Nebraska is going to face a familiar foe on Friday.
The Huskers have played the Hawkeyes on Black Friday every year since they joined the Big Ten, and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said this year’s squad looks like every other one they’ve faced.
“I think that the people of Nebraska will recognize this Iowa team that looks like all the other Iowa teams for a long time,” Diaco said. “Big offensive line, physical offensive line, a large group of tight ends and fullbacks, a couple of backs they can bring at you — a little different running style for each guy but 200 to 210 or 215-pounders — a quarterback that drives it, a pro-style guy that really fits nicely in their system … That’s the tale of the tape. Not a lot of plays, but the plays that they do they run well; they run really well.”
A few weeks ago, the Hawkeyes shocked the college football world with a 55-24 upset of the Buckeyes. They followed that up with a 38-14 loss at Wisconsin and a 24-15 loss against Purdue at home.
“That’s Big Ten football, that’s college football,” linebackers coach Trent Bray said. “You see them dominate Ohio State, and unfortunately they lost to Purdue last weekend. It’s whatever team shows up. They are physical, tough, they want to run the ball and they want to run it right down-hill at you.”
It may be Diaco’s first year at Nebraska, but he doesn’t need anyone to tell him what to expect from the Hawkeyes. He’s an Iowa alumnus. However, on Friday, Diaco said the only thing that will be on his mind will be getting a win for the seniors.
Bray said the team will look back at last year’s 40-10 loss in Iowa City to see if there’s anything they can glean, but they won’t be using that lop-sided result for motivation.
“It’s all about winning and going out there and sending the seniors out the right way,” Bray said. “All the work they’ve put in through the five years that they’ve been here, that’s what it’s about.”
Speaking of seniors, David Knevel is set to play after suffering an injury in the season-opener. True freshman Brendan Jaimes took over as the starting right tackle and has not relinquished the job since. However, now fully recovered, the Huskers plugged the 6-foot-9, 320-pound Canadian in at right guard.
“I was actually thinking about this a few weeks ago,” Knevel said. “I was wondering if I’d get the opportunity to play again this year. When I found out I could play last week, I was very excited and I wanted to play well enough to prove that I could play again the week after and show that I’m capable. I’m very excited that I’m able to go out there in my last game and play.”
After learning he would get a shot at guard, Knevel went looking for advice from his teammates.
“I sought out Jerry [Foster], Boe [Wilson], Matt [Farniok], Tanner [Farmer],” Knevel said. “Tanner sat down with me and watched film for a few days in a row, just gave me criticism and things I was doing well and things I wasn’t doing well. So anybody I could, I tried to soak up as much knowledge as I could quickly.”
Friday marks the end of a five-year journey for Knevel at Nebraska, something he said he has reflected on quite a bit.
“I sometimes go back and even look back a few months or a year, and just a little bit ago I looked back at my first play here,” Knevel said. “Of course, I was a little baby-faced — not little, but tall and lanky baby-faced kid. I’m really proud of my progress here.”
Knevel redshirted for a year and spent two years as a reserve before earning his way into the starting lineup, and he’s had to deal with multiple injuries that have kept him out or limited the last two years.
“I think I’ve learned how to handle adversity,” Knevel said. “They say football is like life. You’re going to get punched in the face a few times; you just have to keep on moving forward. What’s nice about being at a good program like this is you really don’t have a choice not to. Even if you’re having a tough day, you have those people around you that know you well and we all push together.”