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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — When the University of Iowa football team hits Memorial Stadium today for the Hy-Vee Heroes Games against Nebraska, the Hawkeyes want to land the first punch.
“We have to set the tone early,” said senior Akrum Wadley, who is 138 yards shy of eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards for the season. “We can’t go out their hoping or wishing for anything to happen. We have to throw the first punch and keep fighting.”
Since erupting for 55 points in a Nov. 4 victory over No. 3 Ohio State, Iowa’s offense has been spinning its wheels. The unit didn’t score an offensive touchdown at No. 6 Wisconsin and the offense was limited to 13 points in a home loss to Purdue.
Iowa has 324 yards of combined offense in the two games.
Enter a Nebraska defense that is last in the Big Ten — ranking 14th in total defense and scoring defense, surrendering 429.9 yards and 34.6 points per game. The Huskers allow an average of 205.8 yards on the ground.
Those numbers don’t fool Wadley. Nebraska has the players and this is game No. 12 in a transition to a 3-4 defense.
“They have good linemen, good linebackers, and their defensive backs are fast,” said Wadley.
And the Huskers are playing for pride.
Nebraska, 4-7 overall and 3-5 in Big Ten, will be playing its season finale with the Heroes Trophy on the line.
“It’s their last game,” said Wadley. “They don’t have anything to lose. We didn’t have the best season like we would have liked, either. We don’t have anything to lose.
“Why not go out and ball out the last game?”
Senior Josey Jewell has two games remaining as a Hawkeye — one today and one next month at a bowl site to be determined. He wants to make the most of his final two games.
“(The Nebraska game) is one of the last opportunities we’ll have as a team and the last opportunity in a regular season game,” said Jewell. “People are focusing on trying to end on a high note. That’s big for all of us.
“There is a lot of motivation to win this game.”
There is motivation to win the team’s third traveling trophy of the season. Iowa is 2-1 in trophy games this season, winning the Cy-Hawk Trophy and Floyd of Rosedale, while losing the battle for the Heartland Trophy.
There is motivation to get to seven victories to improve the bowl resume.
There is motivation to send the senior class to its third consecutive victory over Nebraska.
“We want to finish strong,” said sophomore Nate Stanley. “This is it for the regular season. Everybody wants to put their best effort for the time we have left together to try to make it as special as possible for the seniors.”
The Hawkeyes need to start fast and as Wadley says, ‘Ball out.’
Friday’s game will be televised on FS1 beginning at 3 p.m. (CT) in Lincoln, Nebraska. Mark Followill and Danny Kannell will be on the call.