Howe: Hawks Can Counter Psyched Up Clones

It's been said that the Iowa-Iowa State game means more to the Cyclones. There's no doubt that ISU won the intensity battle during last year's 23-3 mauling in Ames. Senior Writer Rob Howe explores the Hawkeyes' approach to this game and inconsistent Septembers in recent history, and how a new plan this year could give Iowa the best of both worlds in the premium opinion piece.

Many of the comments spilling out of the Iowa Football Complex on Tuesday mirrored those that came out leading into the first seven Iowa-Iowa State games with Kirk Ferentz as head coach. The Hawkeyes really want us to believe, although this is a big game, it's just another contest on the schedule.

Oh, where have you gone, Fred Barr?

To Ferentz's credit, he talked about how big a game it will be on Saturday when the Cyclones (2-0) come to Kinnick (11:02 a.m., ESPN). A second later, he also slipped in that it was another game on the schedule.

Defensive End Bryan Mattison also was selling that bill of goods – Big game; great rivalry; but really, just another game on the schedule.

"It's a huge game, but every game is huge," Mattison said. "Yeah, it's a rivalry. But you have to play every game that week. You can't look ahead or behind. You can't get caught up in this."

Ed Miles, Marshal Yanda, Mike Humpal and Jason Manson followed suit. Scott Chandler admitted to it not just being another game.

"No (it's not just another game)," Iowa's tight end said. "We're playing Iowa State. It's a rivalry game, and they took it to us last year. We want to get a win in Kinnick."

Chandler's comment stood out like a sore thumb among various low-key responses. Most of the guys downplayed the revenge factor from Iowa State's 23-3 pounding of the Hawkeyes last September in Ames.

That approach has hindered the Hawkeyes in the past. For the most part, Iowa State has played with more emotion. At no time was that more apparent than last year's game at Jack Trice Stadium. You could just feel it.

Iowa committed to improving its play in September after embarrassing losses to ISU and Ohio State during that month a year ago. It followed a pattern of tripping up early in the season.

Well, Iowa can thank its cross-state rival for much of those early-season struggles. The Cyclones own a 2-5 record against the Black and Gold in the Ferentz era, even though one of those games was contested in November (2001).

The Hawkeyes have suffered four of their combined six regular-season losses during the last two seasons in September.

What's the moral to this story? If Iowa wants to turn around its Septembers, it must beat the Cyclones. Both schools are saying that this showdown is expected to be played during that month for the foreseeable future.

The Hawkeyes understand that. But they're not going to practice for Iowa State before the week of the game. They're not going to place added importance on this game as it relates to the others on their schedule. That's just not Kirk Ferentz.

So, Iowa is challenged to match the Cyclones' intensity while treating this as another game, albeit a big one. Can it do it? If Ferentz's new early-season plan proves effective, it can at least counteract it.

The Hawkeyes need to employ the tactics put into place to improve early-season play, namely improved conditioning and attention to details. Being in good shape and being mentally prepared so as to limit mental breakdowns can offset ISU's sky-high approach.

If you're offended at the notion saying Iowa State gets more emotionally jacked for this thing, you've not been paying attention. It's just been that way. There have been no indications that it will change.

The Iowa players appeared very focused and matter-of-fact on Tuesday. There weren't a lot of smiles or joking around with the media.

Signs also pointed to the Hawkeyes ratcheting up their preparations. During most Tuesday media days, the football complex remains pretty quiet outside of those players conducting interviews. Today, other players were rustling in and out of the meeting and film rooms.

You get the sense that the Hawks carry plenty of motivation into this game. They saw or at least know of the billboard in Cedar Rapids proclaiming it a Cyclone State. They know people make a lot out of their coach's record in this rivalry. They know that a win on Saturday puts them at 3-0 heading into the conference campaign.

We're just not going to see the Iowa players come out and admit to seeing red, literally and figuratively, heading into Saturday's showdown. There aren't any Fred Barr's spouting off about how he hates Iowa State, even though most of the Hawks feel an intense competitive dislike for their counterparts from Ames.

Iowa can have the best of both worlds. The Hawkeyes can ride the cliché of taking the season game-by-game, in order not to fall flat on their faces after this rivalry game, and still muster up enough intensity to defeat Iowa State.

That's the new game plan. That's the challenge. That's what we're all waiting to see on Saturday.

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