Hawkeyes focus on Arkansas State before anything else

BY AMIE KIEHN | OCTOBER 02, 2009 7:20 AM

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Iowa’s defensive performance against Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark and tailback Evan Royster was the force behind the Hawkeyes’ 21-10 victory over the Nittany Lions and the deserved national recognition.

Slated as a vital win for the Hawkeyes, prognosticators and fans alike are placing Iowa as a major contender for the Big Ten championship. For head coach Kirk Ferentz, he remains content to focus on one Saturday at a time.

Thus, the Hawkeyes’ defensive front will have to continue its strong play before the Kinnick Stadium faithful on Saturday in order to hold off Arkansas State, which stands 1-2 overall.

“Let’s hope we win the Kinnick Stadium championship this Saturday,” Ferentz said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “I’ll be happy with that, and then we’ll go on to the next game after that. We’ve played one game in conference play.”

The Red Wolves boast an impressive defensive line, which includes 6-5, 280-pound Alex Carrington. The defensive end from Tupelo, Miss., was named the 2008 Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year after accumulating 53 tackles (34 solo) and 10.5 sacks.

Carrington’s accomplishments last season placed him on this year’s Lott Trophy Watch List alongside Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer.

“They’ve got some guys on defense — particularly up front — who do a nice job,” Ferentz said. “The one defensive end Carrington is a big strong guy. I understand he ran like a 4.75, or something like that, for the pros.”

The redshirt senior is not the only player with experience for the Red Wolves, who return eight starters on defense.

While excelling defensively, Arkansas State quarterback Corey Leonard has brought a program formerly stalled in mediocrity to the Sun Belt’s short list.

Last season Leonard broke the school record for yards in a season with 4,786. The Wolves’ offensive stats so far beat the Hawkeyes in total yardage, 358.3 to 347.8.

“I think our defensive coaches put it best. They’re a lot like a very nice Northwestern attack,” Ferentz said. “[Defensive coordinator] Norm [Parker] compared Leonard with [Brett] Basanez, and that’s probably a good comparison.”

Iowa’s quarterback Ricky Stanzi has struggled getting the ball to receivers Marvin McNutt, Trey Stross, and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos but still has managed to get over his occasional first-half hump.

“There are a lot of things we can do to be more consistent,” Stanzi said. “You can go on film and look at a lot of things, but it all comes back to execution, though. That’s all it really does — execution and fundamentals.”

Despite being equipped with Leonard’s strong arm, Arkansas State has also struggled. The Red Wolves were unable to advance past former conference champ Troy on Sept. 26, losing 30-27. The senior signal-caller completed half of his 24 throws for 190 yards.

With the victory last weekend, Iowa and Texas are now tied for the second-longest winning streak at eight. And whether the Hawkeyes can surpass the Red Wolves at home could be the beginning of a lot of “firsts” for Ferentz.

“Coach said in the past years, he’s never been 5-0,” Broderick Binns said. “So I think that is motivation for us to become 5-0 and not become 4-1.”

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