Iowa football: First meeting with Colorado State features familiar faces and top-notch tight ends
Iowa and Colorado State have never played before, but Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz seemed confident Tuesday he knows what to expect.
Iowa won the Pinstripe Bowl in 2017 and current Colorado State head coach Steve Addazio was Boston College’s boss at the time. The Hawks ended a 5-game bowl losing streak in that game with Akrum Wadley piling up 283 total yards (171 of them were on kick returns, so Tyler Goodson might not match that mark unless Iowa surprisingly decides to get really creative).
“Their staff is a really good staff,” Ferentz said Tuesday. “Coach Addazio was up at Boston College when we played them in the Pinstripe Bowl, so certainly familiar with his past. And you see a lot of similarities between what they were doing at Boston College and what they’re doing at Colorado State, not only in terms of scheme, but also the way their guys play. They’re a big team, physical team, especially up front. They do a good job there.”
Of course, that familiar feeling is mutual.
“We’ve played against this team before — a really super-sound defense,” said Addazio, despite the 0-0 record between the two schools. “They’re a really strong defense, and they have some great players. Their defensive end, their Mike backer and corner are elite players.”
Ferentz had praise for the Rams’ players as well.
“They’ve got a big running back — BC had a good running back, a big physical guy, last time we played them. I think the quarterback is doing a really nice job for them, and basically, again, they just have good size, physical team, and they don’t beat themselves. They’re really sound. [They] do a good job protecting the football, don’t give up easy things and have done a nice job there.”
And maybe “the best college tight end in the country” in Trey McBride?
“Yes,” Addazio said earlier this year. “I don’t say that flippantly. Because he can do it all.”
He’ll get no argument from Ferentz, and considering what Iowa’s had to work with at that position in recent years, that’s saying something. McBride is averaging 10 catches and 113 yard per game this season.
“You’re probably going to see as good a tight end as there is in the country,” Ferentz said. “They’ve got a guy who’s really playing well, a local guy … he’s a really good football player. His brother is a good player, too, but he’s an outstanding tight end.”
Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta is coming off a career-high 7 receptions — including a touchdown — against Kent State, one of the bright spots emerging from the dark cloud that apparently follows the offensive players around — or at least those not named Tyler Goodson.
But Ferentz is feeling better about his team than he did immediately after the game, when he jokingly referenced a 10-spot drop in the rankings.
“After watching the tape, I think we saw a lot of really good things, especially up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage,” Ferentz said. “Got a lot of young players playing on both sides of the ball, or inexperienced players. Really pleased with some of the things we saw. Just little intricate details and good reactions by guys that maybe weren’t doing things quite as well a couple of weeks ago. We thought we saw some growth there.”
“Certainly, offensively, pleased with that drive we had in the second quarter. And I thought we did a lot of good things,” Ferentz said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction. … Again, that drive obviously sticks out.”
Addazio has no doubts about Iowa, which is a 22.5-point favorite over his Rams (1-2).
“I think our team is excited. We’re looking forward to this challenge,” Addazio said. “We’re not naïve. We know how good this football team is. It’s pretty evident. They’re the No. 5 team in the country and they should be. But, in the same breath, we’ve got to focus on us. We’ve got to get better again this week. Each week we want to get incrementally better, and we’re going up against an incredible challenge that will be another benchmark for our program. We’re looking forward to the excitement level of a big-time game and the preparation that goes into it.”
If the game ends 27-20 in Iowa’s favor like that 2017 game at Yankee Stadium, fans won’t be surprised or mad. Probably just disappointed. Offense or defense or special teams — it doesn’t matter. A win is a win. Don’t forget to enjoy the ride.