Call it the K-factor.
At first glance, Saturday’s football showdown between Iowa and Iowa State looks fairly even. But the weight of 70,000 Hawkeye supporters in Kinnick Stadium could tip the field.
“I’ve been lucky and blessed to go to a lot of different stadiums across the country,” said Tom Dienhart, senior writer for the Big Ten Conference’s BTN.com. “I’m not saying Kinnick is like going to Tennessee, Georgia, Texas A&M or Florida, but among Big Ten environments it is one of the more intense stadiums and has one of the more rabid fan bases.”
The Cyclones have not celebrated a victory in Kinnick Stadium since 2002, losing four straight by an average of 14.3 points.
“I played there my freshman year and I’ll never forget that game,” Iowa State running back Shontrelle Johnson said. “The fans are ruthless. If you have cardinal and yellow, they’re heartless.”
The hostile vibe has contributed to a series of statistical droughts:
Seneca Wallace set a standard 10 years ago, throwing for 361 yards and propelling Iowa State to a memorable comeback. He is the last Cyclones quarterback to surpass the 300 mark at Kinnick.
Wallace’s successors combined for a 51.1 completion percentage (71-of-139) and an average of 185.8 yards.
Senior quarterback Steele Jantz, however, threw for 279 yards (completing 67.6 percent) in last year’s triple-overtime thriller in Ames.
“It was like his highlight reel,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Jantz’s performance. “I think the difference now is, he’s a year older. He’s an experienced player, a lot more confident.”
The last Cyclone to rush for 100 yards in Iowa City was Ennis Haywood, who finished with 107 on 28 carries in 2000.
Iowa State currently features three running backs who ran for at least 85 yards in a game last season: Johnson, James White and Jeff Woody.
The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, allowed 147 rushing yards in last week’s opener against Northern Illinois — including a 73-yard touchdown run by Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch.
“We missed tackles all day,” Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde said.
Lane Danielsen (131) and Jack Whitver (132) each eclipsed the 100-yard receiving plateau in 2002, but they are the last Cyclones to accomplish the feat at Kinnick.
Last week, eight different Iowa State receivers caught passes against Tulsa.
“They throw the ball all over the place: left, right and down the field,” Ferentz said. “And they have a quarterback who can throw it and keep it. So to me, they are a lot more proficient doing it now than they were a couple years back.”
The Cyclone defense has not recorded more than one sack on Hawkeye soil since 2004, when Iowa quarterback Drew Tate went down four times.
A dozen players contributed to Iowa State’s defensive front in the opener, producing two sacks on the Golden Hurricane’s Cody Green.
“We had the athleticism up front to run the types of twists and stunts we haven’t (in the past) and we got pressure,” linebacker A.J. Klein said. “Hopefully, we’ll get a little more pressure this week and get some more sacks.”
Iowa State has not claimed an edge in turnovers since 2006.
In the last two Big Games at Kinnick, the Hawkeyes owned a 6-2 turnover advantage.
Ball hawking has become an emphasis for the Cyclones, who made two interceptions and recovered a fumble against Tulsa.
“You saw it on Saturday,” linebacker Jake Knott said. “It wasn’t just one guy making plays. It was the entire defense. We’ve got people who can run and we’ve got a physical defense.
“In the past, there might have been a couple weak spots, but I feel like we don’t have that at all anymore.”
The Hawkeyes are listed as 4-point favorites heading into Saturday. Home-field advantage is a key reason why, but will it hold up?
“It’s really what you make of it,” Ferentz said. “It really comes down to which team plays the best.”
IOWA STATE AT IOWA
WHEN: 2:30 p.m.
WHERE: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City
TV: Big Ten Network (Mediacom 59, DirecTV 610, Dish 439)
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football