IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Kirk Ferentz noted the irony of Saturday's season-opening football game against Northern Illinois. Despite suffering a rare early setback, it was one of the best performances out of the gate by the Hawkeyes in quite some time.
"We did a lot of things better than we did in a lot of our first games over the last decade or so, but it got lost in the things that kept us from winning," Ferentz said Sunday in an exclusive interview with hawkeyesports.com. "We turned it over three times and that makes it tough to win a ball game. We gave up plays that were too easy for them to convert, and particularly in the third quarter, we had near-misses on third down to grab control of the game but we weren't up to the task quite yet."
There was plenty to be pleased about against the Huskies, including improved depth from the defensive line, junior Kevonte Martin-Manley's nine pass receptions and two punt returns, and a near perfect day from kicker Mike Meyer. Meyer made field goals from 44 and 28 yards, was 3-for-3 on point-afters, and five of six kickoffs were touchbacks.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock was one of six Hawkeyes making their first collegiate start. He completed 21-of-37 passes for 256 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown.
"There were a couple throws he would like to have back and most quarterbacks feel that way after every game," Ferentz said. "Jake did a lot of good things and for his first time out it was an impressive showing. He has worked hard, prepared hard, but until you get on the game field, you're never sure what is going to happen. He kept his composure, did a good job with some of our checks and made some good plays. He had a guy in his face on the touchdown pass to (tight end C.J.) Fiedorowicz; when he pulled it down and ran (for a 6-yard touchdown) he got the first down and then he managed to get to the pylon as well. I was pleased with his composure, presence and awareness. All of us are excited on how he can build on that."
Ferentz said he and his staff will have to "be smart" during upcoming practices since the team put in a tough week preparing and performing in high temperatures.
"I'm concerned about the team's energy, although Sunday they looked fine," Ferentz said.
The Hawkeyes turn their attention to a Missouri State team (0-1) that comes to Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 7. One of the more obvious challenges the Bears present is their three-man defensive front.
"That's something we haven't been exposed to a lot over the past few seasons," Ferentz said. "Like any second game, it is what can we do to improve? We have a lot of good teaching examples to work on. We'll see if we can tighten things up and play a little cleaner next week."
Ferentz will gather with media Tuesday for his weekly news conference in the Hayden Fry Football Complex beginning at 12:45 p.m. (CT). On Saturday, the Hawkeyes and Missouri State kick off at 11:01 a.m. (CT) with the game being televised by BTN.
Note: Playing Northern Illinois dual threat quarterback Jordan Lynch should help in Iowa preparation for the Big Ten schedule. As Coach Ferentz commented about, the Missouri State game will give Iowa an opponent that plays a 3-4 defense, which Wisconsin has switched to under new head coach Gary Anderson in 2013.