Iowa City, Ia. — It’s a Fiesta in September.
B.J. Katz, president of the Phoenix I-Club, is expecting more than 12,000 Iowa football fans to attend Saturday’s game at No. 24 Arizona.
“I’ve probably been getting calls for six months … ticket requests, tailgating requests and everything,” Katz said. “Everyone is super excited.”
The 9:30 p.m. tussle in Tucson comes 10 months after Fiesta Bowl officials took a pass on the Hawkeyes, instead pairing unbeaten Texas Christian and Boise State in a January showcase.
“I hope it’s a big invasion,” said Jim Bruner, a Fiesta Bowl board member, of the potential Iowa turnout. “There are a lot of Hawkeye fans who live in Arizona. You can tell by their license plates or the stickers on their cars.”
It will be Iowa’s first trip to the Grand Canyon State since a 44-7 loss at Arizona State in 2004.
This season’s Hawkeyes head west ranked ninth in the nation with a 2-0 record, having outscored Eastern Illinois and Iowa State by a combined 72-14.
“It’s kind of stepping stones,” offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde said. “Now, it’s the next step. We’ve got a phenomenal team, probably a contender for the Pac Ten championship, on the road at their place.”
The Wildcats, who lost 27-17 at Kinnick Stadium a year ago, beat their opening two foes 93-8 — without allowing a touchdown.
“When you look to play eight quarters against anybody and not let anyone in the end zone, it’s really satisfying for our players and coaches,” Arizona coach Mike Stoops, an Iowa alum, told reporters. “Really pleased with that.”
Katz caught an early glimpse of the Wildcats during their spring game.
“They definitely have some speed,” he said. “I think we saw that last year. They’re a pretty good team.”
Arizona picked up the pace last fall when Nick Foles became the primary quarterback.
He was 6-for-11 in limited action against Iowa, but is 49-of-59 this year for 574 yards and three scores.
“The key to these games is you really have to stay sharp,” Foles said. “We’re going to have to continue to build on that.”
Bruner calls the Hawkeye-Wildcat matchup the most anticipated nonconference game of the year in Arizona. For Katz, it’s a mixed blessing. He’d like Iowa to have a home field advantage, but loves the fact the Hawkeyes are playing within a 21/2-hour drive of where he’s located.
“Strictly for hoping the team wins and feeling a little more confident, yeah, it would be great if it was at Kinnick,” Katz said. “But I understand they want to get to places where either they recruit or where there are a lot of alumni.”
Officials estimate there are 7,000 Iowa alums in the Phoenix area, but interest in this week’s Hawkeye visit inspired supporters to start an I-Club in Tucson.
“I usually get e-mails,” Katz said of Iowans living near the Arizona campus, “ ‘Where can I go to watch the Iowa game?’”
The new I-Club has roughly 50 members.
“I know coach Stoops is excited to get his alma mater back down to Tucson,” Katz said. “He’s thinking he can hopefully beat those guys up a little. Definitely a lot of story lines.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football