The No. 9 Hawkeyes are looking to come out of the bye week and bounce back from the disappointing loss to Purdue. Coach Ferentz and a handful of players spoke to the media on Tuesday. Here are some key takeaways from what they said.
The bye week came at the perfect time
It’s never fun having to sit on a loss for a week, especially one as “devastating,” as Tyler Goodson put it, as the one Iowa suffered at the hands of Purdue.
“There’s such a sour feeling till you get on the field and actually start not only thinking about moving forward but actually doing something to help move forward,” Moon Family Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz said.
But it was a needed break, as it allowed them to reflect on what they’ve done so far, including their shortcomings in their last game.
“If there’s a time you ever want a bye week it’s after something like this,” senior guard Kyler Schott said. “It gives us extra time to see what we really need to hone in on and focus on.”
They’ve been thinking about the schedule as two seasons. The “first season” was an absolute gauntlet. Three of their seven games were against ranked teams. The second one isn’t any easier, with all five remaining games against against Big Ten West opponents. Three of those are trophy games.
So it was a great chance to recharge physically.
“The biggest thing last week, was moreso enjoying the rest that we got,” quarterback Spencer Petras said.
Mentally, too. Kyler Schott took some time to go duck hunting, Tyler Goodson got to spend time with his family and Arland Bruce finally got to go home for the first time since the summer.
It seems it was a successful break, but it’s over now. It’s back to grind and the players are ready.
“Towards the end of the week, knowing we’re going into a game week, I tend to get my focus towards football more,” Goodson said.
2. They’re expecting a physical game with Wisconsin (as always)
When the Hawkeyes and Badgers line up, it’s like looking in a mirror.
“It is a mirror, that’s what’s so great about the game,” Tyler Goodson said.
Two teams that love to run the ball and feature tough defenses. In their win over Purdue, Wisconsin starting quarterback Graham Mertz threw the ball just eight times.
But there’s one not-so-small difference between the two this year. Quite literally.
“I can’t imagine there’s anybody bigger in the country, man for man,” Ferentz said. “We’re probably at the other end of the spectrum, quite frankly size-wise.”
That’s helped them to being one of the top rushing offenses in the country. True freshman running back Braelon Allen has had three straight hundred yard rushing games, including 140 yards and two touchdowns last week against Purdue.
After a run of playing some of the most pass happy teams in the country, it’s a change of pace and challenge the Hawkeyes are looking forward to.
“Knowing that they’re pretty much a downhill team, it does make it a little bit more fun, more of a physical game, it’s pretty fun,” junior safety Kaevon Merriweather said.
They know they have to be ready for a battle too. Three of the last four meetings between the two teams have been double digit games, and Wisconsin has won seven of the last nine. This year the Badgers are just a game behind the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten West standings and Camp Randall is always a tough place to play.
“You might get run out of the stadium if you’re not ready to go,” said Ferentz. “You know it’s going to be a battle. Yeah, that’s motivating because they’re a tough football team. They always have been.”
3. All their goals are still on the table
The loss to Purdue did drop them from No. 2 to now No. 9 in the AP Poll, and made the race for the Big Ten West more of a battle. The team is putting it all in perspective though. It’s just one loss, so the only thing they can’t be this season, is undefeated.
“Everything is still there,” Tyler Goodson said. “The leaders on this team are trying to make sure that everybody knows we can still accomplish what we want to accomplish, and that hopefully to win a Big Ten title and win out in the west.”
They won six straight to start the season, so they know winning five more isn’t impossible. The key for them is focusing just on what’s in front of them.
“Coach Ferentz has stressed that really, every since we’ve gotten back from the bye, is that it’s a five week season, it’s really one week at a time,” Spencer Petras said. “We just have to take it one week at a time. We have plenty to play for.”
4. The offensive line is looking to improve
The offensive line was a big point of emphasis for the Hawkeyes the last couple of weeks. Coach Ferentz said the inexperience up front was their “biggest challenge.” Iowa has who Ferentz calls the best center in college football in Tyler Linderbaum. Next to him though, there’s been a lot of movement, which has caused some growing pains.
“Some really positive gains,” he said. “Too many inconsistencies. That’s always a challenge offensively because it does take all 11 to have good execution.”
Everyone did some reflecting during the time off, and because of that, practice has been a little more intense.
“Obviously after a loss, you got to change something up and we’ve just been really trying to get after it more and push ourselves everyday,” Kyler Schott said.
Leading the way in that department is none other than Tyler Linderbaum. The offensive line isn’t perfect, but has gotten better as the season has gone on, in part thanks to Linderbaum’s leadership.
“The big thing I appreciate is the way he does things,” coach Ferentz said. “First class all the time. Top effort all the time. That’s even in the spring. I can’t remember him having a bad play let alone a bad practice in the spring.”
And that group is going to as important as ever this week against a big Wisconsin defense that shut down Purdue just a week ago.
“The main thing is just being able to be strong up front and allowing them to slow down, so we can open up holes to be successful and gain three to four yards,” Goodson said. “Because we know going into this game, it’s going to be a tough game in the run game. We’re just going to have to keep digging and fighting.”
5. The new OT rule is not Moon Approved
Coach Ferentz admitted he didn’t catch all of the Wisconsin-Purdue game live.
“I’m not a great fan, TV fan,” he said. “I was kind of doing some stuff at the counter.”
But even he didn’t miss the Illinois-Penn State 20-18, nine overtime thriller.
“That was one of those things you couldn’t take your eye off of,” he said.
And like many others who discovered the new OT rules this weekend, he was not a fan of it.
“I’m not so sure I buy this new rule change,” he said.
At this point everyone knows the rule, but here’s a quick refresher. If the score is still tied after two overtime periods, the two teams then alternate two-point conversions from the three yard line until there’s a winner. Or more simply put by coach:
“It’s like shooting a free throw thing at the carnival or something, the state fair. You get a Kewpie doll.”
He’s a reasonable man though. He did give credit where it was due.
“I was amazed by, there were no commercial breaks,” he said. “Those commercial breaks are excruciating.”