The Time Iowa Lent Nebraska a Football Coach
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

‘You’re Lying If You Don’t Feel It’: Husker Defense Anxious For Rivalry Game With Iowa

November 22, 2021

What can a win against Iowa do for Nebraska’s program? For Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander, a victory over the Hawkeyes wouldn’t just snap a six-game losing streak to Kirk Ferentz and his neighboring team to the east.

It would do much more than that.

“This football game, this is one that’s kind of ear-marked on the calendar all year just because this is the battle for the border right here, and we have to start winning some of these games before you can take the next step in the program’s rise, if you will,” Chinander said. “I think these games are big in recruiting, these games are big for the team and a win in this kind of game can set you up for where you want to go next year—it can set you up a little bit as we go off recruiting.”

Iowa’s offense versus Chinander’s defense will take a bigger role in Friday’s game in Lincoln following the news that Nebraska will be without four-year starting quarterback Adrian Martinez, who will miss the game after injuring a shoulder at Wisconsin. Backup quarterback Logan Smothers will make his first start of his Husker career, and it’ll come against a Hawkeye defense that leads the nation with 21 interceptions and is plus-12 in turnover margin, which is tied for third-best in the country.

Nebraska’s defense is coming off a game where Chinander blamed himself for not having his unit correctly prepared for the Badgers’ run game, which produced 252 rushing yards. Wisconsin’s star true freshman running back, Braelon Allen, had 228 yards and three scores while averaging 10.4 yards per carry in his team’s 35-28 win.

“I thought we attacked some run fits probably a little too fast, and that’s on me,” Chinander said. “I had those guys wired up to really go hit those run fits and try to make that thing really small. As everyone watched the football game, some of those runs got bounced around a little bit in the backfield and popped loose on us which is very unfortunate. But I think some of that is definitely on me and not on the kids.”

Iowa’s offense is not the strength of the team, however. The offense, which is coordinated by Ferentz’s son, Brian, has struggled this season and averages just 25.5 points per game, 10th in the Big Ten. It’s averaging a conference-worst 293.2 total yards per game and 3.12 yards per carry, which ranks 13th.

But it would be wise to throw the stats out the window for this game, though. The last three games between these two have been decided by one score, and two of the three have had a field goal be the difference.

There’s not going to be a question of getting up for this one, head coach Scott Frost said.

“I don’t think getting up is going to be the issue, getting prepared for a good team is going to be an issue,” Frost said. “The kids are excited to play. We’re not going to grind them this week and do a ton of hitting, we’re just going to get the best gameplan in we can and let it rip.”

Games against Iowa always have a little extra meaning for Chinander, a former Hawkeye himself. He played at Iowa as an offensive lineman from 1998-2002 and will have family and friends with different allegiances on Friday.

“Obviously for me growing up in that state, there’s a lot of people that I know who are going to be cheering for Iowa, which obviously adds a little fuel to the fire,” Chinander said. “There’s going to be a lot of people I know in that state who will be cheering for Nebraska, and I know that they’re wearing Blackshirts gear to the game and or to the bar, or wherever they’re watching the game, and they’re gonna take a lot of heat, and I know they’re doing that for me and the Huskers, so that means a lot. So I think this game is super important, not only about the rivalry, but also just the aftermath of what a win can mean for the program.”

This will be Ben Stille’s fifth game playing against Iowa. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound super-senior has racked up a total of 14 tackles and two sacks in those five games.

The preparation is kept the same, Stille said. The team prepares the same way for every opponent it plays. But once Friday comes, there’s a different feeling.

“On game day, there’s a little extra juice that goes into it for sure, you can feel it. You’re lying if you don’t feel it,” Stille said. “I think there’s a little, I guess, more hatred that goes toward each other on both sides of the ball. There’s just a little extra that goes into the game for sure.”

One player that will get his first taste of the rivalry is 6-6, 255-pound outside linebacker Blaise Gunnerson, who got his first real action against Wisconsin after starter Caleb Tannor went down with an injury. Gunnerson, a native of Carroll, Iowa, had two tackles against the Badgers.

“Yeah, certainly it does have a big meaning for me,” Gunnerson said. “Obviously growing up in Iowa, growing up and Iowa State fan always rivals with those guys. We have to prepare like it’s every other week. We have to have a great week this week and focus on getting the win on Friday.”

  • Never miss the latest news from Hail Varsity!

    Join our free email list by signing up below.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap