Iowa City, Iowa - The real season begins in Week 3, with the first trophy game of the 2014 season for the Iowa Hawkeyes (2-0), with the in-state rival Iowa State Cyclones (0-2), with a 2:30 p.m. kickoff on ESPN from historic Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes have been solid in two fourth quarter games to remain undefeated. Iowa State has lost 14 and 15 point leads in back to back weeks to remain without of win in '14.
Throw out the stats, records and hype, it is a rivalry in the Hawkeye State as the Cy-Hawk Trophy is up for grabs between Iowa and Iowa State.
In 2012, the Cy-Hawk Game was a battle for field goals, with Iowa State knocking off Iowa 9-6, after the Hawkeyes-Cylcones battled to a 44-41 game in a three overtime clash the year before in Ames. The Hawkeyes struggled all season, finished 4-8 in '12, while the Cyclones went on to finish 6-7, with a 31-17 loss to Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl. The '12 win by Iowa State ended a three game home win streak by Iowa in the series at Kinnick.
Iowa rebounded in 2013, with a 27-21 win in Ames, flipping the 4-8 regular season in '12 into a 8-4 regular season in '13. The Hawkeyes celebrate the 125th anniversary of Iowa Football in 2014. It is also the 75th anniversary of the Iowa Ironmen season, the season Nile Kinnick won his Heisman Trophy.
Iowa State was 3-9 in '13 and this off season has brought in a new offensive coordinator, along with a good number of new assistants. Mark Mangino, the former Kansas head coach, is now head coach Paul Rhoads' new offensive coordinator, as the Rhoads era enters Week 3 of Year 6, with a 27-38 record. Iowa State's new staff is looking for a rebound in Ames, like Iowa in '13.
Iowa's Kirk Ferentz (110-79) in his 16th season in Iowa City, as head coach, hired a new offensive coordinator in 2012, when he asked long-time Texas OC Greg Davis to join his staff. Ferentz has revamped his staff over the past three seasons and elevated Phil Parker from secondary coach to defensive coordinator, as well.
It has taken Iowa time to transition from the first 13 years of the Kirk Ferentz era to today's version in '14, offensively, defensively and on special teams. This should be an interesting Cy-Hawk Game, with the newer coordinators going head to head.
What is this Rivalry about, since renewing in 1977?
Iowa senior linebacker middle linebacker Quinton Alston says there aren't any funny stories surrounding the Iowa-Iowa State matchup because plain and simple, it's "Beat State" week inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex.
"It doesn't take long to get used to the rivalry and not like them," said Alston, who will be playing in his fourth installment of the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series today inside Kinnick Stadium. "There are no secrets here."
"In the complex, they start playing the (Iowa State) fight song to make you more angry," he said. "They play it in the locker room, weight room... everywhere. You get tired of seeing Iowa State really quickly around here, and when you get to the game Saturday everything is let loose."
Iowa leads the all-time series over the Cyclones, 40-21, which includes a 23-13 advantage in games played in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have won 4-of-6, 5-of-8, and 7-of-11 meetings in the series. Iowa has held Iowa State to single digits in several of the recent games in the series.
Iowa usually beats Iowa State teams that don't bowl.
Senior wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley didn't understand the rivalry when he arrived at Iowa from Michigan in 2010. Now he knows the game is personal.
"Those guys want their bragging rights; we want our bragging rights," Martin-Manley said. "We have to go out and make plays, play hard, and come out with a win."
Martin-Manley is Iowa's leading receiver and could finish his senior season as an all-time leader.
"(When I got here) I was told it is going to be a hard fought game. When I was younger, I didn't understand it, but now I do. You can tell it is amplified when you get on the field. It's a hard fought battle, just like it's going to be this weekend."
The last three games in the series have been decided by six points or less.
"This rivalry has been good every year I have been here," said junior quarterback Jake Rudock.
Last year, Rudock was in his first season of leading the Iowa offense. He is playing very effective in fourth quarters, thus far in '14.
"They're going to be ready to go, we'll be ready to go, and it's going to be loud. The fans get into it."
Rudock believes the passion shown for the rivalry is a testament to both team's fan bases.
"It means we have great fans in Iowa across the state, whether it's for Iowa or Iowa State," he said. "The fans here are passionate about football and love these two teams."
Even though it's a "different" game week, Alston says when the teams ultimately take the field it will be business as usual.
"It's a big game in the state, but we're going to go out there and prepare," he said. "We're not going to be blinded by who we're playing this week. We're going to go out there and play them like any other team."
Defense was the difference in the 2012 game for Iowa State and Iowa Hawkeyes hope it is for the Hawkeyes in 2014.
Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker knew going into the 2014 season that the Hawkeye defense would need to improve from game to game, with three new starting linebackers and half the secondary new. As the Hawkeyes prepare for Iowa State and the third game of the season, Parker feels his defense is moving in the right direction.
"From game one to game two, I feel we showed a lot of improvement," said Parker. "Our communication has improved on the back end, on the second level; the guys are getting more comfortable. We have a lot of first time guys out there playing. Our biggest goal from game one was to cut down on the big plays, and we went from eight to two. But, we need to cut that down even more. The biggest thing is being consistent and improving in all areas, from the defensive line, to the linebackers to the secondary."
The Hawkeyes wins came over Northern Iowa (31-23) and Ball State. After allowing a number of big plays and 23 points in the opening win, the defense was a bright spot in the win over Ball State. The Cardinal offense scored just two field goals in Iowa's 17-13 win and totaled just 219 yards total offense. And, the Cardinals had just two offensive plays of over 20 yards.
"I think its both preparation and experience," said Parker. "They are on the field working together as a group in a game for the first time. The film study and prep during the week has picked up, but that's all about football. If you are well prepared and know what to expect, you see things faster and the game slows down a little for you the more you prepare."
While senior strong safety John Lowdermilk started every game a year ago, Desmond King played as a true freshman a year ago, starting 12 games at cornerback. Sophomore cornerback Greg Mabin is new to the line-up this season and junior Jordan Lomax made the more from cornerback to safety.
"Like Desmond last year, the first couple of games he started, it was new to him," said Parker. "He picked up on it quickly and moved on. I think that is what everyone else is doing. Greg had done a good job in two games. Jordan is playing well in a new position. I think its all carry over, it's like building files in your computer, having the memory and recall when you see the different things. We need everybody to improve their level of play, their intensity and effort as we move forward. We have to continue to do that, and hopefully finish our preparation in the next 48 hours."
Saturday's game will kick off at 2:35 p.m. on ESPN with Sean McDonough calling the play by play, former Ohio State linebacker Chris Speilman adding color, and Todd McShay on the sidelines. The game is a sold out, which will be the third game this season for the Cyclones to be a capacity crowd.
Iowa State lost the season opener to North Dakota State in Ames 34-14, then lost 32-28 in the Big Twelve opener at home to Kansas State.
Keys to the Cy-Hawk Game today at Kinnick Stadium:
- Control the line scrimmage
- Play of the linebackers
- Coaching adjustments
- Turnovers and miscues
- Explosive plays, 12+ runs, 16+ receptions
- Special teams
This game could be highly competitive or a blow out. We shall see.
Our Prediction: Iowa 25, Iowa State 15, as Iowa's defense steps up in the red zone in Week 3 in the Cy-Hawk Game.