Duck hunting, hockey and more: Could Iowa football's bye-week reset unlock a late-season run?
IOWA CITY — As Iowa fans everywhere spent the Saturday off opining on the Hawkeyes' now-adjusted season trajectory, ranging from impending nose-dive to continued upward movement, Kyler Schott couldn't hear any of it. The right guard's bye week featured some serenity with his fellow burly blockers.
"Me, Cody Ince and Tyler Linderbaum did a little duck hunting over the weekend," said Schott, his gnarly beard and long hair nailing the outdoorsman persona to perfection. "We got one duck and three geese.
"It just gave us time to think about other things than just football, and realize we're still living a great life out here."
The No. 10 Hawkeyes (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten Conference) are too despite the recent turbulence. Fresh off a bye week that both lengthened and aided the fallout from Week 7's dismal loss to Purdue, Iowa had extended chances to reflect, recover and remember what can still be ahead.
Saturday's 11 a.m. showdown at Wisconsin (4-3, 2-2) begins the Hawkeyes' self-dubbed "second half" — the five-game trudge into the Big Ten West that'll either see Iowa emerge with an Indianapolis ticket or distant memories of a 6-0 start. All bye weeks are timely, but this one was particularly crucial for Iowa to nail given it's positioning for a reset.
"We have a 24-hour rule, but it’s tough to put that into action (entering a bye week)," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said this week. "Probably the best thing that happened to us was getting back on the field (last) Wednesday, having a chance to start moving forward, actually thinking about football again. That was great.
"Our team needed some time physically to get regrouped a little bit emotionally. Tough seven weeks certainly for all of us."
It took a minute, though, until the bye week's productive elements began. A sobering film session accentuated what Ferentz called the "sour feeling" after any monumental loss.
Some were done with the Purdue disaster once the tape concluded. As tight end Sam LaPorta put it, immediately getting to the film even with the bye-week buffer "does a great job clearing my head mentally." Naturally, though, others needed a bit more time to stomach this stumble before progressing to relaxation.
"It's a little longer (to move past a tough loss entering a bye week) because in a normal week, I'm watching film on the next opponent starting Sunday night. And then Monday, we're practicing. So there's no time to think about anything else," quarterback Spencer Petras said. "Our first practice last week was on Wednesday, so we had a good little break there.
"I think by Wednesday, we were all full speed ahead."
Just like addressing internal concerns dominated the practice field, self care was the main objective once the weekend hit. Petras played golf and went to the Iowa Heartlanders opener. LaPorta soaked in the madness of Illinois' nine-overtime win over Penn State "with his feet up."
Arland Bruce IV was home in suburban Kansas City wolfing down some home cooking (his mother, Linda, owns a Vietnamese restaurant in town). Schott also ventured back to his old stomping grounds before hitting the woods, taking in North Linn's first-round playoff game as a distinguished alum.
There's never a complete escape, not in the Big Ten with the kind of season Iowa can still deliver. There's also never been a team to report a bad bye week, either.
"There was a salty taste in our mouths that we had to get away from," LaPorta said. "Coming off the loss, (you've got) two weeks instead of one week, where you feel like you might could bounce back quicker. But definitely kicking your feet up on the couch is nice."
When peeking at recent history, there isn't much to glean from Iowa's recent results coming into and out of an open date. The Hawkeyes are 3-3 out of the bye week since 2015, when just about everything inside the program changed following a rough campaign the year prior. Additionally in that span, Iowa is 1-1 out of bye weeks when a loss preceded the open date and 2-2 out of bye weeks when a win preceded the open date. Interestingly, several Wisconsin matchups are weaved in among these results.
- 2019: Beat Iowa State entering bye, won vs. MTSU out of bye
- 2019: Beat Northwestern entering bye, lost at No. 13 Wisconsin out of bye
- 2018: Lost to No. 18 Wisconsin entering bye, won at Minnesota out of bye
- 2017: Beat Illinois entering bye, lost at Northwestern out of bye
- 2016: Lost to No. 10 Wisconsin entering bye, lost at No. 12 Penn State out of bye
- 2015: Beat No. 20 Northwestern entering bye, won vs. Maryland out of bye
If the current Ferentz squad wants to favorably join this list, how the last week was handled will carry much weight in determining as much. But if Saturday and the rest of the season unfold Iowa's way, point back to this reset as just what the Hawkeyes needed.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.