Hawks get first real test against ISU


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Given the volume of the in-state trash talk and swirling speculation about the Cy-Hawk Trophy, one could forget one very important thing about the Iowa/Iowa State rivalry.

There’s a football game to be played on Saturday.

Much has been made of the recent inequality of the Cy-Hawk Series. After all, Iowa has won the last three in a row and outscored the Cyclones, 70-10, in the last two meetings. Up until the fourth quarter of the 2010 matchup, the Black and Gold had held Iowa State without a touchdown for 17-straight quarters — and that score came in garbage time against Iowa’s second-string defense.

But Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz cautioned against overlooking an Iowa State team that head coach Paul Rhoads calls his best yet.

“They’re three years into the program, certainly, [and have] a lot of good players have back who have played well for them,” Ferentz said on Tuesday, referring to the 16 starters returning from last year’s team.

“They’ve had a lot of good moments, so we’re going over there expecting a real tough game.”

Iowa State’s flashiest player — and the one who provided the Cyclones with their best moments in the team’s 20-19 win over Northern Iowa last week — is one who wasn’t anywhere near the state of Iowa last year. Quarterback Steele Jantz began his career at Hawaii, transferred to City College of San Francisco in 2009, and joined Iowa State after throwing for more than 3,000 yards and rushing for 600 more in his last season with the Rams.

Jantz had early problems against UNI, but he led a charge late in the fourth quarter to secure the one-point win. He helped score each of Iowa State’s three touchdowns, running for two and tossing for another.

The 22-year-old is the second-straight dual-threat quarterback to face the Iowa defense; the Hawkeyes shut down Tennessee Tech’s Tre Lamb last week.

But Jantz is a different level of quarterback than Lamb, and Ferentz said Jantz’s poor season-opening numbers (18-for-40 and 187 yards) don’t tell the whole story.

“There were three quarters where he struggled — looked like a guy who was new, a guy who wasn’t comfortable,” Ferentz said. “Then, in the fourth quarter, he did a great job of helping his team win.

At the end of the day, that’s what counts in that ball game … I think he’s got his jitters, the first game jitters, down the tubes now, and he’s ready to go.”

Chances are pretty good Iowa’s gunslinger won’t have jitters, either — although James Vandenberg did say the first time he took the field in Jack Trice Stadium, in 2009, he was so nervous he thought his legs wouldn’t support him.

“I took a five-step drop, and I almost fell down — and then I threw a one-bouncer to Keenan Davis,” he said on Tuesday, smiling. “Then, the next play, I hit Don Nordmann on a deep crossing route, and after that I was good to go. I remember my legs were like Jell-O walking in there.”

But now that he has a few starts under his belt, Vandenberg said the nerves are mostly gone.
That’s a positive for the Hawkeyes, who will need his leadership more than usual considering the running game might be fairly one-dimensional on Saturday. After starter Marcus Coker, who fumbled twice in his first four carries last week, the tailback situation is thin; No. 2 back Jason White has two career carries.

Still, offensive lineman Adam Gettis said he’s not worried about which running back he will be blocking for.

“We have a pretty good offensive line, and we want to block people,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to do.”

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