Brown: Iowa's elevator must go up against Iowa State

Rick Brown

IOWA CITY, Ia. — If the Iowa football program wants to return to prominence, the elevator has to make it from the first floor to the second floor on Saturday.

Many coaches, and you can include Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz in that group, believe that a team usually makes its most improvement from Game 1 to Game 2. And it’s going to take improvement to leave Jack Trice Stadium with a 2-0 record come Saturday evening.

“There’s no ifs, ands or buts about that one,” Ferentz said.

Here’s the reality check. That improvement from Game 1 to Game 2 didn’t happen in 2013 or 2014.

“That’s a fair statement,” Ferentz said. “And even during the season I think our improvement and our growth were inconsistent, and that’s not what we want to do or what we want to be.”

HONORING SASH:Helmet decals to be worn Saturday

Iowa was coming off a 4-8 season in 2013. Northern Illinois was coming off the Orange Bowl. The Huskies won 30-27, but the Hawkeyes did enough good things to feel like they had made improvement.

A week later, Iowa played a miserable game against Missouri State. The Hawkeyes led 7-0 at halftime. And it was a 21-14 game early in the fourth quarter before Iowa tacked on one more breather of a touchdown.

A week after beating Northern Iowa 31-23 in last season’s opener, Iowa had to score two touchdowns in the final 5 minutes 50 seconds of the game to get by Ball State 17-13.

So the challenge Saturday is to avoid the hat trick, and give legs to the positive vibe generated from a 31-14 victory over Illinois State.

RIVER-TO-RIVER RIVALS:Iowa's presence felt in huge ways in Cy-Hawk game since mid-1970s

“We’re looking for week-to-week and day-to-day improvement, quite frankly,” Ferentz said. “I think that’s so critical when you coach at the University of Iowa.”

There might not be a lot of room on the growth chart at Ohio State. The Hawkeyes are a different story.

“Historically, we’ve had an opportunity to grow as the season goes, and we can’t waste a day,” Ferentz said.

Iowa had a lot of things to improve on coming off last season. Most of them received a positive checkmark in the opener. The key to this season is to keep adding those checks. Do that, and the elevator will keep going up.

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.