Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Black Friday: Iowa Hawkeyes now #4 in CFP Poll, as the head to Lincoln for the Heroes Game vs. Nebraska

Iowa City, IA -- The Iowa Hawkeyes (11-0, 7-0 B1G West) learned on Tuesday night that they have moved to #4 in the Week 4 College Football Playoff poll ahead of their final regular season game against Nebraska @ Lincoln on Black Friday.

Kirk Ferentz was hired in 1981, as an offensive line coach ahead of Hayden Fry's third season at Iowa. Iowa's first opponent was Nebraska to open the season. In his first season, returning to Iowa to be head coach, again his first opponent was Nebraska. Now, in his final regular season game of his 17th season as head coach and 26th season overall at Iowa, Ferentz faces a familiar opponent, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. This year, the game is in Lincoln.

Unlike Ferentz, this is Nebraska's head coach Mike Riley's first Black Friday game in the Heroes Game, as a first year coach for the Huskers. The roles have shifted and Nebraska is the home team and the underdog to Iowa.

How will Riley's first game finish out in the Heroes Game?

Will Nebraska upset a Top 5 program at home, as Iowa did in 1981 or will Riley take the role of a program that goes down to a Top 5 opponent at home, as Iowa and Ferentz did in his first season, as head coach at Iowa?

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What will be the final record and season result of the 2015 Iowa Hawkeyes?
For Iowa, an interesting question will soon be answered in Ferentz's 17th season at Iowa. It may take 3 or 4 games to know what it will finally be for the Hawkeyes.

Ferentz meet with the media on Tuesday, as he does each week before each Hawkeye regular season game.

It's the 12th week of a one game at a time season for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa has an 11 game winning streak on the line, while Nebraska is seeking to finish November with three straight wins.

"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.

The University of Iowa football program has 16 players on its 2015 Leadership Group, including 13 seniors, two juniors, and one sophomore. Ferentz tweaked the Leadership Group, similar to making a change at quarterback in January, as well, as moving practices to the morning and finally shifting the off day from Monday to Thursday, with the Black Friday game in mind.

The purpose of the group is to assist in formulating policies, and being involved in team decision-making matters regarding the upcoming season. Players are selected by a team vote. The seniors are OL Austin Blythe, RB Jordan Canzeri, DL Darian Cooper, FB Adam Cox, TE Jake Duzey, WR Jacob Hillyer, PK Marshall Koehn, DB Jordan Lomax, DE Nate Meier, DE Drew Ott, LB Travis Perry, FB Macon Plewa and WR Tevaun Smith. The junior class is represented by QB C.J. Beathard and RB LeShun Daniels, Jr., and LB Josey Jewell represents the sophomore class.

"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 B1G West).

Here's why:
  1. The Huskers 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.
"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) 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."

"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."

Iowa won 38-17 in 2013, the last game in Lincoln. The Hawkeyes seek to remain unbeaten, as well, as win their second straight in Lincolin.

Nebraska won the 4th Heroes Game in 2014, with a 37-34 OT win in Iowa City
over the Hawkeyes. Since joining the Big Ten in 2011, the Huskers lead 3-1 in
the series. The Iowa-Nebraska game on Black Friday will be the 46th game
overall and the fifth game, since the Huskers joined the conference.
The Huskers practiced for just under two hours Tuesday in the Hawks Championship Center and Gass Practice Facility in preparation for Friday's game against the third-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes.

Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf spoke to the media after Tuesday's practice about facing the Hawkeye defense.

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Iowa junior QB #16 C.J. Beathard and the Iowa offense over the last 5 games.
Over the 2015 season, the Iowa offense has often shown a lot of balance.
"They don't give up many big plays, they're really sound and really solid across the board," Langsdorf stated when asked about the biggest challenge the Iowa defense will bring. "They're well coached and they're always in good position, and you see that week in and week out."

Iowa junior CB #14 Desmond King leads the nation in interceptions, as well,
as Iowa's primary kick and punt returning this season. He is also a finalist
for the Jim Thorpe Award, presented to the top college defense back.
When asked about Desmond King, Iowa's star defensive back, Langsdorf said "I think he leads the country in interceptions. He's always in very good position, he's going to be the guy that we are going to have to really understand where he is and be careful. We don't want to be careless around him."

The top two Nebraska WRs are juniors #1 Jordan Westerkamp and #87
Brandon Reilly. who caught the controversial TD reception in the MSU win.
"I think our guys are playing at a high level. They're playing with a lot of confidence, and we have a belief that we can win the game."

Friday's game at Memorial Stadium (capacity 87,000) is sold out. Kickoff is set for 2:36 p.m. CST and the game will be broadcast by ABC.

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Nebraska junior #90 DE Greg McMullen holds down one side of the Huskers
defensive line in 2015. He is one of three returning starters in the DL for NU.

Week 4 College Football Playoff team: Who's In?

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5. Michigan State
6. Notre Dame

Monday, November 23, 2015

Black Friday: Three Citizen Heroes will be honored during the Iowa vs Nebraska @ Lincoln game

The 2015 Iowa Hawkeyes hit the road, after finishing at home 7-0. The Hawkeyes
are 4-0 this season on the road, in search for their fourth annual trophy game win
at Nebraska in the Heroes Game. Iowa entered the season 0-4 in trophy games.

