In front of these guys we have our pass-snatching-happy linebackers, Edds, Angerer, and Hunter.  Well adept at downfield coverage, they will help to cover up any perceived weakness in our secondary.  That is, if opposing QBs can get the ball off before getting drilled.

You may recall from the 100 Days email that the Hawks were doing a bit of tinkering as they looked to replace the defense tackle stalwarts Kroul and King.  It seems to have paid off.  Sophomore defensive end Broderick Binns has played so well that he forced his way onto the field, so the Hawks moved Ballard inside to make room for him.  Just today, Kirk mentioned how pleased he was with Ballard’s grasp of the inside position.  Clayborn returns on the other end, with Karl Klug filling the other tackle spot.  He showed his substantial potential on the limited snaps he had last year.  This line should be quick, shifty, and in the offensive backfield often.

Based on that, I don’t think anyone will be able to expose that cornerback spot. There is also the fact that our defense plays the bend but then stiffen system expertly.  Our corners just have to keep everything in front of them.

The returning starters made up 81% of the turnovers forced in 2008.  A year older, look for us to be among the nation’s leaders again.  We forced 32 in 2008; let’s hit 40 in 2009.

Now, onto the sky is falling part of the Notes.

Yes, having Hampton and his 5.1 per touch back would have been great.  But, even before today’s bad news, we knew he was not going to start this week, or potentially even play in the first couple weeks.  So the Hawks open with Paki O’Meara and redshirt freshman Adam Robinson at the tailback spot.

No sooner had the opening 2-deeps been posted late last week, when the Iowa message boards were flooded with something to the tune of ‘what is KF smoking starting Paki?’ threads.  I will simply trust that the coaches do actually see all of the practices, and he is giving them the best chance to succeed - this week, at least.  Remember that pass catching, blocking are all part of being a good tailback, and it seems like O’Meara has done all those things well in camp, so he has the chance to earn his carries.  Redshirt freshman Jeff Brinson has been banged up throughout camp, but he seems most of the way back, so look for him to get some snaps in the weeks ahead. KF did confirm today that true freshman Brandon Wegher will indeed get some carries Saturday, so we will begin to see the future this week, and what a future it could be if these young tailbacks can excel, and Jewel can return at full strength next year.  Kirk also talked about the excellent camps that our fullbacks have had, they of course are the ones leading the young tailbacks into the hole, with no fame and glory for themselves.

Truth be told, even an old Hawk like me could pick off 4 or 5 yards behind our O line.  This week at least we are going Bulaga-Gettis-Eubanks-Doering-Richardson across the line, Vandervelde is back from his surgery, but it sounds like he is more weeks 2 or 3 before seeing serious action.  Also back there, 6’7’ Calloway, doing his moped penance.  So things might be in flux for a couple weeks, but everyone should be back and set by the time the Big Ten opens up.  Oh, and Bulaga is on the Outland Trophy watch list, and some peeps out there are proclaiming him the best tackle in the country right now.

It has been very encouraging to hear KF and KOK talk about Stanzi’s development over the spring and summer.  A slave to the film room, he has emerged as the clear leader of the offense. Which of course, he should, but it’s nice to see him take control, knowing there is no Greene monster behind him to draw the attention of the defenses.  Knowing that the Iowa passing game must take a step forward this year, to give ourselves the kind of balance that can keep us in every game.  Sure enough, there is QB turned WR McNutt over on one side, Stross on the other, DJK still working to get himself back into the starter position, Chaney Jr., etc, we have a lot of ready wideouts.  And tight ends, Moeaki has gotten through camp with no issues, so let’s all be happy for that (he is on the Mackey award watch list).   

Our great Hawkeye teams of 2002-2004 all had excellent special teams. You already know our punter is on the Ray Guy watch list; the kicking battle seems to be still going on strong, and word emerged from camp that Spievey was going to handle punt returns this year.  A la ‘Prime Time’ Sanders, Charles Woodson.  Some are fretting at the risk to our standout cornerback, but Amari returned punts in JUCO, and was apparently spectacular at it, and you get your playmakers on the field whenever you can.  I am also getting the feeling that after our 4 or so year draught, that for some reason this team is going to be another kick blocking machine.  I am not sure why I think that, maybe we are just due; and the teams that are in the running for BCS bowls usually have game changing kinds of special teams. We are in the running, we must have them.

