IOWA CITY — Iowa football players know what they’re walking into Saturday.
The 19th-ranked Hawkeyes don’t exactly expect the cardinal-and-gold welcome mat to be rolled out when the Iowa team bus pulls up to Jack Trice Stadium for the 3 p.m. matchup in the Cy-Hawk Series.
“It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere,’’ Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley said.
Running back Mekhi Sargent suggested the words pointed in the Hawkeyes’ direction might even get a little “nasty’’ before the first block and tackle of the in-state battle takes place.
“That’s all good though,’’ Sargent said. “It’s fans having some fun and it’s what a good rivalry is all about.’’
Iowa brings a 2-0 record into the game against ISU, which hasn’t played since defeating Northern Iowa in triple overtime in its season opener.
The Cyclones haven’t beaten the Hawkeyes anywhere since 2014 and last won at home in the Cy-Hawk series in three overtimes in 2011.
“There are always certainties in this game,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “It’s going to be a really tense, competitive football game, always a challenge, and it’s going to be an excellent environment.’’
Ferentz is anxious to see how his team handles both.
The Iowa State game is the first in a string of tough road tests Iowa will face this season, followed by trips to Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska as the Hawkeyes work through their Big Ten schedule.
Ferentz needed one word to describe what separates successful road teams from those unable to meet the challenges of a rugged schedule.
“Maturity,’’ Ferentz said. “It doesn’t have to be that you’re a four-year player or a senior or even a junior, it’s just the ability to focus in on what counts and just ignore the rest of it because there is going to be a lot of the rest of it all this week, not just on Saturday.’’
Ferentz said teams with a good mature approach seem better equipped to deal with whatever crops up when they get away from the comforts of home.
“When you go out and travel to a lot of places, that’s just the way it goes, but it’s that way during the week, too,’’ Ferentz said.
“It’s the ability to focus on what is important and keep your mind there. If you are distracted by whatever, the surroundings, things that are being written, all that stuff is counterproductive to moving forward.’’
That starts on the practice field, where Sargent believes Saturday’s game will be won or lost before the Hawkeyes ever step on the team bus.
He called Tuesday’s workout a “win,’’ locked in on the challenges Iowa State and their multiple defensive looks will provide Iowa.
“We’ll win this game at practice, with how we prepare all week,’’ Sargent said. “Our job on game day is to execute, but that starts with how we get ready. Today was a win. Everybody was on top of their game, getting ready to go out on the road and play well.’’
Crowd noise is being pumped into Hawkeye practices this week, simulating the volume of the racket Iowa expects Iowa State fans to make during Saturday’s game.
That’s all part of getting ready to play on the road, the first of several tests that await Iowa away from Kinnick Stadium.
“We go through a lot of situations on the road that are interesting and where the fans really get into it,’’ Ferentz said. “There’s going to be that moment typically in any game on the road. So, if you can’t weather that storm and regroup a little bit and refocus, it’s going to have a bad effect.’’
That’s especially the case in rivalry like the one the Hawkeyes find themselves preparing for this week.
“The game on the field is really important to everyone involved,’’ Ferentz said. “When we win, it’s a really good thing. When we lose, it’s awful.’’