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Hawkeyes determined to right the ship

[ 0 ] August 8, 2013 |

Every day for the past nine months, Iowa defensive end Dominic Alvis has thought about how the 2012 season unraveled.

He agonized over last season’s collapse, which saw Iowa lose its final six games to finish 4-8 overall, its worst season in more than a decade.

“Somehow it was incorporated in my life,” Alvis said Thursday at Iowa’s annual media day event. “I think the coaches did a great job of using that as motivation. But we kind of thought as individual players, ‘Man, we’re never going to do that again.’”

That was the theme of media day — whether it came from a player or a coach. They’re all determined to show that last season was a temporary derailment.

The younger players are eager to stake their claim, while Alvis and the other veteran players are determined to right the ship.

“Definitely, eagerness is the thing when you have that record looming over you the entire year,” said Alvis, who started all 12 games last season. “It’s just finally time to start something new, start something fresh.”

Last season was marked by change and by experimentation as Iowa broke in two new coordinators. The transition proved rockier than many expected.

The Iowa passing attack sputtered last fall under new coordinator Greg Davis and the defense eventually broke down under its new coordinator Phil Parker.

Iowa was a beaten, battered and humbled football team when the players left Kinnick Stadium after a 13-7 loss to Nebraska in the 2012 season finale.

“Just finishing with that bad taste in your mouth is enough motivation to want to make a change,” Alvis said.

The perception from outsiders also should serve as motivation. Iowa has been picked by many prognosticators to finish in fifth or six place in the six-team Big Ten Legends Division.

“We’re constantly reminded of the fact that we didn’t do our job last season, and if want to have a successful season this year, we’ve got to turn it around,” Alvis said. “We’re playing with a purpose. The end left such a bad taste in your mouth after last season.

“I know I’m speaking for everybody on the team; we don’t what that to happen ever again. So we’ve got to do something completely different. We’ve got to work 10 times harder so we can have a successful season this year.”

Kirk Ferentz is entering his 15th season as the Iowa head coach, which makes him the dean of Big Ten football coaches.

The 58-year-old hopes last season’s disappointments will provide an emotional edge. Ferentz knows his players are tired of losing. Now it’s just a matter of turning frustration and disappointment into a performance.

“It’s like losing a game on Saturday,” Ferentz said. “The next Saturday usually doesn’t come soon enough.”

Iowa will face Northern Illinois and star quarterback Jordan Lynch in the season opener Aug. 31 at Kinnick Stadium. Both teams have traveled in different directions since they met in last year’s season opener at Soldier Field in Chicago, a game in which Iowa prevailed 18-17 in the final seconds.

Northern Illinois went on to win its next 11 games before losing to Florida State in the Orange Bowl, while Iowa only won three more games the rest of the season.

“It’s a simple adage: It’s a lot more fun when things are going the way you want them to go,” said Ferentz, who led Iowa to Big Ten in titles in 2002 and 2004. “That’s what happened. And the only thing you can do is try to do something about it.”

Part of that effort saw Ferentz add three new assistant coaches since the end of last season, including Chris White, who works with the running backs and special teams.

White noticed right away that the players were determined to make up for last season.

“From the day I got here, through spring ball and through the summer, I mean these guys, I take my hat off to them,” White said. “They have done everything we’ve asked plus more. And they’re eager to come out here and practice and get better.

“I know they’re upset about last season. I think it’s behind them. And I think we have a really talented team. I really do. I think we’re going to have a nice year because the senior leadership to me is the most important thing, and we have some good seniors on this team. They’re teaching the younger kids what’s it like and I think everyone has bought in.”

Despite last season’s struggles, Iowa had a number of players who emerged on the field, including junior running back Mark Weisman. The 225-pound bruiser led the team with 815 rushing yards last season.

Weisman plays what could be a position of strength for Iowa, with fellow junior Damon Bullock also returning at running back after rushing for 513 yards last season. Combine Weisman and Bullock with promising sophomore Jordan Canzeri and the Hawkeyes appear stacked at running back, although that’s been the case before only to see the position get depleted during the course of a season.

The fact that Iowa is breaking in a new starting quarterback with no game experience might put more pressure on the running backs to perform, especially early in the season.

Weisman is eager to meet that challenge.

“We’re all committed to be working harder than we ever have in our lives,” said Weisman, who transferred to Iowa from the Air Force Academy before last season. “It’s camp time now and it’s time to put on the pads and we’ll see where it goes from here.

“It’s all about finishing games and being consistent. And this year we have to do that.”

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7370 or pharty@press-citizen.com.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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