10 @ 10: Hawkeyes look for fast start against Illini
Scoreless in the opening quarter of three of their five games this season, Iowa will be looking for a faster start Saturday against Illinois.
That, along with the return of Brandon Snyder and how Nathan Bazata views the Illini quarterback change, are part of today’s Hawkeye 10@10.
Your daily dose of Hawkeye news and notes is delivered each weekday at 10 a.m. at Hawkmania.com, your home for all things Iowa.
Here is today’s Hawkeye 10@10:
1. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz will be looking for a faster start from the Hawkeyes in Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against Illinois.
“Part of what we’re looking for this week is just being ready mentally to go for kickoff,” Ferentz said. “I’m not sure that we were last Saturday (at Michigan State) for whatever reason, so that’s a challenge. That’s something we’ll have to learn as well.’’
That start extends to both ends of the field. Michigan State marched 75 yards on its game-opening touchdown drive against Iowa.
“It’s kind of a demoralizing fact. It’s going to happen sometimes, so you’ve got to come back from it,” Ferentz said. “It doesn’t decide the game, but you’d like to start with a little better tempo and try to force them to punt the ball and give you a little better field position.’’
2. Brandon Snyder will see his first action of the season in Saturday’s game.
Coach Kirk Ferentz said during his weekly radio call-in show Wednesday night that the junior free safety will see playing time against Illinois, six months to the week after he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“He’s started building his way back,” Ferentz said. “You will definitely see him in the game.’’
3. Illinois’ switch at quarterback this week has Iowa preparing to see multiple signal callers in Saturday’s game.
Defensive tackle Nathan Bazata said the move from run-oriented Chayce Crouch to the pocket passer Jeff George Jr. alters what the Hawkeyes expect to see.
“It’s different, but it isn’t anything that we haven’t dealt with before,” Bazata said. “We just can’t let him get comfortable in the pocket. That is our job, to keep him on edge a bit.’’
4. Quarterback Nate Stanley has the freedom to make some adjustments based on his read of the opposing defense, but he is limited to a degree.
“It’s whatever we have in the plan for the week,” Stanley said. “We have options in the game plan.’’
5. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz doesn’t see any quick fixes for Iowa’s rushing attack which now averages 3.4 yards per carry.
“It’s just repetition and keep working at it,” he said. “There’s no magic formula. It’s all about trying to develop more consistency, being able to sustain it a little bit. A part of that is we’ve got to keep working, get our lineups settled in and get the guys working together a little more cohesively.’’
6. Illinois arrives at Kinnick Stadium leading the nation with an average of 0.75 blocked kicks per game.
The Fighting Illini have rejected three kicks during their 2-2 start to the season, blocking two field goal tries and one PAT attempt.
Jamal Milan and Isaiah Gay have blocked kicks and Tito Odenigbo blocked an extra-point attempt that was returned by Nate Hobbs for a defensive PAT.
7. The Hawkeyes have been finishing games strong.
Iowa’s most productive quarter from an offensive standpoint has been the fourth, when the Hawkeyes have totaled 46 points.
Quarterback Nate Stanley has a 175.2 pass efficiency rating in the fourth quarter and overtime sessions this season, completing 21-of-35 passes for 323 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
8. Only three freshmen have scored more than the four touchdowns that Illinois’ Mike Epstein has rushed for so far this season.
A product of traditionally talent-rich St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the 6-foot, 195-pound back is averaging 65.8 rushing yards per game.
9. Iowa’s swimming program is celebrating its centennial season with a reunion this weekend in Iowa City.
Part of that includes an alumni meet on Friday at 2 p.m. at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center that all former Hawkeyes are welcomed to participate in.
10. Iowa homecoming activities continue tonight with the Iowa Shout rally.
The student-driven event runs from 6-9 p.m. on the Pentacrest on the Iowa campus.
Friday’s activities include a parade at 5:45 p.m. in downtown Iowa City followed by a concert.