Nov. 20, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- On a day when most talk in Big Ten country centered on the addition of Maryland and Rutgers, University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz focused on an institution that entered the league two years ago.
When asked Tuesday at his weekly news conference about the possibility of playing a 13-game football schedule, Ferentz answered with a play-on-numbers.
"I'm trying to figure out how we can get 13 guys on the field against Nebraska and not get caught," Ferentz said. "If you have any ideas on that one, I'm all for it."
Iowa (4-7 overall, 2-5 Big Ten) hosts Nebraska (9-2, 6-1) on Friday, Nov. 23, in the second annual Heroes Game inside Kinnick Stadium. Kickoff is set for 11:07 a.m. (CT). On Oct. 20, both teams sat with records of 4-2; since then the Cornhuskers have won five games in a row and Iowa has lost five straight.
"Overall, they're a talented football team that's well-coached and playing well," Ferentz said. "That's evidenced by their record."
No. 14 Nebraska, which won the inaugural Heroes Game, 20-7, in 2011, is the second straight ranked opponent the Hawkeyes face to close the season.
"From the day we got here, our idea was to play the best we could in every football game, and that's all that has motivated us through the end of 14 years. You do your best to win every football game and play your best. If it means a senior playing or a true freshman, it doesn't matter. Whoever is best suited to help the team win, that will be your guiding light, regardless of the circumstances."
UI head football coach
"They are outstanding young people and it's a great group of guys," Ferentz said. "All good stories in their own right. Certainly the time seniors put on their uniform for the last time, it's a special day, and the last time in Kinnick, so that adds to the significance."
The fact Iowa is eliminated from bowl conversation will not affect how Ferentz coaches the final game of 2012.
"From the day we got here, our idea was to play the best we could in every football game, and that's all that has motivated us through the end of 14 years," Ferentz said. "You do your best to win every football game and play your best. If it means a senior playing or a true freshman, it doesn't matter. Whoever is best suited to help the team win, that will be your guiding light, regardless of the circumstances."
Ferentz said running back Mark Weisman is sore, but in good spirits, following a 74-yard all-purpose performance at Michigan that included a 13-yard touchdown reception. It was Weisman's first extended action since carrying the ball nine times and catching two passes at Northwestern on Oct. 27.
"We anticipate him being ready to go," Ferentz said.
There are plenty of underlying storylines to this Heroes Game: UI redshirt freshman linebacker Cole Fisher will face his brother, Sean, a senior starter at linebacker for the Cornhuskers. The Nebraska staff includes defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski, who was at Iowa from 2005-11, head football strength and conditioning coach James Dobson (at Iowa from 1999-2007), as well as assistant strength and conditioning coach Tyler Clarke, who received his degree from the UI, and worked for the Hawkeye football program. Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini was a graduate assistant for the Hawkeyes in 1991.
"It's part of this game, people move on," Ferentz said. "You really can't control where they go."
Ferentz said that because the Hawkeyes will not attend a bowl game this season (snapping a streak of four years in a row), it frees the coaching staff to recruit and focus on player development.
"If there is a positive here, and you always look for positives, we have more time to focus on recruiting right now," Ferentz said. "We have more time to focus on our players, player development, and program development, too."