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Kirk Speaks: Nebraska

The last time the ball coach will address the media before the bowl game

NCAA Football: Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

So we’re at the end of the year, and Kirk Ferentz is addressing the media for last time before Iowa’s bowl game. The most notable thing is it doesn’t seem like we’ll see Brandon Smith on Friday. Other than that I think we’re as healthy as we were last week.

Iowa needs to win out the rest of the year in order to notch 10 wins for the first time since 2015—and just the sixth time overall of the Ferentz era. We can talk about a season slipped through the fingers all we want, but all things considered, 10 wins would be a very good thing.

Iowa takes on a Nebraska team with its back against the wall. The Huskers are sitting with five wins, and a sixth here would give them bowl eligibility and bragging rights that we wouldn’t hear the end of. The Cornhuskers were on a four-game skid before demolishing Maryland last week, and now we’re going to have to deal with that shit in our last Black Friday game for awhile—more on that in a minute.

All in all, I don’t like the circumstances surrounding this game, but I do like Iowa’s players vs. Nebraska’s, and I do like Kirk Ferentz vs. Scott Frost.

For now.

KF: The last two things, just to, if I could, just to recognize Hy-Vee for the partnership with the Heroes Trophy game. It’s been a great -- I think a great series, certainly, and I think the nicest thing about this, I don’t know if there’s another game or trophy out there that really represents what this one does. It’s just an opportunity to shine a light on folks who represent the best out of all of us, and it’s a great concept, and I applaud Hy-Vee for its sponsorship in the whole thing.

Then I guess this is our last black Friday, at least I’ve been told that. At some point I guess it’ll resume, but sorry to hear about that, and we’ll deal with that as we go along. We’ll figure that out next year.

I’ll throw it out for questions.

I’d just like to shoutout Kirk’s shoutout of Hy-Vee. As someone who lives in Chicago without easy access to a halfway-decent grocery store that isn’t Trader Joe’s, I truly miss Hy-Vee.

And then the fact Iowa and Nebraska aren’t on the books to resume their Black Friday game until 2022. It’s notable, but Iowa does play Wisconsin to end the season between in ‘20 and ‘21, so that’s nice.

What isn’t nice is Iowa’s schedule in 2025. Don’t look at that.

Q. You mentioned the running game. You struggled a little against Illinois. How do you get it going against Nebraska?

We’ve got to block better and we’ve got to run better. They did a good job taking away from us. A lot of people do what they can do to do that, and they were successful. We didn’t run the ball very effectively at all Saturday, and we’re going to have to do at least a somewhat better job on this Friday to have any chance in this football game. We’ve just got to do a little bit better job being detailed. Part of it’s aiming points, part of it’s just cohesion and fits, all those kinds of things, but the bottom line is we didn’t get it done on Saturday.

Saying Iowa’s run game has struggled this year is generous.

That’s it, that’s the whole snarky one-liner.

Q. Nebraska hasn’t had the season they wanted, but they’re one win away from bowl eligibility. How dangerous can a team be when they’re desperate and they want to keep their season alive?

I would expect them to play hard no matter what. Again, we witnessed that last year, and I can’t even tell you what their record was last year when we played them. It doesn’t really matter to me because all I know is it took us every play in the game to win the game. It was really tough, hard-fought, and my guess is that that’s what it’s going to be on Thursday, Friday or whatever day we play this week. It’s going to be the same case. So that’s where our focus is. I expect them to be fully ready. It’s their senior day, too, and they’ll have 89,000 people there screaming, so I think we know what we’re walking into. It won’t be easy at all, and it’s going to require us to really communicate, and we’ll all be in focus and playing our best football.

Q. You’ve had to deal with some pretty good RPO quarterbacks, Morgan and Purdy especially. Their offense is a little different, obviously, but how does Adrian Martinez run that style, and how effective is he when he does have those options?

First thing that comes to mind is he’s a better runner than the other guys, with all due respect to other guys. They’re really good quarterbacks and they’re both playing great, at least from what I can tell, and they played great when we played them. The added dimension, this guy is the second leading rusher on their football team, so that’s a big part of what they do and what he does. Once he got going last year, I mean -- they ran it a lot of times, what happened? We couldn’t stop him, we couldn’t slow him down, we couldn’t contain him. So that’s a real concern for us right now. How are we going to try to keep him, limit him to what he does or what he can do because we had a real problem last year.

That’s why I’m extra nervous for Friday—I hate a desperate team. Iowa, however, is kinda desperate in a way too, what with the whole 10 wins thing and all. And that’s me selling myself on a win.

I also like to think Kirk is throwing shade at Tanner Morgan and Brock Purdy here. Some sneaky bulletin board material that’s flying under the radar there.

Q. The world of sports psychology when you started as head coach at Iowa, it seems like almost all your players have some sort of wiring -- I know it’s mostly performance related, it’s not like a shrink.

Right. Probably the first exposure I had, I’m not very smart but I’ve got a lot of smart friends that send me neat stuff. There was a guy that was working with the Indians. I know he was from New Jersey. I can’t remember if he taught at Rutgers or had some connection there. But he worked with the Cleveland Indians a little bit, and I’ve still got one of my -- I’ve got a Bible folder I keep in my desk there, it’s just got some good articles in it.

But that was the first -- I want to say that guy’s name was Shapara, but don’t quote me on that one.

But anyway he was a guy that worked with guys going through slumps and pitchers that couldn’t throw strikes or throw where they wanted to. That’s really the first time I kind of started reading about it a little bit. You talk to Zach Johnson, as you might imagine, he’s got a guy he works with pretty closely. And it really pertains to any sport. It really pertains to anything that you do.

But I think the benefit is just somebody that can help make things that are a little cloudy for you clearer, give you some focal points, those types of things, and I’ll flash way back to when I was coaching at Maine, I still remember -- I can’t tell you who the golfer was, but I was flying back from our league meetings probably the first year, and some guy sunk like a, whatever, 15-foot putt, I don’t know. But anyway, I remember his quote being, I tried to focus on the putt that I made a million times in practice, not the circumstances. So it all kind of ties into that. But I’m guessing he probably had a coach, too, that was like really working with him on that.

The world has changed a great deal. I think more and more people in athletics are taking advantage of that for sure.

Interesting look between the ears there. I’ve long thought a sports psychologist would do Iowa teams some good, not pointing any fingers.

And that’s that. Happy Thanksgiving, please send fried turkey to Chicago.