IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz can think of several reasons why Iowa’s football team has given itself a chance to flip last season’s record around if the Hawkeyes can find a way to win Friday at Nebraska.
The 15th-year Iowa coach can think of 15 reasons actually.
“Our 15 seniors have given us tremendous leadership going back to last November and it starts with the commitment they made going back to that point in time,’’ Ferentz said.
That point came one year ago when the Hawkeyes walked off the field following a 13-7 loss to the Cornhuskers after earning every bit of their 4-8 record.
“The turnaround started that day. We flushed it, moved on and vowed that we weren’t going to go through a season like that again,’’ linebacker Anthony Hitchens said.
Meetings were held. Ferentz talked with the team about the need to focus internally on ways to turn things around.
“We figured we’d get plenty of suggestions, plenty of critique from the outside, so we didn’t spend too much time on that,’’ Ferentz said.
To facilitate internal growth, the Hawkeyes agreed to take things one day at a time and instead of reinventing the wheel, the focus centered on rebuilding core beliefs which led Iowa to previous success.
Long snapper Casey Kreiter, a senior from Central DeWitt, said that process started during offseason conditioning and strength work under the watch of Chris Doyle.
“It has all been about not getting too far ahead of ourselves and not looking back,’’ Kreiter said. “Coach Doyle has a thing this year, talks to us about playing a game, and then putting that game in a box, putting it on a shelf and moving onto the next one and repeating that. It makes a lot of sense.’’
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The result has been a 7-4 record that gives Iowa a chance to double last season’s win total with a victory in Friday’s 11 a.m. game against the Cornhuskers (8-3).
The Hawkeyes have shown growth in every major offensive and defensive category against its Big Ten peers compared to a year ago, most notably climbing from ninth to third in total defense, 12th to fifth in rushing offense and seventh to fifth in stopping the run, cornerstones of Iowa’s traditional success.
“The attitude that we took was that we were going to go back to work and try to do what we do, do it better, do it with more quality, and see if that didn’t lead to improved results. I give a lot of credit to our senior class. They’ve done a wonderful job, and our juniors have been great, too,’’ Ferentz said.
“It’s one thing to walk into a meeting and talk about what we’re supposed to do. But to win and be a good team, it’s about the players going with it and this team has taken ownership. They’ve been really committed and that’s probably the reason I’m happiest (with Saturday’s Michigan win). It’s a nice payback for all the things they’ve done.’’