Iowa Football

Does Iowa football respect Nebraska? Hawkeyes say of course they do

Comments from Cornhuskers player have no basis in fact, Iowa players, coach insist

Iowa Hawkeyes running back Mekhi Sargent (10) tries to escape Nebraska Cornhuskers linebacker Mohamed Barry (7) during the first half of a game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Friday, November 23, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette
Iowa Hawkeyes running back Mekhi Sargent (10) tries to escape Nebraska Cornhuskers linebacker Mohamed Barry (7) during the first half of a game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Friday, November 23, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette

IOWA CITY — And we have our first “they’re disrespecting us” of the college football season.

It took a full three months, but Nebraska’s Collin Miller pulled out that card during his team’s weekly media availability Monday. Apparently the junior linebacker thinks the Iowa Hawkeyes have an air of smug superiority about them when it comes to The Heroes Trophy game.

Iowa has beaten Nebraska four years in a row and five of the last six years. The teams end the regular season Friday afternoon at 1:30 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

“I just think they don’t have respect for Nebraska anymore. They have a couple of wins on us,” Miller said. “I mean, it sucks, these guys not respecting us. They come into Lincoln and think they can win with ease, that this isn’t a real rivalry, you know?”

Iowa players asked Tuesday were aware of Miller’s comments, but uncertain from where he got his notion. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz pointed out last year’s game at Iowa City was decided on a walk-off Miguel Recinos field goal, 31-28.

“Yeah, I heard he said that,” said Iowa guard Kyler Schott. “We hadn’t even had media day, yet, so I don’t know what he heard. But we respect them. We know they’re going to come ready to play, and we’ve got to come ready to play, too.”

“I have no idea where that comes from,” Ferentz said. “All I know is it took us a fourth-down conversion and a big field goal to win last year. It was hard. One thing we try and teach our players is to respect every opponent we play. And respect what it takes to win. I think that’s one thing if you play college football long enough or coach it long enough, you know how difficult it is to win a game against anybody. We respect everybody we play, week in and week out. That’s opponent after opponent after opponent.”

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Gaining motivation from something perceived that isn’t really reality is as old as football itself. They hate us, they think we suck, the media is dissing us, etc.

Bulletin board material, as the old folks say. Any little edge that gets you frothing at the mouth is acceptable.

But Nebraska (5-6) should have more than enough motivation this week in that a win gets it into a bowl game, a loss ends its season. The Cornhuskers broke a four-game losing streak last week with a 54-7 shellacking of Maryland.

“It’s a rivalry, so it would be a nice thing to say that we withheld them from going to a bowl. But, really, we’re just focused on the win, getting our ninth win,” said Iowa safety Jack Koerner.

As Iowa natives, Koerner and Schott were asked about their appreciation of this particular rivalry.

“I grew up an Iowa fan, always have loved the Hawks,” Koerner said. “Obviously, what comes with that is having a displeased taste for Nebraska. But it’s just a football game. I consider every team we play a rival, I guess. This being a trophy game, a border game, that adds a little bit to it.”

“I see it as a rivalry,” Schott said. “I know there has been some hate in the past between the two teams. But we just want to go win.”

Ferentz said injured wide receiver Brandon Smith (knee) continues to “do some things in practice” but would not commit to his availability or unavailiabilty Friday. Iowa’s Tyrone Tracy has stepped up in Smith’s absence with 22 catches for 379 yards the last five games.

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One of the key things in Iowa’s win streak against Nebraska has been rushing. The Hawkeyes have rushed for an average of 249 yards in the last four games between the teams to Nebraska’s 108.5

Yet Iowa has been inconsistent at best in its ground game this season and was held to 79 yards on 32 attempts last week against Illinois, which loaded the box regularly with eight and sometimes nine guys.

“We didn’t have the run game going very good last week,” Schott said. “But the last few years that’s what we’ve had to do, and, for sure, this year, too. We have to establish the run game. And there’s a chance for rain and stuff, bad weather and whatever. So we’ve got to get the run game going.”

Ferentz said his team has been practicing with wet footballs to mimic what could be less-than-desirable weather conditions Friday. Weather forecasts say there is an 80 to 90-percent chance of rain and freezing rain for the game.

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

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