IOWA CITY, Ia. – This isn’t how Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg had it planned. He wanted Friday’s 11 a.m. Hawkeye-Nebraska game, his final at Kinnick Stadium, to have some postseason significance, too.
It’s not happening – unless you’re among the thousands of 17th-ranked Cornhusker fans expected to be part of the 70,585 people watching a game that could go a long ways toward a Big Red Rose Bowl invasion.
Nebraska (9-2) needs either to beat a 4-7 Iowa team trying to avoid its longest season losing streak since 1999, or a Michigan loss on Saturday at Ohio State, to reach the Dec. 1 Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin.
Win that, and it’s on to Pasadena.
“Certainly things haven’t gone the way you draw them up, but you keep moving on,” said Vandenberg, one of 19 Iowa seniors playing for the final time at Kinnick. “We’ve done a lot of positive things, just not enough to win enough games.”
The Hawkeyes’ last five-game losing streak during a season was the first five games of 2000. Iowa’s last six-game one-season drought was part of an eight-gamer to close the 1999 season.
Regardless of the record, “I’m looking forward to playing in front of 70,000 great fans one more time,” Vandenberg said.
So is cornerback Micah Hyde.
“We were sitting in the locker room the other day – James’ locker is close to mine,” Hyde said of a conversation he had with Vandenberg. “I said, “wow, this is our last game week,” and it kind of hit home.”
Hits home for receiver Keenan Davis, too.
“I live with Keenan, and I kind of said something about it to him, and he said he didn’t want to talk about it,” Hyde said. “It was a touchy subject. Being the last game — it’s crazy.
“They always say it goes fast. It’s definitely gone real fast.”
It’s also gone fast for the Ferentz’s – senior center James and his father the coach.
“For the record, I’ll just throw this out here that we have two daughters, too, so (with) all of our kids — their mom and dad are very proud of them,” said Kirk Ferentz, who experienced son Brian’s Senior Day in 2005. “All five of them are great kids, and we’re very proud of that.
“James just happens to be a guy on our football team, so, yeah, I’ll be a dad. It’s a real special thing, and I’m sure every parent kind of feels that way.
“It’s a pretty neat thing to be down there on the floor. I’m down there a lot, but for the parents, it’s the first time they’re really on the ground level. To have their kids come out — it’s a really special moment.”
It’s special even if the stakes aren’t as high as previous years.
“Whether you’re going to a bowl game or not, there will always be a lot of pride involved,” Vandenberg said. “You want to go out and play your best, and that doesn’t change whether you are 12-0 or 0-12.
“The bottom line is that this program is bigger than all of us. We’re building for years to come. We’ve got to get ourselves on the right track again.”
WHO: Nebraska at Iowa
WHERE: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City
TIME/TV: 11 a.m., ABC
LINE: Nebraska by 15
HAWKEYE RANK KEYS TO WINNING / REPORT CARD
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football