Ferentz: OSU loss bad break for Hawkeyes

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 17, 2003

COLUMBUS - Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz doesn't think his team caught a break because Ohio State lost last week.

''The last time they lost, they won 19 straight,'' he cracked.

Fresh from a 17-10 loss at Wisconsin that ended their 19-game winning streak, the No. 8 Buckeyes host the No. 9 Hawkeyes on Saturday in a game that comes a year later than fans and the teams may have wanted.

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The teams didn't play in 2002, when both went unbeaten in the Big Ten and shared the title.

Late in the season, they took turns lobbing challenges and insults about how much they regretted not having the opportunity to beat the other.

They enter Saturday's showdown among the top teams in the country, but tied for sixth in the Big Ten.

Even though the conference's rotating schedule prevented them from meeting last year, that doesn't mean both sides aren't trying to use this game to stake a claim to superiority for last season as well.

''You want to prove that you are the best team in the Big Ten,'' Ohio State wide receiver Drew Carter said. ''The fact that we didn't play last year, you kind of want to come out and show you are the best. We hope to prove that this weekend.''

Ferentz said he hasn't lost any sleep thinking about what might have happened had the teams squared off in 2002.

''Both teams probably would have enjoyed the opportunity,'' he said. ''None of us wasted much time on it though. It wasn't going to be a reality.''

The Hawkeyes and Buckeyes have the same records (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten). Both have hard-hitting defenses, solid special teams and offenses that haven't met expectations.

''The only thing I would say, the difference obviously is last year we were a much more explosive offensive team than we are now,'' Ferentz said. ''That would have been an interesting contrast from that standpoint. Now, if anything, we probably look more like each other than we did a year ago.''

Ohio State is 10th in the country in total defense, Iowa is 25th. The Hawkeyes are giving up just 13.3 points a game and Ohio State only 15.7.

They also are mirror images on offense, where both have had difficulty moving the ball and scoring when they need to. Iowa is 10th in the Big Ten in total offense, one notch above the bumbling Buckeyes.

Ohio State isn't looking back to last year so much as the loss in the rain last Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.

''The only thing on our minds this week is that we did not perform well last week,'' quarterback Craig Krenzel said. ''We need to take this week and make ourselves better. We need to play a better football game Saturday or else the same result might happen.''

Iowa offensive lineman Brian Ferentz, son of the coach, said the Hawkeyes picked up several things from watching Wisconsin rush for 176 yards against the Buckeyes.

''Everybody learned it's not impossible to run the ball against them, but they have some excellent players everywhere,'' he said. ''Seeing Wisconsin run the ball gives you hope that maybe we'll be able to grind out a few yards on the ground.''

Ohio State's players were circling the wagons this week after the offense was being assailed for another listless effort and the defense gave up a late 79-yard touchdown pass for the deciding points.

''Whenever Ohio State loses we get that flak,'' safety Will Allen said. ''There wasn't nobody expected us to win the national championship last year. Nobody expected us to win over eight games this year because we lost a lot of people and had a young defense. Our offense is struggling right now but we all know what we have to do. We have confidence in ourselves and we believe in ourselves.''

The Buckeyes know they cannot repeat their national title unless they win out.

''Our guys did a nice job a year ago of not succumbing to that question and keeping their eye on what's going on this moment,'' coach Jim Tressel said. ''I'd like to think that they'll be able to do the same thing this week.''