Hawks look to reach double-digit win total


The Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. — Minutes after Iowa clinched the Big Ten West title with a win over Illinois last week, coach Kirk Ferentz said he might not play his starters against Nebraska on Friday so they can rest up for the conference championship game next week.

Yes, he was joking.

“We’ve got a lot to play for,” Ferentz said Tuesday. “Certainly any time you play any game, conference game, there’s a lot to play for. We sure as heck would like to get our 10th win but we know it’s not going to come easy over in Lincoln. Hopefully we’ll finish strong and play our best football of the season.”

The 20th-ranked Hawkeyes (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) have won three straight and six of seven and don’t want to lose their mojo before they head to Indianapolis to play Michigan or Ohio State.

Iowa is trying to win 10 games in the regular season for a fifth time, and eighth overall, in Ferentz’s 25 years.

Nebraska (5-6, 3-5) is trying for a sixth win to become bowl-eligible in coach Matt Rhule’s first season. The Cornhuskers come in off three straight losses.

“I know they want to win,” Rhule said of his players. “It’s senior day and for a lot of these guys it’s their last game in the stadium. They’re playing a ranked team with a chance to go to a bowl game. If they lack any motivation, it’s all there for them. I’ve seen this group do nothing but fight every week all year.”


Deacon Hill has made steady improvement since replacing injured quarterback Cade McNamara. He completed just 36.7% of his passes for 378 yards with two touchdowns, two fumbles and three interceptions over his first four starts. He’s hit on 65.3% for 455 yards and three TDs, no fumbles and two picks over his last three.

“I just can’t say enough about his attitude,” Ferentz said. “Easy to get down. That’s a position where everybody notices. Everybody’s got an opinion and it wasn’t going great. So he could have gone south on that one, but he stayed positive and got to work. Kind of nice to see him get rewarded a little bit.”


Chubba Purdy turned in one of the Huskers’ best quarterback performances of the season in his first start. The brother of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy broke a 55-yard touchdown run, threw a 58-yard TD pass and committed no turnovers until his interception on a desperation pass to end a 24-17 overtime loss at Wisconsin.

He played last week with a groin injury and has had other health problems since arriving last year, and he began this season on the scout team.

“He’s got moxie and toughness,” Rhule said. “I told him before the game, not after the game but before the game, ‘You’re going to play well and people are going to say why didn’t you play earlier?’ “


The Hawkeyes are 70-2 since 2015 when leading by eight points at any point in a game.

“They are so comfortable in a 7-3 game. They are so comfortable in a 10-9 game. Their heart rate doesn’t go up,” Rhule said. “They have been doing it for a long time and they are kind of built that way. Our guys are getting used to it. Last couple of games have been like that for us. They have been doing that a long time.”


The Iowa-Nebraska game will continue as a protected rivalry when the Big Ten expands to 18 teams next year. Iowa has won eight of 12 meetings since the Huskers joined the Big Ten. Nebraska’s 24-17 win in Iowa City last season ended a seven-game losing streak in the series.