IOWA CITY, Iowa - Spencer Petras stepped back from the media crowd that was around him as if he was going to call an audible.
It wasn’t that the Iowa quarterback was claustrophobic or anything. He just made some extra room to talk louder as a military helicopter that had been flying over the Hawkeyes’ media availability on Tuesday was making another pass.
It was perfect practice for the Iowa players who answered questions.
The Hawkeyes play at Iowa State on Saturday in front of what will be a loud sellout crowd. That’s nothing new for the series, of course, but it’s going to be something new for many of the Hawkeyes, who played four road games last season in front of almost-empty stadiums because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iowa hasn’t played a true road game since the 2019 regular-season finale at Nebraska.
“It's one more thing that adds to the degree of difficulty,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “To your point, especially coming off last year, we have some guys that played last year, but they don't know what it's like to go on the road in a hostile environment. We have a lot of those in our conference, and then you throw this one in, too, this is as loud as any of them.
“It's one more thing that really can take you off your game a little bit or throw you off, and you have to concentrate your way through. It can be impactful, so it's just one more element to deal with in an already tough contest as it sits there. It's a challenge.”
“It is going to be loud,” Petras said. “That’s something we have to be ready for.”
It’s a rivalry game, of course, but it’s also going to be a battle of top-10 teams — Iowa State is No. 9 and the Hawkeyes are No. 10 in the latest Associated Press poll. And, the two teams didn’t play last year because of the pandemic, since Iowa played only eight games, all in the Big Ten.
All of that, running back Tyler Goodson said, just adds to the noise level.
“I think the fans bring more excitement to the game, more intensity,” Goodson said. “So I think the hype for the game has been elevated because of the time off.”
The Hawkeyes have been piping in noise in practice all week, a standard preparation technique for road games.
Still, there is nothing like the real thing, Ferentz said. And it’s something his players have to be prepared for in this road test.
“It's difficult,” Ferentz said. “You pipe music in and all that, but it's not the same and you can't duplicate the emotion — and part of it's just experience. You have to experience it sometimes. I thought it impacted our opponents the other day (in Iowa’s 34-6 home win over Indiana) a little bit, helped us a little bit. So it's one more thing we're going to have to try to push through, and hopefully there won't be any weather issues to deal with, as well (the 2019 game in Ames was delayed twice because of lightning). That might be as unusual as you could ever get, but it's one more thing to deal with.”
The Hawkeyes are back to dealing with life on the road again, where it’s always loud and everyone draws a crowd.
“Like I said, we’re going to do the best we can to get used to it,” said Goodson, raising his voice as the helicopter passed overhead.