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Iowa football: Can UI handle tough road game?

[ 3 ] September 14, 2010 |

Should the Iowa football team lose Saturday at Arizona, some of you undoubtedly will blame it on the late starting time or the desert heat or the plane ride half way across the country or all of the above.

You might struggle to find an Iowa player who would agree with that, though, because I couldn’t find any Tuesday. All the players that I spoke to said too much attention was being given to the circumstances leading up to the game.

“That’s just all nonsense,” said sophomore running back Adam Robinson. “We’ve got to overcome it and we will.”

Junior strong safety Tyler Sash explained his feelings on the subject by providing a quick and simple geography lesson.

“Everybody is making this big deal about going west,” Sash said. “I just feel like it’s the opposite direction of going east.

“We’ve gone to Penn State. We’ve gone to Ohio State. It’s just going another direction in my opinion.”

Sash has a good point because it’s never easy traveling to Penn State, and yet Iowa has won five of the last six times it has faced the Nittany Lions in State College, Pa. And in some of those games, Penn State probably had the better team.

Now this isn’t to say that traveling to Tucson is a walk in the park because it does present a different challenge as evidenced by the fact that Iowa hasn’t won a game played west of the Rocky Mountains since 1987.

The 2004 Iowa football team failed miserably the last time if faced a similar challenge, losing 44-7 against Arizona State in Tempe in the third game of the season and a week after defeating Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium. And that was an Iowa team that would go on to win 10 games, a share of the Big Ten title and the 2005 Capital One Bowl.

But to say that Iowa played poorly simply because of the circumstances leading up to that game wouldn’t be fair to the Arizona State players or coaches.

It also would take away from what Iowa accomplished last season when it defeated Arizona 27-17 at Kinnick Stadium in the third game.

The biggest challenge with playing at Arizona won’t be overcoming jet lag or starting later than usual, but rather the competition that’ll take place on the field.

Sophomore running back Jewel Hampton not only thinks too much is being made of the 9:35 p.m. starting time, he looks forward to playing after the sun goes down.

In fact, he said Tuesday that he prefers it over playing at 11 a.m., which was the start of Iowa’s season opener against Eastern Illinois.

Senior quarterback Ricky Stanzi feels the same way about it.

“People forget about how early 11 o’clock is when you actually have to get up at like seven,” Stanzi said. “That’s not a lot of fun. So I like night games a lot.”

As for playing in the desert heat, that’s sort of misleading because the game will be played at night when the conditions are more tolerable.

It probably won’t be any worse than the conditions were for last Saturday’s game against Iowa State, especially when you factor in the low humidity in Arizona.

And it definitely won’t be worse than the sauna-like conditions that the Iowa players endured during preseason practice.

“We had a tough camp here as you know back in August,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. “And I really don’t see that being a big factor in the game.”

Iowa has practiced some in the evening, including starting as late as 9 p.m., in order to prepare for this game. So it’s not like Saturday will be a totally new experience.

If Ferentz had his way the Hawkeyes never would play a game on the West Coast, unless, of course, it was a bowl game, but he looks at it differently than his players.

For one thing, Ferentz isn’t a kid anymore. Iowa also rarely recruits on the West Coast.

“College kids tend to thrive at 9 o’clock, whereas the older people like me, we’re probably going to be at our worst,” Ferentz said. “But that’s just how it goes.”

If there is anything to worry about heading into Saturday’s game, it’ll be playing without the presence of defensive coordinator Norm Parker. He will miss his second consecutive game because of medical reasons.

Parker is not only a defensive genius, but also a stabilizing force.

But on the other hand, the players could use Parker’s situation as motivation. They could rally behind him and express themselves with their performance.

And finally, if Iowa truly is as good as advertised, overcoming a difficult road game is part of the deal because nobody ever said being special would come easy.

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or pharty@press-citizen.com.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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