The theme of the Iowa football team’s bye week: attention to detail.
Mistakes made an obvious difference in the Hawkeyes’ last game, a 28-17 defeat to Wisconsin. Iowa (3-1, 0-1) returns to the field Saturday against another border rival, Minnesota (3-1, 0-1), hoping the extra time will help clean things up.
“The lesson there is that those mistakes can be really costly,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said at his weekly news conference Tuesday. “We have to play a little cleaner, a little smarter, a little better if we’re going to get a victory in conference play.”
The most glaring miscues came on special teams against the Badgers. Ferentz didn’t seem concerned about punt returner Kyle Groeneweg’s ball security after he lost a fumble.
“I’m not dismissing it or saying it’s OK,” Ferentz said. “Things happen in football sometimes and I don’t think they’re characteristic of (Groeneweg) at all.”
Ferentz said the punt that resulted in Wisconsin retaining possession after Shaun Beyer’s foot hit the ball came down to team communication.
“That is a teaching moment. It’s a tough play ... everybody else has to help out (with communication),” Ferentz said.
Here are a few other notes from Tuesday.
Ferentz said linebacker Nick Niemann won’t play this week and could be out a couple weeks still.
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“We’ll just play it week by week and see where that’s at,” Ferentz said.
Sophomore Barrington Wade, who Ferentz said “made a major step” in August, will get the start at outside linebacker.
Elsewhere on the defense, starting cornerback Matt Hankins is not 100 percent.
“He’s working through some stuff,” Ferentz said. “We’re hoping he’ll be ready to roll, but we’ll see.”
Julius Brents is listed as Hankins’ backup on this week’s depth chart, but Ferentz didn’t rule out Riley Moss or Josh Turner factoring in.
Floyd of Rosedale
Of course, a trophy is at stake again this week.
Ferentz is a big fan of Floyd of Rosedale, the bronze pig Iowa and Minnesota play for.
“I think we probably play for the best trophy in college football,” he said.
Players choose one of their peers to give a report on the trophy, the rivalry and its history. Running back Mekhi Sargent got the nod for Floyd.
Read more: 5 things to know about Minnesota
Depth at TE, DL
Sophomore star A.J. Epenesa is the co-leader in the Big Ten in sacks with four, and Iowa fans have called for him to be on the field for more snaps. Ferentz is pleased with the depth the Hawkeyes have at that position, Anthony Nelson and Parker Hesse being the starters and Epenesa and Chauncey Golston rotating in, but said there are still things to work on.
“(Epenesa) is starting to find a little bit of a groove in the pass rush sense,” Ferentz said.
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Another position where depth is evident is tight end, where Noah Fant received much of the offseason attention. T.J. Hockenson didn’t get quite as many headlines, but has proven to be just as productive in the passing game. Both players have 15 catches and Hockenson has a team-high 238 yards.
“There’s been a lot written about Noah and rightfully so, Noah’s a good player, but this other guy is pretty good, too,” Ferentz said.
“He’s got a great attitude, good work ethic. He and Noah make a really good combination for us.”
Cracking the travel roster
Despite the Big Ten expanding travel rosters from 60 to 74, it doesn’t seem like Iowa will take advantage of it just to fill seats.
“Were’s still looking for the next 14,” Ferentz said.
“We’re not going on a field trip. We’re going up there to win a football game. If we can find 74, that will be great.”
Kyshaun Bryan transfers
Running back Kyshaun Bryan, who had not been with the team this season, tweeted that he is transferring.
“Mutual decision in the last week,” Ferentz said. “Kyshaun’s a great guy and we wish him the best moving forward.”
Iowa’s four captains this week are Hesse, quarterback Nate Stanley, fullback Brady Ross and center Keegan Render.
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