IOWA CITY — In the middle of the Iowa football locker room sits a big, cumbersome trophy case — a big, cumbersome and empty trophy case.
It serves as a daily reminder of prizes that once belonged to the Hawkeyes that now reside elsewhere, providing daily motivation to this Iowa team.
“It’s hard to miss,” cornerback Micah Hyde said. “You almost trip over it when you try to go anywhere, and it’s empty, real empty.”
Iowa owns none of the four traveling trophies it plays for against some of its closest rivals.
Iowa State’s 44-41 triple-overtime victory over Iowa last year at September gave ISU possession of the temporary version of the Cy-Hawk Trophy for the first time since 2007.
Later in the season, Minnesota retained Floyd of Rosedale with its second straight win over Iowa, and Nebraska won the first Heroes Game Trophy.
Wisconsin has held the Heartland Trophy since it defeated Iowa 31-30 in the most recent meeting between the teams in 2010.
“We’ve let all them get away the past few years, and now it’s time to bring them home. That starts this week,” linebacker Anthony Hitchens said.
The empty trophy case was hauled into the middle of the locker room as the Hawkeyes worked through offseason training.
Hyde suspects it was the work of strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, motivation to put in the work during the off-season that it takes to succeed in the fall.
It has sat there since and this week, photos of Iowa State players carting the trophy — or what was left of the makeshift trophy that was hurriedly put together after fans loudly rejected a Cy-Hawk remake — are plastered on the walls as the Hawkeyes head to their locker room.
“Seeing all that stuff, the trophy case, the pictures and the posters with Cyclone State all over them, it brings you back to last year and how we didn’t do the things we needed to do to win,” quarterback James Vandenberg said.
“This is our first chance to win a trophy back, and we’re looking forward to it. That’s our focus this week.”
Coach Kirk Ferentz said at his weekly news conference that focus also remains on improvement following a late-game rally which allowed Iowa to escape with an 18-17 win over Northern Illinois on Saturday.
“A lot of our mistakes last week are correctable, which is a good thing, and this week, we’re working to correct them,” Ferentz said.
The chance to do that against an in-state rival which won an emotional, hard-fought game against Iowa last season is an added benefit.
“It’s important for us to move forward this week. We’re playing a game that we’ll hear about all year,” defensive end Dominic Alvis said. “Last year’s loss, that was tough, and the two-hour bus ride home gave us plenty of time to think about it.”
That has helped keep the sting of last year’s loss fresh in the minds of the Hawkeyes.
“The game last year, we didn’t perform like we needed to,” center James Ferentz said. “As the game went on they got stronger, we didn’t respond, and they got the win. We’ve had to live with that since, and that trophy case, it’s there to remind us of that.”
* Coach Kirk Ferentz said Iowa came through its season opener relatively injury free. Cornerback B.J. Lowery, who left the game with an injury, is expected to be available this weekend.
* Iowa will wear throwback uniforms Saturday to honor undefeated teams which went 7-0 in the 1921 and 1922 seasons. It marks the third time the Hawkeyes have recognized teams from the past with throwback uniforms. The 1958 Big Ten championship team and the 1939 Ironmen were previously honored in similar fashion.
* Ferentz was pleased with the 150 rushing yards gained by Damon Bullock, but said Iowa will work to put the ball in the hands of freshmen Greg Garmon and Mike Malloy.
“We need to get other backs involved,” Ferentz said.
* It is likely that Iowa will continue to use John Wienke in short-yardage punting situations and allow freshman Connor Kornbrath to have opportunities with more yards to work with. Ferentz believes that is allowing Kornbrath to ease his way into the college game.
* Ferentz offered condolences to the family of former Hawkeye halfback Eddie Vincent, who died Friday in Inglewood, Calif., at the age of 78.
* Saturday’s game is sold out. It will be televised by the Big Ten Network, which has included former Hawkeye Chuck Long in its crew of announcers for the game.