Hawkeyes are battle hardened upon entering the Heroes Game

Jack Campbell is a man who believes in the process. A program is not created in a day. Victories will come when they are earned.

That starts with the purchase in the long-term plan. Culture can carry programs through tough times, but it can also ignite a fire internally that those fully invested knew was there all along.

“If you commit to consistently doing just the little things, it will add up. You might not see it on day 1. You might not see it on day 43,” Campbell said. “But you might see it on day 122. And that’s where I feel like that breakthrough happened.”

As Iowa tries to keep its 4-game winning streak alive against Nebraska on Friday, the fight in Iowa’s locker room has reached new heights. A 13-10 win over Minnesota has the Hawkeyes (7-4, 5-3 B1G) firmly in the driving seat for the B1G West title.

Win and they’re in. It’s that simple for a program that looked like DOA less than a month ago, walking out of Ohio Stadium with feathers plucked and no sense of direction.

No, Iowa is not perfect. Even during his 4-game surge, the Hawkeyes were prone to multiple errors in 4 quarters. In a week, the offensive line looks ready to lift the Joe Moore Award. The next? Six sacks that come with 11 pressure against Wisconsin.

Entering the Heroes Game is perhaps positive. Nebraska (3-8, 2-6 B1G) has had its fair share of mistakes and still can’t get it right. The Huskers fired Scott Frost after a 1-2 start and have gone 2-6 since then. A quarterback change did little to improve offensive production. The firing of defensive coordinator Erik Chinander hasn’t stopped teams from averaging 28.5 points per game.

Iowa fans should breathe a sigh of relief on Friday. The reason? This version of the Hawkeye is battle-hardened. A win over Nebraska should be second nature.

Defense wins championships

Both sides of Huskers football need an overhaul in the off-season. Here’s a look at Nebraska’s offensive numbers in 11 games:

  • Total offense: 345.5 yards per game (101st national)
  • Scoring offense: 22.5 points per game (103rd national)
  • Rushing offense: 129.9 yards per game (95th national)
  • Passing offense: 215.6 yards per game (88th national)

Iowa is under nearly 100 yards per game offensively, but its defense levels the playing field. Take Saturday vs. Minnesota for example. The Golden Gophers surpassed the Hawkeyes 399-280. They had more 1st downs overall (17-13), finished with more yards per run (6.2 to 2.8), and nearly doubled their 3rd downs.

The difference? sales.

Deontae Craig’s fumbled recovery deep in Iowa territory halted a goal drive for Minnesota. Campbell’s interception two minutes from time set up Drew Stevens’ game-winning field goal.

That’s how Iowa wins. It’s your best chance of getting the “W” every week. Even though the Hawkeyes have outplayed their opponents 94-36 during their winning streak, how do you think the totals are so low?

Iowa ranks 18th nationwide for revenue margin at +0.64 per game. Nebraska? It enters Friday at number 109 at -0.55.

A hot phase at the right moment

Winning streaks help regardless of timing. Better for Iowa to be hot late than mild early when there is little left in the tank.

Four games into what could only be described as a stomach-crunching game against No. 2 Ohio State, there’s a new Iowa roster staring fans in the face Saturday. It’s a squad that hasn’t allowed more than 13 points in one outing. It’s a program that averages 23.5 points per game against conference opponents.

Spencer Petras found his stride (or whatever you would call his recent success) with pass catchers Sam LaPorta and Nico Ragaini. His closing and passerby ratings have increased while his sales have declined. As of Week 9, he has completed 62.5% of his passes for 3 touchdowns against zero picks.

Is Petra’s Tom Brady 2.0? No, but he gets on the clutch at the right time. Without his 33-yard pass to Luke Lachey, will Iowa win after Campbell’s selection? Besides pride, does Iowa have anything else to offer for Friday’s participation?

Offensive production has improved. Defensive production hasn’t slowed down. And the result? A win away from returning to Indy Back-to-Back Years for the first time in program history.

At the start of the season, a team’s personality might outweigh their talent. Iowa plays hot soccer. Bet against it and you might get burned.

History on the Iowa side

Winning is one thing. Winning consistently is another. So far, Iowa has both over Nebraska.

The Huskers haven’t defeated Iowa since 2014, when Bo Pelini breathed life into the program. Two coaches have been fired and freshmen in high school are about to graduate from college since the Huskers won.

It’s so much more than that. Iowa owned the show. The closest win – a 27:24 win at Kinnick Stadium in 2019 – only came about because the defense lost a 24:3 lead at half-time. The Hawkeyes have at least 26 points in all 7 games.

Mike Riley and Frost were never able to come up with an efficient enough game plan to bone the Hawkeyes’ offensive production. Even in the 37-34 loss in 2014, Nebraska needed 17 points in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime. Without Kenny Bell’s 9-yard touchdown in OT, the losing streak lasted for a decade.

Since 2015, Iowa has surpassed the Huskers 236-137. Even when the offense looked anemic – from game calls to execution to consistency – the Huskers either had to play from behind or looked miserable in 4 quarters.

And that with a permanent head coach who stood on the sidelines. What is Iowa’s excuse for Friday?

elasticity

Remember Campbell’s comments about buying into culture? This is no more true than Saturday on the street at Huntington Bank Stadium outside of Minneapolis.

Down 3 points and under 200 yards of offense, Iowa could have stopped. A 7-5 season after the turmoil that plagued the offense earlier in the year might not look bad on paper. And everyone gets a sabbatical every now and then, right?

nope Not this Iowa program.

Resiliency carried the Hawkeyes through their four-game streak. The players have bought into the sermons of the Ferentz book and continue with the momentum until the final whistle every Saturday.

Culture? Grit? Dedication? All of the above?

Nebraska might give up a fight. It does this every year with the intention of finally saying to every losing streak, “This is our year”. But after a 12-point implosion in the 4th quarter against Wisconsin that resulted in a 15-14 loss, that felt like the writing on the wall for 2022.

With 6 minutes remaining against the Gophers, Iowa responded. A fumble here, an interception there, and a throw later, the Hawkeyes played to hold the lead rather than take it.

Resilience was the storyline for a program that took place mid-season 3-4. The same program is one win away from returning to Lucas Oil Stadium.

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