Iowa City, IA -- Iowa closes the regular season Friday at Nebraska (2:30 p.m., ABC), in the annual Hy-Vee Heroes Game. The Hawkeyes will seek to finish an undefeated regular season for the fifth time in school history, as they are 11-0 overall, 7-0 in the B1G West. The Cornhuskers are 5-6, 3-4 in the B1G West seeking to get their 6th win and bowl eligible for the eighth straight year.

"It's a short week of preparation, and I think our guys will be ready," said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. "We have a lot to play for. We didn't play very clean in this game last year, and it didn't turn out well. Our No. 1 goal will be to play a clean game, play hard, and play our best game of the year on national television."

Each Tuesday, the Iowa players and head coach meet with the media before each Hawkeye Football game.

The Big Ten Network (BTN) will air a 30-minute preview show at various times throughout the week to preview Friday’s football game featuring the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes visiting Nebraska. Kickoff is 2:36 p.m. CST on ABC on Friday from Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

The show will debut at 10:30 p.m. CST, on Tuesday, Nov. 24. Additional air times include Wednesday (9 a.m. CST), Thursday (12:30 a.m. CST, 10 a.m. CST, 6 p.m. CST, 8:30 p.m. CST) and Friday (2 p.m. CST), just before kickoff from Lincoln.

The show will be hosted by Dave Revsine, with Chuck Long and Matt Davison. The show will examine the last four matchups of the series since the Hy-Vee Heroes Game was first played in 2011. Davison, a former Husker player, and Long, a former Iowa quarterback, who lead Iowa to their last outright Big Ten Championship in 1985. They will discuss their memories of the games played against each school and what the game means to them. The show will also preview this year’s matchup that has bowl implications for each school.

Trooper Tracy Bohlen of Waukee and Nurse Jane McCurdy of Ankeny will be
recognized as Iowa’s 2015 “citizen heroes” during halftime of the Hy-Vee Heroes
Game on Friday when the University of Iowa takes on Nebraska at Memorial
Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. Kassee Jones of Omaha is the third hero.
In addition to the preview of the football game, the BTN special will also feature the Citizen Hero for each university. The citizen heroes are an Iowa State Trooper, a nurse and a lifeguard to be Recognized as Hy-Vee Heroes.

Black Friday update: Nebraska prepares for #3 Iowa as the fifth Heroes Game is played in Lincoln in 2015

Nebraska first year coach Mike Riley embraced his seniors and all his players
in the transition from Oregon State to Lincoln. Riley and his Huskers will face
Iowa in the Heroes Game on Black Friday, as Nebraska celebrates Senior Day.
2013_Nebraska_insertLincoln, NE --- The Nebraska football team practiced in half pads for 90 minutes on Monday in the Hawks Championship Center and Outdoor Practice Facility, preparing for a Black Friday matchup against the undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes (11-0, 7-0 B1G West) in Lincoln. Nebraska (5-6, 3-4 B1G West) looks to hand Iowa its first loss of the season and earn bowl eligibility.

Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker spoke to the media following practice addressing many of Iowa’s offensive weapons
Iowa junior QB #16 C.J. Beathard leads the Hawkeyes' offense in 2015. He
played in Iowa's 38-17 win in Lincon, back in 2013 in a mop up role.

"We know they’re a quality team,” Banker said. “It starts with their offensive line. They’re extremely well coached in the offensive line…they perform at a very, very high level. Their foot patterns are very good. They’re very strong upfront. Then you go back to the running backs. They’ve got a stable of four different running backs. They use them in various ways… [C.J.] Beathard as a quarterback does a great job of knowing where to go with the ball. He’s got a good sense in the pocket of timing. The do a nice job with the tight-end, more so on third-down with number 80 (Henry Krieger Coble). They just absolutely feed him the ball. Then 89 (Matt VandeBerg) is their go-to guy. He’s got 50 catches. So it’s just a methodical approach to football. They know what they are doing. They’ve got a good system and they do a great job of it.”

Iowa is ranked third coming into Friday’s game and has yet to lose a game this season. Part of that is their efficiency on third-down plays. Banker acknowledged the importance putting Iowa in tough third-down positions. 

Iowa senior RB #33 Jordan Canzeri leads the Hawkeyes in rushing in 2015.
He was a sophomore the last time Iowa played in Lincoln and got some
meaningful snaps. With four running backs to draw from in 2015, the Hawkeye
coaching staff will need to manage the rotation well, if Iowa is going to be
successful again against Nebraska. Canzeri is one of 21 seniors for Iowa.
You’ve got to do a great job on first down to begin with,” Banker said. "Then, from there get to a third down situation that they don’t want to be in. This team, more than any other team we’ve seen this year — we break it down into third and medium and third and long and third and extra long — they have by far, more third and mediums than everybody we’ve seen all year. They get themselves on first or second down, not leaving anymore than somewhere in the range of…four or five yards that they find themselves on third down."

The Big Red will be shooting for their third consecutive win after rolling to a 31-14 victory at Rutgers on Nov. 14.

Nebraska junior FS #25 Nathan Gerry leads the Cornhuskers defense in 2015,
after finishing 2nd in tackles during the 2014 season. The Huskers beat
Iowa 37-34 (in OT) in Iowa City on route to a 9-4 season.
Complete transcripts of the Huskers' conversations at the press conference, including Coach Mike Riley, junior quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., junior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp, senior fullback Andy Janovich, senior defensive tackle Kevin Williams (who will get a 6th season) and senior defensive end Jack Gangwish are available in the links below.