The Tuesday Quotebook: Hawkeyes Face A Grind To The End

John Bohnenkamp

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz knows what his team has seen in the last three weeks, and he knows what's ahead.

When someone pointed out the Hawkeyes have played difficult games over the last three weeks, Ferentz immediately pointed out, "One to go."

The Hawkeyes head into Friday's regular-season finale at Nebraska having played in three games decided by a total of 15 points.

There was the 24-22 loss at Wisconsin, when quarterback Nate Stanley was stopped on a two-point conversion in the closing minutes.

There was the 23-19 home win over No. 8 Minnesota, followed by Saturday's 19-10 victory over Illinois.

Asked if his team is facing any fatigue, Ferentz said, "That's why you train, both mentally and physically. That's why you train. Hopefully our older guys understand a lot better than the younger guys that it's a 12-week season. We talk about that all the time — 14 weeks (of the regular season) and three of camp. You have to be in shape physically. You've got to be in shape mentally, and you've got to be able to get up every morning and put one foot in front of the other. It's easier said than done, and it's tough after an emotional loss, and every loss typically is emotional, and then it's tough after a good win, too. But most wins are good.

"Those are the ups and downs that you go through as a college football player, and it's part of the process. That's where experience helps, the more experience you have, and the older guys have to show the younger guys how to do things, too. But yeah, it's just part of the grind. But that's what makes this game, I think, good and makes it so challenging."

No contact

The Hawkeyes have had workouts without contact this week, and Ferentz said that's because of the concern about fatigue, especially with the short week to prepare for the Huskers.

"You know, it's just I think the biggest thing right now is for us to be fresh physically if at all possible. It's hard at this time of year, but also mentally sharp," Ferentz said. "We may have -- four or five years, we may have hit once during that practice, but we typically in November start cutting back anyway pretty much in terms of how much we do hit in practice.

"I think it's just probably more importantly, kind of goes back to (the) question, too, just about keeping the team fresh. If you leave the game on the practice field, that's just a bad thing. So we're trying to be as efficient and effective as we can without leaving it out there during the week."

Smith's return

Wide receiver Brandon Smith is still considered questionable for Friday's game.

Smith has played just one play in the last four games as he recovers from an ankle injury suffered late in the 26-20 win over Purdue on Oct. 19.

"I don't know if (Smith's recovery has) stalled — they're really hard to predict," Ferentz said. "Recoveries from any injuries are hard to predict. I think he was doing pretty well, came out of the gate strong and plateaued a little bit. So it's just one of those deals. There's no way to predict it, and it's just hard to deal with no matter what. Unless you're back full speed you're not happy. The good news is he's not a senior.

"(Middle linebacker) Kristian Welch was looking at that clock a couple weeks ago, so at least he's back playing. That's a good thing. But if there's any consolation right now for (Smith), he's got another year, but it's still frustrating."

One more Black Friday

The Hawkeyes and Huskers play on the day after Thanksgiving for the last time for a couple of seasons.

The series has been played on Black Friday since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011. Iowa plays Wisconsin in 2020 and 2021, with both games on Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, while Nebraska plays Minnesota in those seasons on Black Friday.

The Hawkeyes and Huskers will go back to playing each other to close the season beginning in 2022.

"At some point I guess it'll resume, but sorry to hear about that, and we'll deal with that as we go along," Ferentz said. "We'll figure that out next year."