Senior Day is always a day of mixed emotions.
The sadness and excitement of players taking the field for the final time at Kinnick Stadium.
“We have 19 seniors that are outstanding young people, and it’s a great group of guys,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “All good stories in their own right.
“Certainly the time seniors put on their uniform for the last time, it’s a special day and last time in Kinnick, so that adds to the significance.”
The Hawkeye seniors will pull on their black jerseys over their shoulder pads on Black Friday for the final game of the season. Iowa (4-7, 2-5) didn’t win enough games to earn a bowl trip for the first time since 2007.
“This is what it means to be a guardian of the legacy,” Iowa senior center James Ferentz said. “This season hasn’t been great for us. But we’re part of something much bigger than this season, this class.
“It is important to come out and fight, and compete the way we can. Hopefully build something bigger. Help these younger guys to a 2013 Big Ten Championship.”
With No. 17 Nebraska (9-2, 6-1) ready to roll its way through Kinnick Stadium to the Big Ten Championship game and a shot at the Rose Bowl, Iowa, a two-touchdown underdog, has to play for pride.
“I think it’s a rivalry,” James Ferentz said. “There’s a trophy at stake. I don’t think there’s a deep rivalry yet like Iowa State, but that stuff takes time to develop.”
The Huskers come in riding a five-game winning streak. Nebraska is 4-1 against other Legends Division foes. Iowa was went 2-4 against those same teams.
Nebraska has the top offense in the Big Ten, averaging 478.9 yards per game, led by senior quarterback Taylor Martinez, who is 187-for-294 passing for 2,420 yards and with 21 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. Martinez also has run for 792 yards.
Nebraska beat Iowa 20-7 last season in Lincoln, Neb.
“The biggest difference is, I think, their quarterback is playing at a higher level than he was playing a year ago,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He was playing well last year.”
Add to that a power running game that will feature sophomore Ameer Abdullah (200-1,021) or perhaps Rex Burkhead (47-405), if he returns from injury.
“See how it’s going and how the game goes,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Wednesday. “We’ll talk about it Friday morning after (Burkhead) warms up.”
The Nebraska defense is ranked fourth in the Big Ten, giving up 329.1 yards per game, but are second nationally in pass defense (157.6 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (137.08).
Michigan was ranked first in pass defense, and Iowa had some success power running with Mark Weisman and throwing to its tight ends.
“Our team fully understands the challenge,” Pelini said. “They are a physical team. That’s what they’ve always been. They are going to do what they do. First and foremost, that starts up front.”
Some Hawkeye fans are fed up with what they perceive as an underachieving program under Ferentz. Many sold their tickets online to Nebraska fans.
James Ferentz said he wouldn’t let the negativity affect his senior day.
“When you have some bad seasons … that’s the nature of football … it’s kind of win right now or leave,” James Ferentz said. “That’s what makes Iowa unique. They give coaches time. I think his track record speaks for itself.
“I think we have a bunch of guys that buy into that philosophy, and hopefully next year there’s a little more success.”
A win over a Top 25 Nebraska team would be the right springboard for that.
“Right now we’re just trying to not worry about what’s happened behind us,” Kirk Ferentz said. “We have a big challenge on our hands with Nebraska.”
Reach Ryan Suchomel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 339-7368.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football