LINCOLN — No fuss and no fancy from Nebraska football during Iowa week. No seniors, either.
Even as many Huskers will be playing their final home game Friday against the Hawkeyes, none will be sharing thoughts about it before the game, as just four players — three juniors and sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez — discussed the Iowa game with reporters.
“Honestly, it’s a short week and it’s a big game for us, so I just want our guys as much as possible,” coach Scott Frost said of designating four players to chat. “It’s really no bigger than that.”
Frost otherwise glossed over the high stakes of Friday’s game against the Hawkeyes and insisted on focusing on the game itself.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for their program,” Frost said of the Hawkeyes. “They’re consistent. They’re solid. They’re tough. They’re physical.”
The stakes he ignored? The Huskers’ potential bowl game eligibility and ending a four-year losing streak against Iowa.
“Rivalries are usually for fans,” Frost said of Iowa. “We need to focus on accomplishing the mission.”
The players spoke with newfound confidence and presence after their 54-7 win over Maryland. Talk of needing to work harder turned into celebratory mentions of getting better and improving their craft.
True to the team’s 24-hour rule, tight end Jack Stoll said that the win is in the past and now the team is focused on this week’s game against the Hawkeyes. Still, the Huskers’ win at Maryland may help them Friday.
“Everyone was as focused as I’ve ever seen,” Stoll said of the team yesterday. “They’re locked in to learning the game plans.”
This week also serves as the last chance for senior Huskers to play in Memorial Stadium. Frost said he was appreciative of all the class’s efforts over the years.
“These seniors have been through a lot now. They were recruited by one staff, played for another staff, played for a whole other staff,” Frost said. Three players, on message, said the players had been through a lot, as well.
“I think it’s pretty obvious, they’ve been through a few coaching changes, a lot of different position coaches,” Stoll said. “A lot of guys have stuck through, grinded through. We’ve got a lot of respect for these guys. At the end of the day, we’ve got to go make sure we do everything we can, lay it all out on the field for them.”
If the Huskers lose Friday, it will be their last game of the season.
Despite the pressure, Martinez echoed Frost, saying: “We’re really just focused on this week. We want to do our best each day here and prepare appropriately for Iowa.”
Respect for Iowa’s passing game
Nate Stanley has thrown for more than 7,000 yards and 66 touchdowns in his career at Iowa.
“He’s a great quarterback — not good — he’s a great quarterback,” corner Dicaprio Bootle said.
Stanley threw 27 passes against Nebraska last year, completing 16 for two touchdowns and 152 yards.
In 2017, he completed 13 of 20 passes for 192 yards and two scores.
“Strong arm, big guy, big in stature, has the arm strength to make all the throws,” Bootle said. “He can make the long throw to the field, he can make the quick throws to the boundary, make the deep throws downfield. Very accurate passer. He’s a great guy.”
Bootle also said he gained respect for Iowa’s receivers last season. Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Nico Ragaini both have 41 receptions this season to lead the Hawkeyes.
“As DBs, we respect all those guys.”
McCaffrey still a quarterback
Frost wants to make it clear. Luke McCaffrey is a quarterback.
“And he’s going to be a quarterback going forward,” he said.
The true freshman spent time at wide receiver on Saturday thanks to NU’s lack of depth there.
McCaffrey came to Nebraska specifically to play quarterback, but his willingness to play receiver is a testament to who he is as a competitor, Frost said.
“It’s a credit to him and Mario (Verduzco) and his room that he could have not practiced much and go out and play five different positions for us,” Frost said.
» Senior receiver Kanawai Noa is out for the season after getting surgery on his meniscus. Freshman running back/receiver Wan’Dale Robinson is questionable for the Iowa game, as Frost declined to comment on the status of a player who missed the Wisconsin and Maryland games.
» With the Nebraska state high school football championships in town, more reporters and photographers than usual flooded into the NU press box. One of them didn’t turn off their phone — which made a cricket noise — during Martinez’s press conference.
“I kind of lost my train of thought,” Martinez said at the first cricket noises.
“Someone’s just gotta silence their phone over there,” Martinez said the second time as he was being asked about freshman running back Rahmir Johnson.
Johnson will be an emergency-only back against Iowa. He’s already played in four games, so any more snaps in a game will result in him losing his redshirt.
» NU already had a walk-through practice on Sunday night, followed by Monday practice.
» Miller mentioned he doesn’t think Iowa respects Nebraska and thinks it can win in Memorial Stadium “with ease.” The Hawkeyes have won their last three games at Iowa, including 38-17 in 2013, 28-20 in 2015 and 56-14 in 2017.
“Years and years we haven’t like them, they haven’t liked us too much,” Miller said. “We haven’t won in a couple years, so we want to bring that back and show everybody we have Nebraska’s back against Iowa and we’re here to say. It sucks those guys not respecting us. They come into Lincoln and think they can win this with ease, that it’s not even a rivalry. It definitely hurts.”