IOWA CITY — Iowa football players did their own thing last weekend.
Kyler Schott went home to Coggon, stayed off of hay bales and enjoyed duck hunting with a couple of teammates.
Tyler Goodson enjoyed some family time.
Arland Bruce IV took in some of his mother’s home cooking in suburban Kansas City, a reminder of why the Vietnamese restaurant her family has operated for years has been so successful.
And Sam LaPorta broke out the remote and spent a Saturday watching college football instead of playing it.
"Imagine that, couldn’t get away from the game," LaPorta said Tuesday.
In the middle of the 12-week grind of the season, it was a welcomed opportunity to reflect and recharge before returning to the practice field Sunday with fresh legs, fresh minds and a readiness to return to work.
"I didn’t realize how much time we actually would have to ourselves," said Bruce, a freshman receiver who has quickly worked his way into the Iowa receiving corps' rotation.
"It was a good break. It’s a long season and I think everybody came back ready to go back to work."
The ninth-ranked Hawkeyes spent a couple of days on the practice field last week, pushing forward from a loss to Purdue on Oct. 16 that is the only blemish on Iowa’s 6-1 start to the season.
At his weekly news conference Tuesday, coach Kirk Ferentz called the week "productive" for his team from a physical and emotional standpoint before turning its attention to Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Wisconsin.
"We’ve got a pretty young group of guys and this was important for them to regroup," Ferentz said. "It was a good chance for everybody to step back, get their feet back underneath them. We’ve seen some growth and I’m optimistic that there’s more to follow."
As the Hawkeyes begin a five-week race to the finish line of the Big Ten West Division race, Ferentz said Iowa continues to work to improve.
That work begins up front, where offensive line development remains what the 23rd-year coach calls the Hawkeyes’ "biggest challenge."
He said the younger players in Iowa’s front-five rotation typically have a chance to improve more dramatically than veteran players.
"That’s the race we’re running and hopefully we can take a step forward this week. It won’t be easy because those guys are really good on defense," Ferentz said, pointing to a Wisconsin defense against the run that allows a Big Ten-low 53.3 yards per game.
"So, 200 yards is probably not realistic, but we have to run the ball to have a chance to win."
Ferentz expects every yard to matter against a Wisconsin team that he feels has "hit its stride" with wins in its last three games following a 1-3 start that included losses to Penn State, Notre Dame and Michigan.
As much as anything, the Hawkeyes want to get the most out of the first game of what they consider to be the second half of the season.
"First game of five straight, all in the division, it sets a tone," Schott said. "We need to come out ready to get after it."
Before Iowa kicked off the season with a win over Indiana, Ferentz broke the current season into two blocks separated by the bye week.
"Talked to our guys at the end of (preseason) camp, It’s a seven-week block. Let’s see what we can do with it," Ferentz said.
He likes what he’s seen, but said that is now in the past.
"All that matters is what we’re going to do here moving forward. I think guys understand that. It was a good time to break. Now, it’s like running a five-lap race as opposed to seven. Five is a whole lot easier, like a 400 I guess," Ferentz said.
"It’s basically run as hard as you can for the whole race. That’s where we’re at now, full speed ahead and we’ll see where we’re at when it’s all over."