IOWA CITY, Iowa -- In many areas Saturday, the University of Iowa football team won the numbers game. Now it's time to claim the letters game as well -- in the form of a large capital W.
Against Northern Illinois, the Hawkeyes had more first downs, yards, red zone scores and time of possession. The Huskies ended with two more turnovers and three more points.
"The next step is, you have to learn how to win," said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz at his weekly news conference Tuesday in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. "Looking back, there were a couple opportunities (against Northern Illinois) where I felt we were close to turning the game, but we couldn't quite get it done."
As an example, Ferentz pointed to the first five possessions of the second half that combined to gain 47 yards and ended with four punts and an interception. There was also a false start penalty on third-and-1, and incomplete pass down field on third down, and a pass interception.
"Those little things add up and that's the next step that we have to take," Ferentz said.
Iowa attempts to get in the win column Sept. 7 when Missouri State (0-1) comes to Kinnick Stadium for the first meeting between the schools. Kickoff is 11:01 a.m. (CT). The Bears are coached by Terry Allen, a native of Iowa City, who played and coached at Northern Iowa. He left UNI for a major BCS job, when he landed the Kansas job. After an unsuccessful run at KU, Allen landed a new job at Missouri State.
"That (Northern Iowa) program has been good for a long, long time and Terry is a big part of that," Ferentz said.
Missouri State is a member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and since joining the Division I FCS ranks, the Bears are 1-28 against Football Bowl Subdivision competition. Even with that lopsided ledger, Missouri State will have the Hawkeyes' undivided attention, especially since eight FCS teams defeated FBS programs during the opening week.
"It's pretty awakening for everybody," Ferentz said. "We have played FCS tams before and there is nothing easy about winning at any level."
The Bears offer a 3-4 alignment on defense, similar to what is run at Ohio State and Wisconsin. Iowa plays at Ohio State on Oct. 19 and hosts Wisconsin on Nov. 2.
"Blocking is still blocking, but the communication is different against a 3-4 team and it causes a few adjustments," Ferentz said. "There is some benefit and we'll keep getting more of that as we go along."
Iowa ran 80 plays against Northern Illinois, more than 11 plays above its average in 2012. Ferentz said the offensive tempo for the Hawkeyes could fluctuate week-to-week.
"For the most part we operated well (against Northern Illinois)," Ferentz said. "Communication was pretty good and it was fairly effective, but we still want more points. Yardage is one thing, but when you have turnovers and come up short on points, that's tough."
When it comes to steps, Ferentz said sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock had a positive one for his first collegiate start. Rudock completed 21-of-37 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown. He rushed four times for 20 yards and another score.
"He handled things well," Ferentz said. "His demeanor on the sideline was good; he was calm, confident. The feedback we got from him was accurate, so his awareness was good. We wanted to win the football game, but there are good things that happened in (Rudock's) neighborhood."
The Iowa-Missouri State game will be televised by BTN with Steve Physioc and former Hawkeye Danan Hughes calling the action.
Ferentz sees truth in the statement that teams make the most improvement from the first to second week.
"But it's not just going to happen," he cautioned. "You have to make it happen. Can we push forward this week? If we do, we should see improvement, but we have to go out and do it. It starts in practice."