Both Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and Penn State head coach Joe Paterno had similar things to say about the other’s program on Tuesday during the Big Ten Conference’s Weekly Teleconference.
They were both complimentary of the other progam and similar words were used to describe their opponent on Saturday at Beaver Stadium in Pennsylvania.
“They are one of the most storied programs in all of college football and they have one of the best, if not the best, coach of all time in any sport at any level,” Ferentz said. “They are well-coached, very talented and they make you beat them.”
Paterno hopes to fare better this time around against Iowa than he has in recent history.
“Iowa does a great job and Kirk is a great coach,” Paterno said. “They are well-coached, they don’t beat themselves, the kicking game is great and the defense is very sound.
“They have played really well against us. We’ll have to turn it up a notch. Hopefully we can stay with them this year.”
Iowa has beaten the Nittany Lions in eight of the past nine meetings and has won five of the last six at Beaver Stadium, which is expecting a crowd of more than 107,000 fans for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. kickoff on ABC.
“The program has some very strong tradition,” Ferentz said. “Everyone knows Penn State nationally. They are all of what’s good about college football. And you better play awfully good to win. It’ll come down to who plays the best football really.”
The Hawkeyes have not played in a game since their win over Louisiana-Monroe on September 24. That feels like a long time, but Ferentz said the bye week came at a good time.
“We needed to get some guys healthy and evaluate where we were as a football team, so the bye week came at a good time,” he said. “It feels like a month since we played, but hopefully it won’t look like that.”
Ferentz talks wide receivers
Another question about the Iowa wide receiver group was brought up by reporters during the teleconference, and Ferentz continues to call the recent emergence a “strange situation.”
“I was in the tank about that position in August,” Ferentz said. “We weren’t playing well and coming along the way that I had hoped. It’s part of being a young team. But they have really stepped up lately.The whole group is getting better. All players progress at different times. The key is that they progress.”
Iowa’s passing game has really taken off the last two games. The coaching staff used a no-huddle, shotgun look in the comeback win over Pittsburgh that ignited the fire and quarterback James Vandenberg and his receivers — mostly senior Marvin McNutt, junior Keenan Davis and redshirt freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley — have taken off from there.
Vandenberg has thrown 10 TDs this season and just one interception. He threw for 399 yards and three TDs in the win over Pittsburgh and added a rushing TD. He put up big numbers against ULM as he threw for nearly 300 yards and three more scores. All 10 TD passes this year have come from McNutt, Davis and Martin-Manley.
Paterno explains his use of two quarterbacks
The most asked question Paterno gets this season involves the Nittany Lions’ quarterback situation. For the first time in a long time, the long-time Penn State coach has decided to use two quarterbacks during games.
“They are so equal,” said Paterno, who is 84 years old this season. “I’ve been a one QB guy. But neither one has been sensational, but they both work hard, they are both leaders and they are both guys you want to lead your team. It’s a dilemma, sure.”
It’s such a dilemma that fans of Penn State are frustrated that one quarterback has not been named the starter.
“People don’t agree with it and that’s fine,” Paterno said. “Maybe I don’t agree with it either, but I’m doing what I think is best.”
Ferentz discussed more about the injuries some of his players have sustained this season during Tuesday’s weekly press conference in Iowa City.
Iowa defensive back B.J. Lowery has been out all fall but is expected to be back next week, according to Ferentz. Senior linebacker Tyler Nielsen is still battling some nagging injuries but should be OK for the game Saturday.
As far as fullback Brad Rogers, he is back with the team and trying to get into game shape.
“Best way I can put it there, our guys have really been training for nine months and he hasn’t,” Ferentz said. “He’s just been in the shallow end of the pool up until about a week ago and now he’s starting to get some work and what‑have‑you.
“But we are just going to try to be very cautious and slow. Just so you don’t have any hamstring issues or anything like that. Guys break down if they are not in great shape. So we have to be really smart about how much he does and how many plays he would play once he gets to the game field.”