How the coaches know Iowa's locked in for the Rose Bowl

Chad Leistikow
Iowa outside linebacker Cole Fisher, left, celebrates with lineman Nathan Bazata after making a big defensive stop against Nebraska at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015.

LOS ANGELES – Don’t expect a big-stage flop from the Iowa football team on Friday.

Every indicator says these sixth-ranked Hawkeyes (12-1) are locked in, ready to go for the 4 p.m. Rose Bowl Game against No. 5 Stanford (11-2).

“Usually when you go through preparation, you have a little bit of a letdown in practice,” longtime Iowa assistant Reese Morgan said. “We have not had that. We haven’t had really bad practices this whole season.”

Following Morgan’s third season at Iowa and head coach Kirk Ferentz’s fourth, 2002, the Hawkeyes were simply “off” in their Orange Bowl date against Southern California, and the 47-day layoff between games showed with a 38-17 loss in Miami.

“We didn't handle that trip very well as a program,” Ferentz said.  “When we went back (to the Orange Bowl) in '09, I think our approach was much, much better (in a 24-14 win over Georgia Tech).

“So as coaches and as a program I think you learn through the years, you learn through your experiences and it's just part of the deal. So hopefully we'll be prepared.”

While long-timers like Morgan and Ferentz have been in big bowl games before at Iowa, third-year receivers coach Bobby Kennedy has been to the Rose Bowl twice with Texas. Kennedy looks for an indicator that his guys are playing fast in practice, because when that happens, “it kind of shows you they understand the game plan.”

The defining moments for the Hawkeyes, in their words

This is Brian Ferentz’s first big bowl game as a college coach, but the Hawkeyes’ offensive line coach and run-game coordinator is no stranger to the big stage. He was an assistant for the New England Patriots for their 2009 Super Bowl appearance.

What the son of Kirk Ferentz looks for is crispness in practice during bowl prep, because for a meticulous, detail-oriented program like Iowa’s, the change in routine can be a shock to the system.

There’s Disneyland, a prime-rib-eating event in Beverly Hills, days of media obligations, all at different times of the day -- on top of practice, sleep, meals and trying to enjoy some down time in downtown Los Angeles.

“That’s probably the biggest concern you have right now,” Brian Ferentz said. “Our routine is set. It does not change. For 14 weeks, it does not change. As soon as you get to bowl prep, immediately you can blow that routine up.

“What you count on is the players at this point in the year, hopefully they think properly and they train right.”

Iowa’s coaches seem confident these players are ready. Talking to the players for now 14 game weeks -- a record total for Iowa -- they continue to be sending all the right signals. By the time Friday’s game hits, it’ll have been 27 days since the Dec. 5 Big Ten Conference championship loss to Michigan State.

“It's getting to the point where we're just ready to go out there and play the game,” junior quarterback C.J. Beathard said.

Are the Hawkeyes really ready to face the seven-point favorite Cardinal? As curfews are shortened and with media obligations done for the week, it sure sounds like they are.

Said senior linebacker Cole Fisher: “Everyone’s about as focused as they could be, honestly.”