By John J. Thompson
This Friday, the Hawkeyes travel to Lincoln to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the first playing of the Heroes Game. If Iowa can pull off the upset victory in Lincoln on Black Friday, and get a little help from the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Hawkeyes will finish in second place in the Big Ten Legends Division.
The road has not been kind to the Hawkeyes. Last Saturday, the Hawks won on the road for the first time in more than a year when Iowa defeated Purdue in a sloppy game that featured seven fumbles and some uninspiring special teams play. Iowa fans hope the win at Purdue gives the Hawkeyes new confidence for going on the road.
“Winning for the first time on the road this year is huge for us,” says Gabe Lancaster, a senior at Iowa. “Along with our win and Nebraska losing to Michigan, it gives us some momentum to go into Lincoln and beat the Huskers.”
After the win at Purdue, the Hawkeyes no longer face the pressure of being unable to win on the road. With that monkey off their backs, the Hawks can go into Nebraska and just play football. Last weekend, Nebraska was blown out at Michigan. If Iowa wins Friday and Michigan loses to the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday, the Hawkeyes will take second place in the Legends Division.
The win at Purdue was highlighted by strong offensive performances. James Vandenberg got his first win away from Kinnick Stadium in West Lafayette. Vandenberg was an effective 22 of 32 passing, with 273 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns were thrown to Marvin McNutt, who set Iowa’s new single season record holder for receiving touchdowns and receiving yard Saturday. These two records give McNutt four broken records for the season, having already broken the records for career touchdown receptions and career receiving yards. He is within striking distance of career and single season receptions.
Sophomore tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz also caught a touchdown pass Saturday and has started to play a larger role in the Hawkeyes offense. He has started the past two games, and scored in each game.
“Using the tight end is something Iowa has done a lot of in the past,” says Lancaster. “ It is encouraging to see them start using C.J. more often than they have been earlier in the season.”
Fiedorowicz came to Iowa as a consensus 4-star recruit, but had limited impact on the playing field for the Hawkeyes until the last few weeks. In the early part of the season, the redshirt sophomore was sharing time with senior Brad Herman, and redshirt junior Zach Derby. Now that Fiedorowicz has a hold on the starting tight end position, the Iowa should return to its previous success utilizing the tight end.
Getting the road win last weekend changes the landscape of the Hawkeyes future. If the Hawkeyes can get past Nebraska Friday, Iowa would have eight wins and could become an attractive choice for a Florida bowl game.