Kirk Ferentz

“I think both teams enjoy the matchup. It’s a trophy game, I think one of the neater trophies in college football," Kirk Ferentz said.

CHICAGO — Scott Frost declined to stoke the Nebraska-Iowa rivalry Thursday. Kirk Ferentz followed suit Friday when asked about tensions between the fans.

The Iowa coach recalled a 10-7 win over the Huskers in 1981 — his first year as a Hawkeyes assistant — and the handful of games he saw against the Huskers before they were league mates. Then he reflected on the recent run of success that includes four straight victories against the Huskers.

“At least it’s at a point now where it’s a series,” Ferentz said. “I think both teams enjoy the matchup. It’s a trophy game, I think one of the neater trophies in college football.

“But it’s been a good, good series, and they’ve done a tremendous job in a short of amount of time and are going to be a really tough team.”

Iowa won 31-28 last fall on a last-second field goal in the Iowa City rain. The teams play at Memorial Stadium at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 29.

“I think common sense would say they’re headed for a lot of success down the road,” Ferentz said.

Frost, who lived in Iowa for two years as a Northern Iowa assistant in the late 2000s, called the Hawkeyes “one of the key games on our schedule every year.”

Said Frost: “At the end of the day, I hope it continues to be two really good teams that do things the right way and have some good competition.”

Working from the ground up

Iowa generally retains its reputation as a running team. But players and statistics indicate there is progress to be made.

The Hawkeyes haven’t finished better than 58th nationally or run for more than 4.48 yards per carry in the last decade. They were 95th in rushing yards per game (148.4) a season ago.

“We gotta improve,” junior back Toren Young said. “We look at last year as a whole and believe we can do better than that.”

Young (637 yards) and Mekhi Sargent (745) return as the team’s leading rushers. On a roster with six scholarship running backs, Young said, the backs are breaking down film differently, doing new drills and supporting each other better than last year, when the ground game evaporated more than once.

Quarterback Nate Stanley graded the rushing attack as “pretty high” behind a strong offensive line but said he could do a better job of reading defenses and checking into better-timed running plays.

Evan Bland covers Nebraska football, baseball and other sports for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @EvanBlandOWH.

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