So while today’s news was sad, let’s remember that if we are going to be on a multi-year run of January bowl games, we must have a very deep team, and have skilled players lurking beyond the 2-deep.  At least the Hawkeyes went into the game week practices knowing who was going to play and who was not, so the preparations are being made with the best players that we have available.  And we have at least a couple weeks to do the tweaking to lineup as needed.

It seems that much of the media talk over the past few weeks has the Hawks now in the hunt for a Big Ten title, not the battle for 3rd.  Course I thought that about 100 days ago.  Anyway, yes, the road slate is tough, but there are some keys to winning road games, and I think the Hawks will be well prepared for each of them.  More on that as we head out on the road, but for now, some home cooking to kick off the 2009 season.

Week 1: Northern Iowa Panthers

Yes, opening the campaign with a game like Mizzu/Illinois, Bama/VaTech, or BYU/Oklahoma would be great, but the state of college football today means we still have to go down a division to field a 12 game season.  The good news is that even someone as esteemed as KF has joined my bandwagon to get a 10 game Big Ten season, where we would open with ISU, another BCS school like Arizona, and then jump right into the conference.  Sadly, money still seems to drive the scheduling, as opposed to what would be best for college football.

Not that the Panthers are bad, or anything, there are in fact rated #4 in the FCS division, and came within 60 seconds of the FCS title game last fall, when they fell in heartbreaking fashion to eventual champion Richmond.  Nine offensive and five defensive starters return on a team that has been picked to win the MVC again and make another run at the Div. 1AA title. 

But the Panthers have beaten the Hawks just once, and that was a wee bit back, in 1898.  When we last met, 2005, the Hawks raced out to a 38-7 lead before two late UNI tds made the final 45-21.

Seeing as how the Hawk defense feasts on taking away segments of opposing offenses, it was bad news for Panther fans when their top 2 running backs were suspended this week.  UNI does line up 5 seniors on the 0-line, has a senior and returning starting QB in Grace, and might have some success with those little passes under 15 yards.  But if we take the run game away completely, it will be a long day for Grace as he tries to keep the ball away from our very greedy secondary. 

On the flip side, the Panthers line up two redshirt freshmen at the cornerback spots.  Traditionally it’s the passing game that takes some quarters to find the rhythm…but in this case KOK might come out gunning, and let the running game mesh with the passing game, instead of the other way around.  Or he may not; he tends to ignore my play call requests.

What lines up to be the best matchup of the day is UNI’s senior defense end, James Ruffin against our tackles.  He is most likely headed to an NFL camp next summer. But as an end, he must go up against Dace, who would be NFL ready had he not been hurt so much (and could yet be if he is ok this season), and Brian, who is a 1st round pick already – we just hope it’s the 2011 draft, not the 2010 one.  Not to mention the tackles who can help block him, and our fullbacks, who usually stay in on passing downs, and are well schooled in chipping oncoming defenders before they get to Stanzi.  Ruffin might have a few shining moments, but the day will belong to the Iowa uglies up front. 

So what should we hope for?  That our tailbacks find open spaces and fly through them.  That our passing game looks like it has had an entire year to get the timing down.  And that the Iowa defense, from the very first snap, let’s the stadium, state, and nation know that you better get your points when you can, cause you sure aren’t getting many chances.

Of course, we must also hope that everyone gets through the game without any major injuries, and then we will wish the Panthers luck as they resume their quest to bring a national title to Cedar Falls. 

And now, as a public service, here is how you can watch 12 college football games over 5 days.  Even more, if you hang out in sports bars with lots of tvs:

Thursday: 7:00 pm, South Carolina v. NC State, ESPN
                 10:15 pm, Oregon v. Boise State,             ESPN
Friday:      8:00 pm, Tulsa v. Tulane, ESPN
Saturday: 1:05 am, Central Arkansas v. Hawaii, sports bar.
                12:05 pm, Northern Iowa v. Iowa, BTN
                3:30 pm, Georgia v. Oklahoma State, ABC
                7:00 pm, BYU v. Oklahoma, ESPN
                10:00 pm, Maryland v. California, ESPN2
Sunday:   3:30 pm, Old Miss v. Memphis, ESPN
                7:00 pm, Colorado State v. Colorado, sports bar.
Monday:  4:00 pm, Cincinnati v. Rutgers, ESPN
                8:00 pm, Miami v. Florida State, ESPN

Ok my friends, all that is left now is to kill Friday and get out of bed Saturday.  We served notice in the back half of 2008 that Iowa Football had returned.  Now we must prove it, and once again place ourselves among the college football elite.




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