AMES, Iowa – The annual Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series showdown is set to kick off Saturday afternoon and both teams head into the highly anticipated matchup with 1-0 records.
The Hawkeyes and Cyclones are coming off easy Week 1 victories over FCS teams to start the 2015 season off strong. Iowa defeated Illinois State 31-14 and Iowa State beat Northern Iowa 31-7. They both looked dominant at times and exceeded most fan expectations.
Kirk Ferentz’s team jumped out to a quick lead against the Redbirds, and was led by quarterback C.J. Beathard (15-24, 211 yards, three total touchdowns), running back LeShun Daniels Jr. (26 carries, 123 yards), and defensive lineman Drew Ott (two sacks and one forced fumble).
On the other side, Paul Rhoads’ team turned it on as their game against the Panthers progressed, in large part due to quarterback Sam Richardson (21-29, 223 yards, two touchdowns), wide receiver Allen Lazard (four receptions, 43 yards, 100 punt return yards, one touchdown), and defensive lineman Dale Pierson (one interception and three sacks).
While the two coaches enjoyed those victories, they both understand the magnitude of the game Saturday and this Cy-Hawk rivalry. Ferentz is a career 7-9 against the Cyclones, while Rhoads is 3-3 versus the Hawkeyes. They're both seasoned veterans when it comes to this matchup, but still enjoy the challenge of facing each other every year.
"It has been a great series through the years, and it is an exciting football game for all of our players that grew up in the state of Iowa," Ferentz said. "For them to have an opportunity to play in this game is a special thing. It's going to be an exciting environment."
“It’s in-state, it’s bragging rights, and it’s a state without professional sports teams at the football level,” Rhoads said. “This is a big game for the people of this state.”
The players have stated consistently throughout the week that they are trying to keep a level head going into this game, but like their coaches, they know a battle such as this is a unique one compared to others.
"Just having friends that go to Iowa and knowing people who play on the team now adds a little bit more to this game,” Lazard said.
“They’re a good football team, they do a lot of good things defensively, offensively and with special teams,” Beathard said. “They know it’s a rivalry game, they’re playing Iowa, they’re going to give us the best they have and we can expect that.”
The Cyclones have been underdogs in this game 15 years in a row, including this year as Iowa is favored by three points, but the teams have split the last 14 meetings. When another one finally kicks off at 3:45 p.m. at Jack Trice Stadium, it will be an interesting battle of two teams who have been neck and neck in recent years when playing against each other.
The Hawkeyes know with this Cyclone offense, one area that they have to be worried about is Iowa State’s group of talented wide receivers. It’s the best group of playmakers at the position in Ames for the last several years.
Ott, a preseason All-Big Ten defensive end, will be tasked with leading the charge to pressure Richardson. Iowa is also returning three starting players in their secondary from the 2014 team which ranked eighth in the nation in passing yards allowed per game. This will be a key area of the matchup to watch.
“When you look at their offensive team, it’s extremely (veteran-laden), starting with the front guys," Ferentz said. "They have as good of a receiving core that you are going to find anywhere. Their quarterback (Richardson) has played a lot and played well.
“They've got some good size at the receiver position, which is always concerning,” Ferentz said. “But we're going to have to do a good job trying to get pressure and then also trying to re-route and things like that.”
In preparing for the Hawkeye offense, Iowa State may be most concerned with stopping Iowa’s rushing attack. Iowa State ranked 122nd out of 128 teams in rushing yards allowed last season, and it will be intriguing to see if they can slow down a consistent ground game by Iowa.
Iowa State will look for Pierson and company along the front seven to step up their games even more this week after a strong showing against Northern Iowa. Daniels Jr. ran very effectively last Saturday when his team led the entire way, and Rhoads took notice of not only him, but Jordan Canzeri as well.
“He (Daniels Jr.) hit a couple holes hard and fast, and picked up a lot of yardage before defenders were able to get to him,” Rhoads said. They’ve a great 1-2 punch, if you will, in the backfield and it will be a formidable run offense that we’ll be matched up against.”
Before kickoff Saturday, Iowa State University will hold a moment of silence for former Hawkeye star Tyler Sash. The two-time All-Big Ten safety was found dead in his home in Oskaloosa on Tuesday. The University of Iowa will also replace the Tigerhawk logo on one side of their helmet with Sash's No. 9.
“Our thoughts and prayers are certainly with the Sash family," Ferentz said. "It’s been a very difficult ordeal to deal with right now so I want to thank our fans, everybody involved, former players, everyone showing support to Tyler’s family and the Hawkeye family. That includes many people from Iowa State as well, fans, athletes, and coaches from there who have reached out through social media.”
“The sadness that goes along with losing someone so young and somebody that was so vibrant, and meant so much and impacted so many people, as well as a program, is just tragic and very, very sad,” Rhoads said.
Saturday’s game will be the 63rd all-time meeting between these two teams.
Keith Murphy: Iowa
John Sears: Iowa
Michael Admire: Iowa
Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa
Time: 3:45 p.m.
All-Time Series Record: Iowa is 40-22 against Iowa State