Friday, November 29, 2013

Game Day: Iowa @ Nebraska on Black Friday for the Heroes Game

Lincoln, NE -- It's Rivalry Week, but since Iowa hasn't beat Nebraska in 32 years or 70 years, if you want to talk about beating Nebraska in Lincoln.  Do we have a rivalry yet, as the Iowa Hawkeyes (7-4, 4-3 B1G Legends) travel to the Nebraska Cornhuskers for a 11:06 kickoff in Memorial Stadium on a nationwide audience on ABC.
The Hawkeyes are seeking win number 10 in a series that has only been played eight times, since the 1979 season. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is 0-2 in Lincoln and 0-2, as the series has become an annual Big Ten conference game. So, will the old saying be true: three's a charm today?

Iowa has been held to 14 points or less in the last seven meetings with Nebraska, so offense will be important, since the Hawkeyes defense ranks well.

The Hawkeyes are led by one of the nation’s top defenses. Iowa is allowing only 18.9 points per game, ranking 13th nationally in scoring defense. In 11 games, the Hawkeyes have allowed only 20 first-quarter points. Iowa is outscoring its opponents 167-75 in the first half, but has been outscored 133-123 in the second half and overtime, including a 78-54 fourth quarter. Iowa reversed those trends last week against Michigan, trailing 21-7 at the half before rallying for a 24-21 win.

Iowa will need to continue run-pass success to beat Huskers in Heroes Game III

Tevaun Smith caught five passes for 97 yards in Iowa's 24-21 win over Michigan last week.
Tevaun Smith caught five passes
 for 97 yards in
Iowa's 24-21 win over
Michigan last week.

Iowa's offensive coordinator has found enough offense in his arsenal to put the Hawkeyes in jockeying position for a January bowl game. Iowa has won 3-of-4 heading into Friday's game at Nebraska, piling up 737 yards on the ground and 778 through the air over the last four weeks.

The run-pass balance has not come by accident, and the Hawkeyes will need more of the same to be successful tomorrow.

"Nebraska is very athletic," said Davis. "They've played with some young guys this year but they're very athletic and they're very good in the secondary. We'll have to be balanced. We'll have to run the ball and be able to throw the ball to be successful against them."

Running the ball has been Iowa's offensive staple. The Hawkeyes average 243.7 yards rushing in their seven wins, including 191 yards in a come-from-behind win over Michigan last week. That effort was nice, but Davis credits the defense for giving the offense a chance, and a pass-play for giving the offense a boost.

"The defense did a great job in the second half to let the offense get back on the field," said Davis. "We did kind of hit our stride and played well in the second half.
"Tevaun (Smith) got us jump started in the third quarter. Jake (Rudock) caught them in a situation where he felt like he knew what they were going to do and he caught Tevaun on a huge slant and he took it to the house. That kind of got the team understanding there are plays to be made."

Smith caught five passes against the Wolverines for a career best 97 yards. His effort may take some defensive attention away from Kevonte Martin-Manley, Iowa's leading receiver, and C.J. Fiedorowicz, one of the Hawkeyes' many play-making tight ends.

"We went into the season realizing that the tight ends were going to be a big part and they continue to be, but I also think the receivers have stepped up," said Davis.

The more people that step up, the more tools for Rudock, who is in line for his fourth road win of the season. No Iowa quarterback has won four road games in a season since Ricky Stanzi in 2009.

"Jake continues to improve," said Davis. "He's an extremely bright guy and you can tell watching us that we put a lot on the quarterback both in the run game and the pass game. He gets more comfortable each week and he's one of those guys that you can't shake."

Nebraska says good-bye to 23 seniors at Memorial Stadium on Blackshirt Friday

Nebraska offensive Coordinator Tim Beck addressed the media after practice on Tuesday, focusing on the 23 seniors who will play their last game today in Memorial Stadium.

Nebraska coach Tim Beck
is in his third season
as offensive coordinator,
fifth season overall.

According to Beck, saying goodbye to the seniors will be difficult, but the emotions won’t linger too long after the kickoff. After all, there’s still a rivalry game to be played.

“These games are always emotional,” Beck said. “Once the game gets started, though, I don’t know how much that emotion still plays in. When you’re beating on a guy and he’s beating on you, I don’t think you’re too worried about all that other stuff.”

“It’s been an honor being able to be around these guys,” Beck said. “I’ve had the chance to watch them grow up as young men and persevere through a lot of tough times. They've had a lot of hard-fought games, and I’m proud of them for the work they've put in together.”

One senior Beck especially admires for his performance and leadership this season is wide receiver Quincy Enunwa. The team captain has 44 catches for 578 yards and nine touchdowns this season, including a 27-yard touchdown at Penn State on Saturday. According to Beck, Enunwa’s great work ethic has been the key to his success.

“The work that (Quincy Enunwa) has put in has shown up on the field,” Beck said. “He’s a great example of the fact that if you’re humble and work hard every day, you’re time will come. You’re going to get you’re moment, and he’s had it.”

The biggest concern for Enunwa this season has been the health of his quarterbacks. With fellow senior Taylor Martinez out due to injury and freshman Tommy Armstrong limited in practice again on Tuesday, the Huskers will most likely turn to senior Ron Kellogg III against the Hawkeyes. However, Beck mentioned that in the case of another injury, he’s confident in redshirt freshman Ryker Fyfe’s ability to step in and lead the team.

“(Ryker Fyfe) throws the ball very well, he can run and he’s tough,” Beck said. “He’s very instinctive. Sometimes he might throw to the wrong guy, but he makes up for it with a great pass. If we have to go to him, we’ll hang on and go.”

Nebraska's offense has resembled a M*A*S*H unit at times with mounting injuries throughout the 2013 season. Bo Pelini has won nine or more games in each of the five previous seasons, as head coach. A win against Iowa will make that six straight. The speculation on his future as Nebraska's head coach will have to wait, until after the Heroes Game.

The strength of both teams is defense. Iowa has more experience lead by three senior linebackers and two other senior starters in the back 7. Nebraska entered the season, with only four starters back in their defensive unit.

Nebraska has owned the series at 28-12-3. The Cornhuskers have won five straight in the series dating back to 1982, including each of the first two meetings as Big Ten Conference foes. 

Keys to the game:
  • Field possession is always important
  • How well one battles in the trenches: controlling the line of scrimmage
  • Special teams 
  • Turnovers
  • Miscues and penalties, staying ahead in down and distance
Today's winner will own sole possession of second place in the Legends Division. An Outback Bowl could be one of the prizes, with a win today in Memorial Stadium. The Big Ten hopes to have two conference teams (Ohio State, Michigan State or Wisconsin) play in a BCS bowl in 2013.

Our Pick:
Iowa 23, Nebraska 20
The Hawkeyes last won 70 years ago in Lincoln, it was in November, as well.

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