Mike Riley and Kirk Ferentz discussed a short week, the Nebraska-Iowa series and some of their key players Tuesday during the Big Ten coaches teleconference.
A wrapup of their segments from the weekly call:
>> Riley said the potential of a Husker-Hawkeye rivalry feels “natural” to him. This Friday’s game will be the sixth meeting since NU joined the Big Ten.
“I’m new here, so I just kind of jumped in as it’s kind of beginning to grow,” he said. “I think it’s perfect, with these two states, the proximity, and the fact that we appear to be going to be battling year-to-year in this division in a very competitive way. It seems really, really natural to me, having only been here a short time.”
>> Although Wisconsin and Nebraska currently share the Big Ten West lead at 6-2, Iowa and Minnesota are at 5-3 and Northwestern is 4-4 heading into the final weekend.
“I’ve really thought, for us, every game has been tough, and so I appreciate how competitive it is,” Riley said when asked about the West Division. “And I see a lot of teams rising and getting better and growing, and so it’s going to be, I think, more and more competitive as we go forward.”
>> Updating the Nebraska quarterback situation: Tommy Armstrong (hamstring) was able to take some practice snaps Monday, but Riley said, “I would not say it was full speed for him, but it was encouraging.” Ryker Fyfe (wrist) was “a little too sore” to practice, but Riley anticipates the senior backup doing some work Tuesday.
“It was pretty overall encouraging that way with both kids, even though Ryker didn’t get to take any turns,” Riley said.
>> Zack Darlington and Armstrong split practice time Monday. Darlington continues to be the Huskers’ third option at quarterback.
>> Riley said Fyfe suffered his left wrist injury in the fourth quarter against Maryland, landing on it awkwardly after scrambling toward the Husker sideline and throwing a ball away. Fyfe finished the game before X-rays afterward revealed the broken bone in the wrist.
“At the time, it was like, ‘Ryker’s wrist is bothering him, but he’s still able to play,’ that was the word that we got,” Riley said.
>> Nebraska can expect to see steady doses of both LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley on Friday as both Iowa tailbacks have rushed for more than 850 yards this season. It’s not exact how the Hawkeyes might use them.
“We really haven’t necessarily had a set plan going into a game, and just kind of do it by feel,” Ferentz said. “But the big thing is both of them are playing their best football.”
>> Ferentz is 2-3 against Nebraska since 2011, but also remembers his first game as an Iowa assistant coming against the Huskers in 1981 (a 10-7 upset win) as well as his first game as Hawkeyes head coach in 1999 (a 42-7 loss).
“I think they were ranked like second or third (in ’99), and we were about 123rd, so that wasn’t such a good matchup,” Ferentz said. “But the last couple years have been really good football games, they’ve gone back and forth, and really hard fought.”
>> Iowa is getting work out of former Omaha South tight end Noah Fant as a true freshman, with Fant catching eight passes for 60 yards and a touchdown in eight games so far.
“From the way he started out in camp, I mean, it’s a world of difference,” Ferentz said. “Like most young guys his head was swimming, but he’s really done a nice job on a daily basis. I think he’s helped us win a couple games, and the fact that he’s in there playing right now is a real compliment to him. And he’s really a great young guy to work with.”