IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz had just walked off the practice field Oct. 28 when Jerry Kill’s emotional news conference was starting. Kill had resigned earlier in the morning for health reasons.
“It was heart-wrenching for anyone involved,” said Ferentz, whose team faces Minnesota Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium. “Anyone who is a human would have been moved by that. Jerry Kill, to me, is a football coach. That’s what he was born to do. That’s what made that announcement so hard to watch.”
The Golden Gophers have played well in two losses since Kill resigned and associate head coach and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys took over. Minnesota, 4-5 overall and 1-4 in conference play, lost at home to Michigan, 29-26, and at Ohio State, 28-14.
“It starts with playing tough, competitive football,” Ferentz said. “They’ve certainly done it the last two weeks. Everyone in college football was saddened with the news that (Kill) had to deliver. But I’ve got to imagine he’s extremely proud of the way his team has competed. They’ve played two very good teams right down to the wire.”
Canzeri good to go
Jordan Canzeri, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the first quarter of a 40-10 victory at Northwestern Oct. 17, has returned to practice and will play against the Gophers.
Canzeri, who has rushed for a team-high 698 yards this season, might be coming back at a perfect time. Akrum Wadley sprained his left ankle in the second half at Indiana. Ferentz said he won’t know until Friday or Saturday if Wadley can play against Minnesota.
“Right now I’m feeling good,” said Wadley ,who didn’t practice Tuesday. “Hopefully I’ll practice (Wednesday). We’re just doing it day by day, getting treatment. I should be back. I expect to play.”
In Canzeri’s absence, Wadley has rushed for 391 yards on 57 carries with six touchdowns. Wadley said that Canzeri looks good in practice.
“He’s looking like the old Jordan,” Wadley said.
Ferentz also said that right offensive tackle Ike Boettger, out since the Oct. 10 Illinois game with a high ankle sprain of his own, is close to returning to the lineup.
“We’ll know more after (Wednesday),” Ferentz said. “We’ll see what it looks like. But he’s getting in a position where he can help us out as well.”
Canzeri has been working hard to come back after injuring his ankle Oct. 17.
Smith back, too
Tevaun Smith, a key piece of Iowa’s receiving corps, will be able to play Saturday. Smith injured his back on a second-quarter helmet-to-helmet hit by Indiana’s T.J. Simmons. Simmons was ejected from the game.
“He was sore on Sunday,” Ferentz said. “He’s improved each day. When you play football, you’re going to have some tough Sundays.”
Smith, who missed the first two Big Ten games with a knee injury, has 18 catches for 325 yards and two touchdowns this season.
Iowa will be trying to win its third trophy game of the season Saturday with Floyd of Rosedale on the line. Iowa has already won back the Cy-Hawk Trophy with a 31-17 victory at Iowa State and the Heartland Trophy with a 10-6 victory at Wisconsin.
Ferentz got his indoctrination into trophy games in 1981, his first season on Hayden Fry’s staff at Iowa.
“With all due respect, I thought it was kind of silly to play for trophies and all that stuff,” Ferentz said. “I got an education in 1981.”
Minnesota upset Iowa 12-10 at Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 24, 1981. Ferentz can still remember the Gopher players running across the field to claim Floyd.
“It’s at that moment that I realized what it is all about,” Ferentz said. “Whether it’s a pig or rooster, it doesn’t really matter.”
Iowa will also play for the Heroes Game trophy when it finishes the regular season at Nebraska Nov. 27. The Hawkeyes lost all four trophy games last season.
Akrum Wadley, Cole Croston, Jordan Walsh and Nate Meier weigh in.
West making noise
Teams from the Big Ten’s West Division went 4-1 against their East Division opponents last week. The West, regarded to be the weaker of the two divisions, is now 6-5 against the East this season.
“You’re paying a lot closer attention to it than I am,” Ferentz said. “We’re just trying to win the games on our schedule.”
Six Big Ten teams are ranked in the Associated Press poll this week — No. 8 Iowa, No. 23 Wisconsin and No. 24 Northwestern from the West, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 14 Michigan State and No. 15 Michigan from the East.
“I don’t make a lot out of it,” Ferentz said of the perceived strength of the two divisions. “There are a lot of good football teams on both sides of the line.”