Dec. 1, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Parker Hesse, surrounded by media in the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center, was asked what it means to be named Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Week for his performance at Nebraska on Nov. 27.
It took the redshirt freshman defensive end from Waukon, Iowa, about as much time to switch the subject as it did for him to intercept Huskers quarterback Tommy Armstrong and sprint four yards for a touchdown in the Hy-Vee Heroes Game.
“It is a good honor and I’m excited about that, but we have a lot of guys with awards,” Hesse said. “The All-Big Ten teams are coming out and we have guys on those, so it is a reflection of the leadership and what we have done this year as a team.”
The undefeated and third-ranked Hawkeyes take their 12 wins into the Big Ten Conference championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Dec. 5. Hesse and his teammates will be excited, but to them, championship week is nothing more than Week 13.
“We’re taking it as an extension of the regular season,” Hesse said. “It is another Big Ten game, there just happens to be a trophy at the end of it.
“In a sense it is like the playoffs are starting now, but the only way to get it done, even with the playoff system, is to focus on what is in front of you. You can’t look too far ahead or get caught up in that, you have to be in the here and now.”
Iowa meets No. 5 Michigan State (11-1 overall, 7-1 Big Ten) in the fifth annual Big Ten Conference Championship Game. The Spartans have been in three of the previous four title tilts, winning the 2013 game, 34-24, over Ohio State. Current quarterback Connor Cook was named Grange-Griffin Most Valuable Player.
“We’re taking it as an extension of the regular season. It is another Big Ten game, there just happens to be a trophy at the end of it.”
UI defensive end
“He is experienced and a confident quarterback,” Hesse said. “We’re going to have to do a good job up front making him feel uncomfortable.”
When Hesse looks across the line of scrimmage Saturday, it won’t be unlike looking at Boone Myers, Cole Croston, Ike Boettger, or Keegan Render. Not only are the programs similar in approach, they look nearly identical on paper. Iowa averages 33.7 points a game to Michigan State’s 33.4; Iowa allows 18.7 points a game to Michigan State’s 21.1; Michigan State holds the ball an average of 33:01 per game to Iowa’s 32:13.
“Michigan State is a very good team, it has played well all year,” Hesse said. “We have seen good competition, the (Big Ten West) is no slouch. It is tough to make comparisons, but one thing you can tell by watching them is they are competitive, they take pride in being physical and finishing, which are things we take pride in. They are going to be a challenge. It will be like facing our own guys in a way.”
The Hawkeyes are not favored, but they weren’t against Wisconsin and Northwestern, either, which happen to be two of Iowa’s signature wins.
“We don’t mind being underdogs, we don’t get caught up in stuff like that,” Hesse said. “We just want to be a sound football team when it’s game time.”
Kickoff is set for 7:17 pm. (CT) on Saturday and the game will be televised by FOX with Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt, and Molly McGrath calling the action.