Hawkeyes Want Strong Finish

Nov. 18, 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 — Saturday’s University of Iowa football game against Michigan will mark the final home contest for 15 seniors. Linebacker James Morris says the Hawkeyes want to finish strong.

“We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the year, and it’s important for us to finish what we started,” said Morris. “We’ve worked hard and have given ourselves an opportunity to play for something in November, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

A win Saturday will not only improve the team’s bowl position, but would also be a third-straight at home against Michigan — something that has never been done at Iowa.

Christian Kirksey recalls Iowa’s last home game against Michigan in 2011, as one that ended in thrilling fashion.

“The crowd went crazy when B.J. Lowery knocked the ball away in the end zone on the final play of the game,” said Kirksey. “That was a great feeling to come away with a win like that.”

In that game, Kirksey collected his first career interception at the goal line, thwarting a Michigan scoring threat in the first half.

“Having my first interception was a lot of fun,” said Kirksey. “I just wanted to create a play for my team. That was a tough game, and I’m proud of my teammates that we were able to get the victory. That moment will always be in my memory bank.”

Before the Hawkeyes take the field Saturday afternoon, the 15 seniors will be honored before 70,000 fans. Senior offensive lineman Brett Van Sloten doesn’t know how emotional that moment will be.

“It has been quite the ride to play at Kinnick,” said Van Sloten. “We have tremendous fan support. It’s kind of surreal to think that it has gone this fast, my five years are up. It’s going to be a great moment to honor all of us seniors, but at the same time, we’re looking at going out there and play football.”

With Saturday being the last time Van Sloten will play at home, the native of Decorah, Iowa, says there are three things that he’ll always cherish about Kinnick Stadium.

“I’m going to miss the swarm, which is tradition, playing in front of 70,000-plus fans inside the stadium, and also celebrating victories in the locker room afterwards,” he said. “Seeing the entire coaching staff and players excited after a big win is something I will miss.”

UI head coach Kirk Ferentz says “Senior Day” is always a tricky occasion.

“It’s a bittersweet day for everybody involved,” said Ferentz. “If you win, the emotions were good, if you don’t win, it’s the other way around.”

Ferentz says he’s proud of the leadership this senior class has displayed.

“Our older guys are doing a great job helping everyone else, showing them how to do things,” Ferentz said. “We have good seniors on this football team.”

Sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock says the senior class has been huge this season in a number of different ways.

“They really understood what we’re trying to do,” Rudock said. “After going through the season we went through last year, they embraced the role that we can make this a better season, and we will. Understanding that last year was last year, and this year is what we need to focus on.”

With only a few games remaining, the senior class wants to put an exclamation point on the season.

“Money can’t buy memories, and that’s what we want to do — create memories and have fun with each other,” said Kirksey.

Tickets remain for Saturday’s home finale. They can be purchased at hawkeyesports.com, by calling 1-800-IA-HAWKS, or in person at the UI athletics ticket office in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.