Sunday, November 24, 2013

Short week, with Heroes Game III scheduled for Black Friday in Lincoln

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz pointed to preparation and focus of his coaching staff and the Hawkeye players as keys to Iowa's 24-21 win over Michigan Saturday. On a bitter, cold afternoon in which the Hawkeyes lost the turnover battle, 4-1, Iowa was able to rally from a 21-7 halftime deficit to claim its seventh win of the season.

The Hawkeyes (7-4 overall, 4-3 B1G Legends) are one of eight teams from BCS conferences to improve their win total by three games over last season. Having won seven games in five of the last six seasons, Iowa will close the regular season Friday at Nebraska (8-3 overall, 5-2 B1G Legends) with 11 a.m. kickoff on ABC in the third annual Hy-Vee Heroes Game.

Iowa won for the third straight time against Michigan in Kinnick Stadium, a first in the series that dates back to 1900. The victory marks the first time since a 42-24 win over Indiana in 2009, also in Kinnick Stadium, in which the Hawkeyes have won when losing the turnover battle by at least three.

"We made it hard on ourselves," said Ferentz on Sunday. "Against a team as talented as Michigan, the last thing we wanted to do was lose the turnover battle. It's a credit to our players to play through that, and it starts with (sophomore quarterback) Jake (Rudock). All season, anytime something goes adverse, he just keeps playing. That is representative of our entire team; everyone stayed focused and stayed together. Fortunately, in the second half we were able to play much cleaner and that led to a better outcome."
Iowa began its rally at the start of the third period, scoring on a 55-yard scoring strike from Rudock to fellow sophomore Tevaun Smith, who made a nice move after the catch to turn the play into a touchdown.

"In pregame I wasn't sure about the focus, we had a couple of drops," said Ferentz. "The guys really did a good job with their routes and focusing on the football. The play Tevaun made came at a critical time; we needed to score in that first possession. He not only made a great grab, but finished with a long run, and that came at the right time; it gave us a jump start to finish the football game."

While the long score closed the deficit to seven points, the Iowa defense did its part over the final two periods as well, allowing Michigan just 45 yards total offense. For the day, Iowa defenders recorded 11 tackles for loss and were credited with seven pass break-ups.

"The defensive staff did a great job of giving our guys a good game plan, and then the credit goes to the players," said Ferentz. "They did a wonderful job with film study and practicing during the week; it appeared they were confident yesterday, that they had a jump on things. They played aggressively, and to hold Michigan to less than 50 yards in the second half is a credit to what the coaches and players did on the defensive side."

Being well prepared and focused, the Hawkeyes did not let turnovers, or weather conditions, distract from their play.

Iowa sophomore QB Jake
Rudock has lead Iowa
offense to 3-1 mark on the
road in 2013.
"We are not bashful about going outside and working in the weather, our guys are comfortable with that," said Ferentz. "As a staff, we try to emphasize to our guys to be focused on what you are doing and the opponent, not the weather. It's a complement to the players, that warm or cold, they have been focused on what they are doing, and not the conditions. One of the great things about football, you play in all kinds of extremes, and if you can't concentrate your way through that, it's going to be tough to be successful."

Iowa heads to Lincoln for the third straight Black Friday meeting with the Cornhuskers. Iowa and Nebraska have played two close, defensive contests the last two years, including the 13-7 Nebraska win last season in Kinnick Stadium. And, both teams have one less day to prepare.

"We have some help by going through this a couple of times," said Ferentz, of the Friday date. "We talk about it as a staff before the season, and have found a formula we feel comfortable with. It means things have to move a little faster. At the end of the season, you don `t have to be on the field as long, things move a little quicker; we have a chance to get more done in a shorter period of time."

Iowa's last victory in Lincoln came on November 20, 1943, so it has been 70 years. The last win in the series was in the 1981 season opener, when Iowa upset Nebraska 10-7.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was in his first year as an offensive line coach in 1981. Ferentz is 0-2 as a head coach in Lincoln, with losses in 2000 and 2011.

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