IOWA CITY, Ia. — The gravity of Saturday’s Cy-Hawk football game is not lost on the players who’ve grown up surrounded by it.
“It gives you that passion, that burning, that chip on your shoulder, that you’ve got to get better, you’ve got to play your best game,” said Iowa guard Boone Myers, a Webster City native. “You know all the trash-talking that goes on, all the bets.”
Even the athletes who get thrust into it from far-off places like Maryland quickly catch on. Hawkeye safety Miles Taylor, a junior, can tell when Iowa is about to face Iowa State by the language he sees on garments around campus.
“My first game playing (the Cyclones) in Kinnick, I didn’t realize the rivalry was this big. Then I could really feel it throughout the whole week,” Taylor said. “And then I could see people with bad words on their T-shirts and stuff like that and I said ‘Wow.’”
“You want to kick the crap out of Iowa State, obviously,” Hawkeye senior tailback LeShun Daniels Jr. offered, his language slightly milder than what Taylor witnessed on those T-shirts. “Everybody knows it’s a big deal. You’re playing for a trophy. You’re playing for state bragging rights. There’s plenty of people that get hyped up, and it’s not just in-state kids, it’s out-of-state kids as well.”
The hype will officially give way to hope at 6:42 p.m. Saturday, when a sold-out crowd at Kinnick Stadium and a TV audience on the Big Ten Network witness the kickoff of the 64th meeting between the Cyclones and Hawkeyes.
The stakes couldn’t be starker. No. 10 Iowa (1-0) is trying for a ninth consecutive home victory and to keep its championship aspirations on track. Iowa State (0-1) is looking for its first win for new coach Matt Campbell and to ease the in-state sting of last week’s 25-20 home loss against Northern Iowa.
The Hawkeyes are two-touchdown favorites but are never able to relax against a Cyclone program that has shown a knack for knocking them down a peg. Iowa is 8-9 against Iowa State in Kirk Ferentz’s 17 years as head coach. The visiting team has won the previous four meetings. Nothing can be taken for granted.
“You can take all the circumstances, all the rhetoric, all the stuff that people mix into an outcome, typically it's been pretty much, you know, who does what on the given day,” said Ferentz, who will be coaching in his 27th Cy-Hawk game, counting his years as an Iowa assistant.
“It usually is right down to the wire and (last year’s 31-17 Iowa win) is a great example. That score is totally deceptive. It was back and forth all the way. That's what we're expecting this week.”
The ideal situation for Iowa would be for a repeat performance from its offense, which was dominant in last Saturday’s 45-21 victory over Miami of Ohio. The game plan couldn’t have been simpler, Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard said.
“I felt like it didn’t matter what we had called,” he said. “The running backs were hitting the holes, the offensive line was opening holes for them.”
Iowa rushed for 212 yards and five touchdowns against Miami. Expect a steady diet of Daniels (10 carries, 83 yards) and Akrum Wadley (12, 121) behind the superb blocking of Myers and his crew again.
The Cyclones start four seniors in their front seven, but were gashed for 232 rushing yards by the Panthers.
If they don’t shore that up, the Hawkeyes should have their way, and that would keep the night-time crowd buzzing. Plus, a win would pacify a roster that includes 53 Iowans racing to cradle the Cy-Hawk trophy once more.
But “if” and “should” are scary words when it comes to this rivalry.
“Everybody knows that night games at Kinnick are electric, and it being the in-state rivals, I think it’s only going to amp it up even more,” said Daniels, an Ohio native.
“We can’t let the noise and everything get to us. We’ve got to make sure that we focus on our assignments, focus on our jobs.”
IOWA STATE (0-1) AT No. 10 IOWA (1-0)
WHERE: Kinnick Stadium,
TIME/TV: 6:42 p.m., Big Ten
Network (announcers: Kevin Kugler, Mat Millen, Chuck Long and Lisa Byington)
LINE: Iowa by 15.5
WEATHER: Clear skies, light
winds from northwest. Temperature at kickoff in high 60s, falling to high 50s by game's end.