From The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Bitter rivals clash at Kinnick Stadium this weekend, as the ninth- ranked Iowa Hawkeyes do battle with the Iowa State Cyclones.
The Hawkeyes took care of business in their opener last weekend, as they tallied a 37-7 victory over Eastern Illinois, a FCS program.
"We're very happy with the win," UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "All-in-all, I think we're all pleased. It was good we got to play a lot of guys in the fourth quarter."
It was certainly a better performance than last year's opener, when the Hawkeyes used a pair of blocked field goals in the final seconds to hold off Northern Iowa for a 17-16 victory. The win last weekend was the 10th straight in season openers for Iowa, which is expected to compete for a national title with the return of several key players from last year's 11-2 squad.
ISU meanwhile, is looking to build off last season's 7-6 performance that included a bowl game victory. The Cyclones got things started on a high note, as they topped Northern Illinois, 27-10, in their opener on September 2nd.
"That was an outstanding win against a very good football team," stated Paul Rhoads, who is the first ISU coach to be 2-0 in season openers since Donnie Duncan (1979-80).
The Cyclones though, now have a much tougher task ahead of them, as they clash with the highly regarded Hawkeyes for the 58th time on the gridiron. Iowa leads the all-time series 38-19 and has won two straight, including a 35-3 victory in Ames last season. Furthermore, Iowa hasn't allowed a TD to ISU in 14 quarters, spanning four years, although the Cyclones did us a bunch of field goals to pick up a 15-13 victory in '07.
In last Thursday's win over NIU, the Cyclones racked up 403 total yards and scored all three of their TDs on the ground. The team however, averaged just 3.7 yards per carry and nearly half of its rushing yards came on a 63-yard TD scamper by Alexander Robinson, who finished with 97 yards and two scores on 19 totes. A 1,000-yard rusher last season, Robinson also caught four balls for 32 yards.
QB Austen Arnaud can also do damage with his legs and he was a big reason why ISU managed a hardy 180.0 ypg on the ground in '09. In the opener, Arnaud toted 14 times for 45 yards and a TD. He even showed improved accuracy by connecting on 27-of-36 tosses for 265 yards, although he had no passing TDs against two INTs. He will need to be much sharper if ISU is to penetrate Iowa's stingy defense.
The Cyclones did solid work on defense last Thursday, holding NIU to just 249 total yards and 10 points. The unit did an especially good job versus the pass, as NIU completed only 14-of-29 tosses for a mere 93 yards with three picks versus no TDs. Jake Knott came up with two of those INTs, to go with nine tackles and a forced fumble, while A.J. Klein led the defense with 15 stops.
"Jake's two interceptions were huge," Rhoads said. "He had a good number of tackles and he plays the game with passion."
Behind 435 yards of offense, including 179 rushing, the Hawkeyes easily took care of EIU in their opener this past weekend. Tailback Adam Robinson enjoyed a big day, as he went for 109 yards and a career-high three TDs on 24 carries. It marked the third career 100-yard effort for Robinson, who set an Iowa freshman record with 834 rushing yards last season.
"The offensive line did a great job of giving me running room and I took advantage of that," stated Robinson. "Rick [Stanzi] was great and we just played together as a team."
Robinson was thrust into a bigger role last year after Jewel Hampton suffered a torn ACL prior to the start of the campaign. Hampton, a freshman sensation in '08, was suspended for the opener, but is expected back this weekend. His return gives Iowa another weapon to work with while also taking some of the burden off Robinson.
QB Ricky Stanzi turned in a good effort versus NIU as well, throwing for 229 yards and a TD on 18-of-23 tosses. Never a player known for his numbers, Stanzi is a proven leader and winner, owning a 19-4 record as a starter.
Iowa returns eight starters from a defense that allowed only 15.4 ppg in '09, so this unit is expected to be among the best around. The defense didn't look rusty in the opener, when the group held EIU to a measly 157 yards of total offense. The Hawkeyes permitted just 65 of those yards on the ground, while surrendering a mere six first downs. Karl Klug, who had 13 TFLs last season, paced Iowa with six stops and 1.5 TFLs in the win.
The Hawkeyes are clearly the better team, but the Cyclones will be ready for this rivalry game and they are capable of springing an upset. With that said, expect Iowa's ground attack and defense to overwhelm ISU for the victory.