IOWA CITY — Dominic Alvis remembers when he circled this date on the calendar.
It was about 2:15 p.m. last November 23rd as he walked off the turf at Kinnick Stadium with teammates on a frigid Friday after a 13-7 loss to Nebraska which ended a 4-8 season still raw in his mind.
“That game left us with another bitter taste, another missed opportunity, but one of the things we talked about that day was that it was time to move on,’’ the senior defensive end said. “Since that moment, all of our energies have been put into this season.’’
And today, the Hawkeyes finally get a chance to turn the page and leave 2012 behind.
“I think we’re all ready to get on the field and see what this team and this season are all going to be about,’’ running back Damon Bullock said. “We’ve worked since the end of last season to get ready and it’s finally here.’’
Northern lllinois and a quarterback who is in the preseason Heisman conversation, Jordan Lynch, provide Iowa with its first test of a new year that kicks off at 2:30 p.m. today at Kinnick Stadium.
As much as anything, the Hawkeyes believe the game will set a tone as Iowa looks to rebound from its first losing season in six years and just the second in the past 12 seasons under 15th-year coach Kirk Ferentz.
Time has taught Ferentz not to put today’s opener in the must-win category, but he doesn’t discount the importance of what will transpire in Jake Rudock’s debut as the Hawkeyes’ starting quarterback.
“To portray this as the Normandy Invasion, it’s not quite to that level of importance, but it’s an important game,’’ Ferentz said. “In college football, you’ve only got 12 shots and you’d better be ready every chance you have to go to bat.’’
Iowa hasn’t won since Greg Castillo intercepted a tipped pass to spoil Michigan State’s homecoming 19-16 in double overtime last season. The Hawkeyes enter 2013 on a six-game slide, which is their longest since a 13-game streak that started in 1999 and spilled five games into the 2000 season.
“It’s been too long since we won a game,’’ linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “We’re definitely ready to. It’s been a difficult offseason. We’ve worked harder than we’ve ever worked to get this turned around, and I think we’re ready to show that we are doing that.’’
Iowa has won its past 12 season openers under Ferentz, dating to a 27-7 loss to Kansas State in the 2000 Eddie Robinson Classic at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
That includes an 18-17 win over the Huskies last season at Soldier Field in Chicago, when Iowa’s Mike Meyer kicked four field goals and needed a 23-yard touchdown run around left tackle from Damon Bullock with 2 minutes, 15 seconds remaining to secure the win.
“We know this won’t be an easy game. They’re a tough, physical team and it will be a challenge for us,’’ running back Mark Weisman said.
As for Rudock, he maintains the businesslike approach he was known for while passing for more than 5,000 yards as a prep quarterback at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“It’s going to be like it’s always been on the sidelines,’’ Rudock said. “The fans are going to be crazy, we’re going to love it and it will be fun.’’
It will also set a tone.
“It’s an important opener for us,’’ Alvis said, “as important of one as I’ve been a part of here.’’