Iowa Football

Bye week blues? Iowa Hawkeyes insist that's not the case this year

Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Brandon Smith (12) tosses the ball to Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Nick Easley (84) in an end-of-game volley at an Iowa Hawkeyes football game with the Wisconsin Badgers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. Wisconsin won the game, 28-17. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Brandon Smith (12) tosses the ball to Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Nick Easley (84) in an end-of-game volley at an Iowa Hawkeyes football game with the Wisconsin Badgers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. Wisconsin won the game, 28-17. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Some guys rested and healed. Some guys got a little more run in practice.

Some guys pouted about that lost opportunity against Wisconsin. But only for a few hours.

You’ve got to forge ahead since there’s a lot of season left.

“I would say just because we didn’t have an opponent to move on to, we kind of let it sting a little bit longer than we would have in a normal week,” Iowa safety Jake Gervase said. “I would say by Monday, we’d probably moved on. We knew that it was a tough loss, it stung, but we had to learn from it and move on. That’s what we did.”

The Hawkeyes are back at it after their bye week, seeking redemption and their first Big Ten Conference win Saturday at Minnesota. Game time is 2:30 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium.

Kirk Ferentz said how to best handle a bye always has been a riddle he and his staff have tried to solve in his 20 years as head coach. He mentioned NFL coaches Andy Reid and Mike Holmgren giving their teams an entire week off to recharge.

That wasn’t really an option here, especially since Iowa has only played four games.

“I don’t know that you ever have a pattern, and every year is a little different. Every team is different,” Ferentz said. “And this year, it’s a little bit on the early side ... (but) being symmetric, it’s right smack dab in the middle of start of camp versus the end of the season. So that part, I think, is really good. We’re only four games into it. We haven’t really played, barely 10 percent of our conference games.

“It gives you time to reassess things a little bit, make sure you really think you have the people in the right spots that you want. Then the trick is how much work do you do, how much work don’t you do with the players, those types of things.”

The Hawkeyes worked out the Monday after the Wisconsin loss, with “older” players having the option to sit out. Everyone practiced the next two days.

Then the entire team took off Thursday through Saturday. Practice resumed Sunday.

“Over the weekend, I was able to go home and chill with my dog and my dad,” said wide receiver Nick Easley. “Just kind of hang out, which was nice. Kind of watched some college football with a different eye. A lot more watching it as a fan, sitting on the couch and chilling a little bit. That was nice.”

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“For a lot of the older guys, we got some time to relax a little bit,” said center Keegan Render. “Obviously, we’ve got eight weeks in a row here now, so we’ve got a long (time). For the young guys, get them some reps, too. Anything can happen. With eight weeks in a row, guys’ bodies are going to start getting hurt. That’s just part of football, that people are going to get hurt. So people have got to be ready to get in there. I think getting the young guys more reps during the bye week was a big thing.”

Ferentz said he is pleased with how his team has handled everything leading up to Saturday’s game.

“One thing that’s been pretty much constant, we’ve changed our format almost every year it seems like,” he said. “And the other thing that’s been pretty constant is usually on Sunday, I come off the field in a bad mood about that day’s work. That wasn’t the case this year.

“We had a good bye week, worked on some fundamentals, some older guys got some rest here and there. Now we’re on to Minnesota and trying to get our first Big Ten win.”

The Gophers (3-1) are smarting, waxed two weeks ago at Maryland, 42-13.

Outstanding cornerback Antoine Winfield Jr. and running back Rodney Smith are out with season-ending injuries. The starting quarterback, Zack Annexstad, is a true freshman walk-on.

But it’s a trophy game, and, rather unbelievably, Iowa’s first road game.

“It’ll be a good test for us, especially for the younger guys who haven’t had significant time playing on the road,” Gervase said. “We’ve got to be ready to go. I think we’ve had two good practices. Now I think we’ve just got to finish it up tomorrow and show up ready to play on Saturday.”

“I think we have a real window of opportunity here over the next eight weeks,” Ferentz said, “If we do things right and practice well.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

 

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