By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It wasn’t just game day Saturday that impressed University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz, but a culmination of groundwork that started five days earlier.
The end product was a 63-0 victory at Illinois on Nov. 17 in a game where the Illini didn’t reach the red zone, let alone the end zone.
“I was proud of the way the guys handled the week, not only the game,” Ferentz said Sunday in an interview with hawkeyesports.com. “They prepared well from last Monday on; we tried to encourage them to look forward. It was tough to have a couple losses, tough losses as well.”
Ferentz called the afternoon in Champaign, Illinois, a “true team win” with 400 yards of offense, a defense that allowed just over 200 yards, a special teams touchdown, and a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown one play later.
“The guys did a good job of turning their attention to Illinois,” Ferentz said. “You always worry going through a tough period — and we did — and you are never sure how anybody is going to handle it, especially your younger players. You have to give our seniors a lot of credit, they have done a good job keeping everybody focused. We are getting a lot of good leadership from a lot of guys and it starts with that senior class.”
Iowa (7-4 overall, 4-4 Big Ten) and Nebraska (4-7, 3-5) will have a short week as they prepare for the Hy-Vee Heroes Game on Nov. 23 in Kinnick Stadium (11 a.m., FOX). Since Oct. 20, the Cornhuskers are 4-1 with the lone loss coming by five points at No. 10 Ohio State.
“We know it is going to be a tough opponent, Nebraska is on a streak,” Ferentz said. “They are playing good football and hitting stride.
“For our team, it is an opportunity to go out and win our eighth game, that is special to us. It is a trophy game and as important as anything, we would love to send the seniors out of their last game in Kinnick on a positive note.”
The Hawkeyes will recognize 14 seniors and their families prior to kickoff.
“It’s a special thing for anybody that stays the course, stays through their senior year, and gets their degrees,” Ferentz said. “They will go on and do a lot of better and bigger things in life, but for them to do what they do, we are so appreciative of all the contributions all 14 of these guys have made. They are a tremendous group of people.”