Nov. 26, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — To date, the Hy-Vee Heroes Game hasn’t been the type of rivalry University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz enjoys.
The Hawkeyes haven’t had much success in their football battles against the University of Nebraska, but that could change Friday when the teams clash in Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., with an 11:06 a.m. (CT) kickoff.
Since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten Conference, Iowa is 0-2 in the series, falling 20-7 in 2011 and 13-7 a year ago in Kinnick Stadium. Ferentz has gone against Nebraska two other times as the UI head coach, losing 42-7 in 1999 and 42-13 in 2000.
“My problem is that in recent history it has been one-sided,” Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly news conference in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “It’s probably the kind of rivalry Nebraska likes. It’s our job to do something about that and that’s what we have to do.”
Second place in the Legends Division is at stake in the third episode of the Hy-Vee Heroes Game. Nebraska is 8-3 overall, 5-2 in the Big Ten, Iowa is 7-4, 4-3. Both teams have won three of their last four games.
The Hawkeye defense is fifth in the Big Ten, allowing 123.6 rushing yards per game. They have allowed just three 100-yard rushers in a game this season: Carlos Hyde, Ohio State (149), James White, Wisconsin (132), and Braxton Miller, Ohio State (102). On paper, their biggest test could come in the form of Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, who has rushed for a Big Ten-best 1,483 yards (134.8 yards per game). Abdullah has 100 or more yards in all seven league games.
“My problem is that in recent history it has been one-sided. It’s probably the kind of rivalry Nebraska likes. It’s our job to do something about that and that’s what we have to do.”
UI head football coach
“You have to play team defense, they make you honor everybody and everything,” Ferentz said. “It’s always a challenge to play them.”
Adding to the test are two Nebraska receivers (Quincy Emunwa and Kenny Bell) with 44 catches apiece, and two quarterbacks (Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg III) who have combined to pass for 1,523 yards and 12 touchdowns, and rush for 166 yards and two scores.
“They have excellent receivers: they run well, catch well, block well,” Ferentz said. “Their running back is as good as you’re going to find anywhere in the country. They have some things to hang their hat on.”
Iowa’s offensive line will be challenged by a Nebraska defense that is second in the conference with 33 sacks — an average of three a game.
“The defensive end (Randy Gregory) is doing a really good job. Their guys inside are stout and tough to block,” Ferentz said. “They’re settled where they’re at now at linebacker and their secondary is good: big, physical guys that cover well. They’re a good defensive football team.”
Four times Tuesday Ferentz was enticed to comment on the coaching situation at Nebraska. In his sixth season, Huskers head coach Bo Pelini is 57-23 and he is one victory from having six straight seasons of nine or more wins. Yet he has endured criticism of late by Nebraska media and fans.
Ferentz was asked if he thought he would be in trouble at the UI if he won nine games six years in a row.
“I would like to find out,” he answered as the room filled with laughter.
Iowa is 3-1 in road games this season. And despite the uneven history of the series, Ferentz enjoys competing against Nebraska because of what it brings to the Big Ten.
“When they joined the conference, not unlike Penn State joining in the early ’90s, we added a quality institution and a quality football program,” he said. “For us to have a chance to line up against people like that, it’s a great challenge. But that makes our conference stronger. It makes the competition stronger.”