LINCOLN, Neb. — A black and gold pendulum is starting to swing.
The Iowa football team completed an impressive reversal Friday, beating Nebraska 38-17 to punctuate an 8-4 regular season.
It was sweet redemption for players and coaches who endured a 4-8 debacle in 2012. It was also a moment that will alter people’s view of 2014.
Many of the Hawkeye faithful were hoping for bowl eligibility just a few months ago.
In the months to come, expectations will soar.
“We’ll worry about those problems later,” quarterback Jake Rudock said. “We don’t have to worry about that, yet.
“We’ve got plenty of time. We’ll get some guys healthy and ready to go for the bowl game.”
The Hawkeyes deserve a sunny holiday destination. But no matter where they end up, who they play, or what the final score is, it won’t slow the buildup to next season.
And why should it?
With eight returning starters on offense and several others who made a significant contribution this fall, moving the ball shouldn’t be a problem.
Defensively, Iowa will miss the senior linebacker trio of Christian Kirksey, James Morris and Anthony Hitchens.
The front four, however, remains stout.
Right end Dominic Alvis, who was hampered by injuries, is the only senior on a defensive line that manhandled the Huskers and allowed just a single 100-yard rusher in the last five games.
“We’re not thinking too much of the future,” running back Jordan Canzeri said. “It’s a loss with the great leadership from the seniors we have now, but everyone (left) behind, we all have the same mindset, same goal.”
The Hawkeyes also will benefit from the Big Ten Conference’s new divisional alignment.
Starting next season, Iowa will be in the West Division with Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin.
In almost any other year, the Cornhuskers would be a popular favorite. But they’re stuck until the fate of coach Bo Pelini is determined.
First-year coach Gary Andersen kept the Badgers among the Big Ten’s elite, but they lose 26 seniors.
That’s when Andersen’s impact really will be felt.
As far as the Hawkeyes are concerned, they seem to be emerging from a rebuilding period.
“It’s definitely been a long journey,” punter Connor Kornbrath said. “Last year, we didn’t dwell. In the offseason, we went back to work and I think all that is paying off.
“We’re really hitting a stride right now.”
History also may be in Iowa’s favor.
Kirk Ferentz’s coaching tenure has included some lulls, but he’s never been accused of being a one-year wonder.
When Ferentz gets the Hawkeyes heading in the right direction — as they were from 2002-04 and 2008-10 — there’s usually a two-year carry over.
“We definitely feel like we’ve accomplished great things,” Canzeri said. “And we’re definitely not finished.”
Friday felt more like a beginning.
A nationally televised victory on ABC put Iowa back in the spotlight, and we have reasons to believe it’ll be more than a blip.
“You play to be on a stage,” Rudock said. “It’s pretty cool being in one of the few games that’s actually on a national network.”
Rudock and the Hawkeyes thrived in front of the cameras. When they kick off 2014, they’ll find themselves under a microscope.
Andrew Logue covers Hawkeye football and sports media for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMLogue.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football