After a 54-7 blowout win against Maryland, the Huskers now sit at 5-6 and need a win on Saturday against rival Iowa to make a bowl game. The added incentive of a potential bowl game hanging in the balance doesn’t mean Nebraska will be treating this game any differently.
“We want to approach every game the same,” head coach Scott Frost said. “Obviously, I think anytime you’re at the end of the season, there’s always going to be big games and a little more riding on it. I don’t want our team to put any more emphasis on any one game than the other.”
Bowl berth aside, this is also a rivalry game that has been one-sided as of late, with the Hawkeyes winning each of the last four games. Nebraska junior inside linebacker Collin Miller said that streak adds a little more juice to this game.
“That’s on our minds. It sucks, those guys not respecting us, they come into Lincoln thinking they can win this with ease, that this isn’t a real rivalry, that hurts,” Miller said. “But we use that as momentum and the guys are really focused and dialed in that this is a big week, we really want to show everybody that we are here.”
Other players were not as quick to talk about the rivalry as the rest gave generic answers, saying they respected Iowa and were looking forward to the game.
Iowa certainly deserves a lot of respect, particularly its defense, which has yet to allow more than 24 points all season. The unit is led by star junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa, who may be the best pass rusher the Huskers have seen not named Chase Young.
“He just looks like a Sunday guy when you look at him on tape,” Frost said. “...Obviously really good in pass rush, [and] really good in the run game, too. We know we have to account for him.”
If a bowl berth and a rivalry game weren’t enough, it is also senior night for a group of seniors that have been through a lot in their time at Nebraska. Just because they weren’t the most successful class doesn’t mean they will be seen any differently by their head coach.
“They’ve done a lot of the work that we needed to put in to get Nebraska football back where it should be,” Frost said. “I’m grateful to them for it. We’ll welcome them with open arms anytime they want to come back and be around.”
Nebraska is also dealing with a lot of injuries and illnesses. Frost ruled out senior wide receiver Kanawai Noa for the rest of the season as he required surgery on his meniscus. The head coach would not give an update on freshman star playmaker Wan’Dale Robinson’s status for Friday’s game.
There were also questions about the kicking situation as sophomore Barret Pickering did not travel with the team to Maryland. This left kicking duties to sophomore walk-on Matt Waldoch and he impressed, hitting all of his extra point attempts and making a trio of 29-yard field goals. Frost was satisfied with Waldoch’s approach and wants him back on the team next season.
“He got an opportunity and he made the most of it,” Frost said. “He was lights out in every opportunity that he got and just that confidence that he shows gives me a lot of confidence in him.”
Nebraska faces Iowa on Friday, Nov. 29 at 1:30 p.m., with television coverage provided by BTN.