After North Dakota State’s 23-21 upset at Iowa, Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz tries to pull his team back together before it heads to Rutgers for its Big Ten opener.
Knocked out of the AP Top 25 after the loss, Ferentz acknowledged how the FCS Bison outplayed then-No. 13 Iowa (2-1) in its final non-conference tilt.
Where the team will be when it faces the Scarlet Knights (2-1) remains to be seen, he said.
“We’ll find that out Saturday,” Ferentz said. “That’s always a concern you have after any game, win or lose. There’s no guarantees, there’s no predictors. These guys aren’t robots — they’re college athletes that have a lot on their plate and playing Big Ten football’s part of that.
“So there’s really no way to predict any of it, and the only thing you can hope is your team practices well and maximizes the time that they have and then the opportunities they have. But I mean, I’ve learned through the years there’s no way to guarantee or predict what’s going to happen on any given day, let alone a week.”
North Dakota State outgained Iowa in rush yards, 239-34. The Hawkeyes averaged 1.4 yards per carry on 25 attempts.
With a mix of experience and different skillsets on the Rutgers defensive line, Ferentz said he is aware of the challenges Iowa will face as it looks to regenerate its running game.
“Those guys up front are very impressive,” he said. “They’re veteran players. They know how to play hard, play well. They’re big, physical, athletic guys. So it’s going to be a great challenge and we hardly established the line of scrimmage last week. … And for us to have a chance in the ballgame, we’re going to have to play well up front and try to neutralize their impact.”
On the other side of the ball, Iowa prepares for Rutgers’ spread offense. The preparation challenges go past the speed of the scheme and into quarterback play.
While Chris Laviano remains the starter, Rutgers has three backups that appeared in the past two games. TCU graduate transfer Zach Allen debuted for a late series against New Mexico, while sophomore Gio Rescigno and true freshman Tylin Oden each got the nod for a series of their own against Howard.
To Ferentz, the preparation hinges on the basics.
“I think, for the most part, you go with what you see,” Ferentz said. “Part of the thing we struggled with the other day (against North Dakota State) — we didn’t play our best fundamental football. … There is a little bit of unknown or some times later in the season you have injury situations — not quite sure if a guy’s going to play or not play. So really, you can’t overanalyze it and it really comes down to playing good team football.
“And whether (the quarterback is) a runner, thrower you adjust your calls maybe a little bit over the course of the game. But you’ve got to be good fundamentally and on Saturday, we weren’t good fundamentally.”