IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Hawkeyes are coming off a much-needed bye-week, and there’s anxiety in the air as they return to the gridiron.
After all, Iowa is on a two-game losing streak, and has an uphill battle traveling to the Horseshoe to play a vaunted Ohio State team. Although they haven’t clashed since 2017, the Hawkeyes left a lasting impression by beating the Buckeyes 55-24.
It’s still the most points Ohio State has allowed in a Big Ten game since 1994. Which is why Coach Kirk Ferentz is expecting his Hawkeyes to get the Buckeyes’ best effort. It’s all bad timing because Iowa has been abysmal on offense all season.
And now the Hawkeyes will have find ways to move the ball against a team that’s in the top-10 nationally in rushing, passing, scoring and total defense. However, Ferentz believes the Hawkeyes ironed out the wrinkles during their time off, and hit the reset button on their 2022 campaign.
“The big thing we do in the bye week, typically, is look at our system, and the bigger thing is look at personnel, talk about that, make sure we’re all kind of on the same page,” Ferentz said. “We’re continuing to develop and evolve, if you will, and the whole thing is about us getting better and executing better.”
There’s no denying quarterback Spencer Petras will be facing his toughest test to date with all of Ohio State’s defensive talent. And he’ll have to do it inside the Horseshoe, which is one of the most intimidating stadiums in all of College football. Not to mention the Buckeyes are coming off a bye-week too, and they’ve studied film on Petras.
Despite all of the odds the offense is facing, Ferentz still believes his signal-caller is capable of delivering the goods because the time off was that beneficial.
“I think he (Petras) is improved, gained confidence, as crazy as that may sound,” he said. “I think he’s doing a lot of good things out there, we just need to get better collectively offense level, and that’s my encouragement.”
In order for Petras to accomplish anything against the Buckeyes’ tenacious defense, he’ll have to get better protection from the big boys up front. Iowa’s offensive line is allowing three sacks a game, which is tied for 109th in the FBS. Hand signals and no snap counts are going to be vital, but nothing can prepare the Hawkeyes for the noise levels they’re going to hear from 100,000-plus fans.
“It’s been seven, eight years since I’ve been there, and I think I remember the right side where we used to be on the bench, the right side being really noisy,” the 67-year old coach said. “I mean, in the Big Ten, you’ve got several places that are a challenge because the crowd gets into it, and they know how to get into it also.
Iowa’s success on offense will depend on Brian Ferentz’s play-calling. The embattled Offensive Coordinator has yet to put together a complete game when the offense isn’t a liability. The Hawkeyes have a nasty defense and a great punter, which should keep the game competitive if the offense struggles moving the ball.
It’s no mystery the Hawkeyes want to keep the Buckeyes’ offense on the sidelines though. So in order to accomplish that Petras will need to navigate long drives that controls the clock. Iowa needs to run the ball consistent enough to set up the play-action pass deep downfield.
Ferentz anticipates wideout Diante Vines will be back in the lineup, but he’s uncertain if Keagan Johnson will be available.
It just so happens that Ohio State’s defense is first in the Big Ten in tackles for loss, which will make any Offensive Coordinator cringe.
Everyone will have to work together, by playing smart and disciplined. The coaching staff must trust each other and just let the kids have fun.
The last thing Ferentz wants is his players out there thinking too much or folding due to the noise levels.
No doubt revenge will be on the Buckeyes’ minds, so the Hawkeyes better be ready to leave it all on the field.
“Now the challenge is can we get back on our feet and compete better, because it’s a new challenge, a different kind of challenge than we faced at Illinois.”