Avoiding Pregame Burnout

Sept. 12, 2013

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — With regrets to Ernie Banks, Saturday might be a great day for a ball game, but the University of Iowa football team will battle the urge to “play two.”

That is one adjustment to teeing it up in the late afternoon. With an 11 a.m. kickoff, it’s rise and then shine on the field. This week, the Hawkeyes travel to Ames to play Iowa State with a 5 p.m. (CT) start from Jack Trice Stadium. The team leaves Iowa City on Friday afternoon.

“You can’t play the game Saturday during the day,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “You can’t burn it up during the day. You have to try to stick to your routine, compartmentalize your time and make sure you’re not expending energy or playing the game during the day because that’s not good.”

Ferentz and his staff do a masterful job getting that message across. Since 2009, the Hawkeyes are 7-3 in night games, including a sweep in 2009 against Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Georgia Tech.

Iowa junior left tackle Brandon Scherff knows how to pace himself pregame. He relaxes in the hotel as well as during the first few moments in the locker room.

“You have to be ready at game time,” Scherff said. “You can’t get too amped up during the day. When the game comes, it’s time to perform.”

The Hawkeyes played one night game last season, losing to Penn State in Kinnick Stadium.

Rarer than a loss at night for Iowa is a 5 p.m. starting time. You have to go back to Sept. 20, 2003, for the last time the Hawkeyes were scheduled in that slot. The result was a 21-2 win at home against No. 16 Arizona State.

“We practice every day at 4:30 so we know what it’s like,” UI senior tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz said. “It shouldn’t have a big effect. The day will go a little slower but there is nothing unexpected.”

On Aug. 17, the Hawkeyes began their annual Kids at Kinnick Day at 5 p.m.

“We scrimmaged in the summer at 5, so it’s not a big deal,” UI junior running back Mark Weisman said. “You just have to get mentally prepared for it. That’s different for every guy; some watch TV, some listen to music.”

For football junkie Carl Davis, a junior defensive tackle, getting his mind off the sport he loves takes effort.

“I’m thinking football all the time, even in class sometime which might not be good,” Davis said. “I think about football a lot, but (junior defensive tackle) Louis (Trinca-Pasat) is my roommate, so we talk about random stuff that is going on. That helps you get away from it a little bit. Eventually you’re about to play a game so you focus and get ready to go.”

Two other times in the Ferentz era the Hawkeyes have started games at 5 p.m. The first was Sept. 18, 1999, a 24-0 win against Northern Illinois for Ferentz’s first victory as head coach at the UI. The other was Sept. 14, 2002, a 36-31 loss to Iowa State.

For senior wide receiver Jordan Cotton, his Saturday will consist of waking, relaxing off his feet, walking around the hotel, and more relaxing. To him — like the rest of the Hawkeyes — the important aspect isn’t the start time. It’s the time on the game clock.

“It’s football,” Cotton said. “There is the same amount of time in the quarters. It’s just a game.”