July 20, 2024

Kirk Ferentz refusing to rest his starters approaching Heroes Game

Iowa Hawkeyes Football

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz walks along the sideline during a timeout in the second quarter against Purdue Saturday October 7, 2023 at Kinnick Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Although the Hawkeyes have already clinched the Big Ten West, their head coach intends on fielding all of his starters for Friday’s Heroes Game in Lincoln.

Kirk Ferentz is the longest-tenured coach in the FBS, and he never once in his 25 seasons at Iowa, rested any of his starters for a game down the road. In his mind if the kids are healthy, they’re going to play ball. That doesn’t mean the Big Ten Championship Game isn’t important to him.

Ferentz just wants to make sure that he fields his best players to win every contest, in which he’s done at the collegiate level, and as an Offensive Line Coach with the Baltimore Ravens.

“When I was in the NFL, we were never in a position to sit anybody down,” Ferentz said. “We were always fighting for our lives there too, and I’ve always looked at it every game is important.”

Winning games in the Big Ten aren’t easy by any means, especially on the road in a hostile environment. However, Iowa has won its’ last five trips to Nebraska. Both teams appear to be heading in opposite directions too. The Huskers have lost three-straight games after going unscathed in October. Meanwhile the No. 17 Hawkeyes have won six of their last seven contests, and are on a three-game winning streak. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ferentz wants to keep the momentum going.

“We have every intention of doing all we can to win Friday knowing it’s going to be really tough,” he said. “I think people don’t understand how tough it is to win games at any level.”

It’s going to be freezing temperatures at kickoff, and Iowa (9-2) will have a slim margin for error. Both defenses are playing lights out. The Hawkeyes are seventh nationally in total defense, and the Huskers are 15th. Everyone is expecting a defensive slugfest in front of a sold out crowd at Memorial Stadium.

It’s no mystery that both offenses are two of the worst in the country though. Iowa is dead last in the FBS in total offense, and Nebraska (5-6) is 130th nationally in turnovers lost. Something has to give in the 54th meeting between the two rivals. Ferentz doesn’t care about his success in the Heroes series over the past decade. After all, he knows the games aren’t played on paper.

“I think sometimes we get a little spoiled and we think it’s going to be easy or we’ve done this before so we’ll do it again,” the 68-year old coach said. “It just doesn’t work that way, it’s really competitive, and Nebraska is a great illustration of it.”

There’s no denying the Huskers are hungry for this win, considering their backs are against the wall. A win for Nebraska will end a six-year bowl drought. So Ferentz is expecting the Huskers’ best. Coach Matt Rhule is in his first season, and has already led the team to more wins than last year.

It’s going to be very intriguing with Ferentz matching wits with Rhule though. The Huskers won at Kinnick with an interim coach last year, so of course they believe they can do it at home with Rhule this time around. Ferentz is expecting the unexpected, and for Nebraska to throw the kitchen sink at Iowa. That’s why he’s preparing to have his best players on the field in the Sea of Red, in order to be victorious.

“They (Nebraska) haven’t been to a bowl game in a long time, but they’re playing like a bowl team right now, and they’re playing really well, so I think just sometimes we all lose sight about how tough it is and how many things have to go right for you to win.”