Blocking It Out

While some fans might want to give up on the season, the Iowa players and coaches march on. Blocking out the criticism isn't easy, but it's necessary.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - James Ferentz hears the disappointment of Iowa fans. And the senior center wouldn't have it any other way.

"I stand by it, we have the best fans in this nation," Ferentz said. "We love their passion and the loyalty that they bring to us in Kinnick.

"I know last weekend was a rough one but I have no doubt in my mind that they're going to come in this Saturday and make Kinnick a hostile environment and definitely make it an advantage for us."

James' father, Kirk Ferentz, the team's head coach has received the brunt of the criticism from a vocal part of the Hawkeye fan base. Certain folks worry about the future of the team. Welcome to major sports in America.

"It's a tough world to live in," James Ferentz said. "You kind of have to get in a zone where you don't hear anything. You just kind of focus on the task at hand.

"It's a difficult thing to do but good football teams are able to do that. If we want to be a good one we have to learn how to block out the outside noise."

While the fans stew, the coaches and players change their focus to Saturday's Big Ten opener. Rival Minnesota comes to town in the Battle of Floyd of Rosedale (big, heavy bronze pig trophy). Even though a few people feel like they might not win another game this fall after Saturday's upset loss to Central Michigan, the Hawkeyes would be done for if they remotely entertained that thought.

"If you are in sports, you have to realize that is how it is," Kirk Ferentz said. "I have been in places where people really don't care. (The local sports team isn't) as big a factor, but it still hurts to lose and feels good to win. It felt that way at Worschester Academy."

Iowa enters conference play at 2-2. The Hawkeyes lost to dreaded Iowa State in Week 2. Central Michigan of the MAC was a 14.5-point underdog against them. The losses occurred at home and by a combined four points.

"You hear a lot of it," sophomore receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. "If you win, you get pats on the back. If you lose, everybody turns their backs on you. It comes with the territory being a Division I athlete.

"But we stick together, the guys that are suiting up every week. Win or lose, we pay attention to what we have to do."

Iowa has been favored to beat the Golden Gophers the last two seasons. Each time the Hawkeyes left Minneapolis without Floyd. They've been installed as a touchdown choice Saturday, but the visitors have compiled a 4-0 record and this pre-game build-up feels a lot different than it has the past two falls.

It's fair to say Iowa fans felt pretty confident before playing the Gophers in 2010 and '11. They haven't built that level of comfort heading into this weekend's contest.

Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, had the fans, confidence exists within the team.

"We come in, win or lose, and we practice as hard as we can," junior fullback Brad Rogers said. "I don't see any heads being hung or anything like that from any of the guys."

Iowa can also look back at the last two seasons as inspiration. The Hawkeyes came back to thump Michigan after losing last season at Minnesota. Two years ago, they followed up losing the pig by knocking off 10-win Missouri in the Insight Bowl.

"If I were a fan at home, I don't have to get ready for Minnesota so all I will do is think about the 300 things we did poorly Saturday (against Central Michigan)," Kirk Ferentz said. "That is sports. It's always been that way.

"We have to move on. If we don't we will pay for it this Saturday. That is worse than losing last week."

Who's at RB?: Good question. Sorry. Don't have an least not a complete one.

It's safe to say Mark Weisman will start his second game in a row at running back and Rogers will open at fullback. After them, it's anyone's guess.

"Damon Bullock's making progress," Kirk Ferentz said. "We're hoping to get him back. We'll see how that goes this week. Can't give you an answer on that right now."

Bullock started the first three games and was running well against Northern Iowa before sustaining a head injury. He'll have to pass a recovery test before being cleared.

The depth chart No. 2 this week is true freshman Greg Garmon. He missed last week's game after suffering an arm injury the Saturday before.

Jordan Canzeri tore his ACL in late March. He's been cleared to practice the last two weeks.

"It looks a lot more probable now than it did, say, three weeks ago to me," Ferentz said of the sophomore returning to game action. "He's making good progress in practice. I wouldn't say he's 100 percent, but he's a lot closer than I would have anticipated."

Freshman Michael Malloy was listed at No. 2 on last week's depth chart. He did not play and might not see the field this season.

"If we don't have to use him, we won't," Ferentz said. "He hasn't played a snap. If we can keep him out, we will probably. Probably. We haven't made that decision. We'll probably think more about that next week (during the bye)."

Ferentz also didn't anticipate using Weisman at fullback any more this season. He started the first three games there.

Stand by Your Man: As often happens when a team struggles, the fans come after the coach and the quarterback. Iowa's James Vandenberg has the confidence of his coach.

"I'll just say this: I'm glad he's our quarterback, and I'm glad he's going to be our quarterback the next eight games," Ferentz said. "I think he's a heck of a player, and I think he's a heck of a young man."

Touchy, Touchy: Tuesday press conference didn't include any flair ups between media and coach. The closest it got to testy was when the coach was asked what it was like to lose an onside kick in each of the last three seasons, including the last two games against Minnesota.

"What would you guess?" Ferentz said "We haven't celebrated, if that's what you're asking."

Extra Points: Iowa has used six true freshmen this season. Ferentz didn't rule out using more - "It depends what happens this season. We're trying to win."…Ferentz said this Gopher team is absolutely better than their squads the previous two years…Minnesota QB Max Shortell camped at Iowa when he was in high school. The Hawkeyes scouted him.

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