Harty: Time to start turning optimism into positive results
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Finally, it’s time for the Iowa football players to turn words into action.
Since the spring, we’ve been told by countless players, and even some of the coaches, that the 2015 Iowa team isn’t just new, but also much improved.
The players insist that the results on the field will be better this season compared to last season because the current team is more focused, more determined, more in sync, more talented and more explosive with the strong-armed C.J. Beathard now playing quarterback.
You name it and the 2015 Iowa team supposedly has more of it compared to the 2014 Hawkeyes, who lost their final three games to finish 7-6.
Now it’s time to prove it on Saturday against a dangerous and talented Illinois State squad, which finished as the FCS national runner-up last season.
It’s time to show that the Beathard-led Hawkeyes are the real deal because the team that left the field at the TaxSlayer Bowl eight months ago was a disaster despite being led by college football’s most celebrated offensive lineman in 2014 Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff.
If ever there was a team loss, it was Iowa’s 45-28 beat-down against Tennessee in 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl. It was embarrassing, humiliating and disturbing because it felt like the situation under veteran coach Kirk Ferentz was beyond repair.
What a difference eight months, a new starting quarterback, a new running back, a new vibe, a star defensive end who eats raw eggs, another soft schedule and a new multi-million dollar practice facility can make.
“Honesty, I don’t feel any pressure,” Beathard said. “I just feel excited more than anything. I’ve been waiting for this moment for four years, and it’s finally here.”
Beathard might not feel any pressure, but it’ll be there on Saturday disguised as empty seats.
Attendance will undoubtedly be a headline story on Saturday because it’s hard to entice fans to come when their team has been mediocre for most of the past five seasons and when the heat is oppressive. A crowd of fewer than 60,000 is expected on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
Imagine the meltdown that would occur if Iowa loses to Illinois State with a trip to Ames coming the following week. The gloom-and-doomers would be out in full force saying I told you so.
“I don’t know if we feel it so much inside here, the pressure from the outside,” said senior defensive end Drew Ott, who also doubles as the team’s raw-egg eater. “I think it’s more internal pressure that we put on ourselves. We want to be great ourselves. So there is a lot of pressure from teammates and things like that.”
The fact that Iowa State is poised to have a bigger crowd than Iowa at its game on Saturday against Northern Iowa is alarming. But it doesn’t have to be a long-term deal.
Kinnick Stadium almost certainly would be packed on Sept. 19 for a night game against Pittsburgh should Iowa be 2-0 at the time. Anything less than 2-0 would be asking for trouble.
But it’s not asking too much for Iowa to defeat an FCS opponent at home or to defeat an Iowa State team that’s coming off a 2-10 season.
Especially if the 2015 Hawkeyes are as hungry and as focused as they claim to be. The players say they feel a special vibe with this team. Everybody beats to the same drum and they’re all working for the same common goal.
You’d like to think that would be the case with each team, but the 2014 Hawkeyes supposedly had flaws in terms of chemistry that led to the collapse on the field. That’s not me saying that, but rather the Iowa players.
But enough with the talk.
“We’ve been hitting each other for a long time and I think we’re a little tired of that,” Ott said. “It’s time to take out some frustration on some other people.”
If taking out some frustration means backing up what you’ve been saying since the spring, then I agree because action speaks much louder than words.
So let’s play ball.