Nov. 24, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Call it cliché or call it fact, but successful football teams have a knack for focusing one game at a time.
University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz referenced that again Tuesday at his weekly gathering with media in the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center.
“Good teams do it,” Ferentz said of the one-game-at-a-time motto.
Not only have the No. 3 Hawkeyes taken 11 games one Saturday at a time this season — all of them victories — but they have also seen leadership develop as fast as its win total.
“I’m not sure where our leadership was in April, but it has been growing rapidly since August,” Ferentz said. “Typically, any team that is doing well has good leadership.”
Ferentz also emphasized that in the Big Ten Conference, there are no easy days. The next challenge for Iowa is a Black Friday battle for the Hy-Vee Heroes Game trophy and Ferentz isn’t fooled by Nebraska’s 5-6 record (3-4 in the Big Ten Conference).
1) The Cornhuskers have won two consecutive games and need one victory to become bowl eligible. 2) Nebraska received its bye after Week 11, giving it 12 days to prepare for the Hawkeyes while Iowa has eight fewer days to formulate a game plan. 3) Nebraska rallied for a 37-34 overtime victory last season in Kinnick Stadium after the Hawkeyes jumped to a 24-7 lead in the third quarter.
“I’m not sure where our leadership was in April, but it has been growing rapidly since August. Typically, any team that is doing well has good leadership.”
UI football coach
“The big thing right now is that they’re meshing,” Ferentz said of Nebraska. “They are coming off two impressive victories, beating Michigan State (39-38 on Nov. 7 in Lincoln, Nebraska) and most recently, Rutgers (31-14 on Nov. 14 in Piscataway, New Jersey).”
The 2014 Hy-Vee Heroes games was a centerpiece of inspiration that led to an offseason attitude overhaul in Iowa City. For the Hawkeyes, that season also included a three-point loss to Iowa State, a seven point loss at Maryland, and a two-point loss to Wisconsin. It culminated with a 45-28 defeat to Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl in a game where the Volunteers led 42-7 heading into the fourth quarter.
“That game (against Nebraska in 2014) is the centerpiece for the discussion,” Ferentz said. “It’s nothing against them, they did what they were supposed to do. We didn’t, and that’s our responsibility. It’s all about taking ownership. There are a lot of things we didn’t do well (in 2014) and the word finish gets thrown out there all the time in sports. It just so happens that was our last regular scheduled football game and we didn’t close the season in a strong fashion.”
The first game for Ferentz as an assistant coach for the Hawkeyes was against Nebraska on Sept. 12, 1981, in Iowa City. Iowa won, 10-7, and went on to the Rose Bowl. His first game as head coach of the Hawkeyes was against Nebraska on Sept. 4, 1999, in Iowa City. Iowa lost, 42-7. Since the rivalry became an annual event in 2011, the Cornhuskers lead the series, 3-1. During the last meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Hawkeyes won, 38-17.
“Our job is to be able to play with those guys, go out and compete with them,” Ferentz said. “They recruit well. They’ve had great teams in the past and they’ve got a good football team this year. Our challenge is to be ready for them on Friday.”
Friday’s game at Memorial Stadium (capacity 87,000) is sold out. Kickoff is set for 2:36 p.m. (CT) and the game will be broadcast by ABC.