By Tommy Rezac
The same question always seems to come up on Thanksgiving week in Lincoln.
Is Iowa Nebraska’s rival?
“I wouldn’t say it’s anymore important than any other ones,” Langsdorf said. “A conference opponent, but I think with the vicinity of where they are, I think it’s natural. They’ve been a tough, physical team against us. At the same time, it shouldn’t be any different than any other game, especially a conference opponent. They’re all tough opponents and they’re all good teams.”
“It’s kind of a special day, being one of the only games on (TV) right after Thanksgiving. It’s a good tradition starting to build with them for sure.”
Iowa was certainly physical against the Huskers in 2016, pounding them at Kinnick Stadium 40-10. Nebraska managed only 217 yards of total offense against the Hawkeyes last year with numerous injuries at different positions.
Iowa has won three of the past four meetings with Nebraska, but the Huskers still lead the all-time series 29-15-3. Nebraska hasn’t beat Iowa in Lincoln since 2011.
Statistically, Iowa’s defense hasn’t been potent, but still overall physical. Leading the way on the Hawkeyes’ defense is second-team All Big Ten linebacker Josey Jewell. He ranks third in the country and 1st in the Big Ten with 117 total tackles.
“He has got great instincts,” Langsdorf said. “He’s all around the ball all the time. He avoids blocks very well. He just seems to be around the ball all the time, so he’ll be a guy we’ll have to cover up.”
Iowa has given up only 20.5 points per game this season, which ranks 26th in the country. They’ve also scored five defensive touchdowns, which is fifth most in the nation.
Pass defense might be what they do best. The Hawkeyes are ball hawks, ranking sixth nationally with 16 interceptions. So. CB Josh Jackson leads the country with seven picks, 24 passes defended, and ranks third with 17 pass break ups.
“They’ve just been a team that you know they get dirty,” Langsdorf said. “They play hard. So, it’s a game we have to be ready to go. They’ll hit you in the mouth on that first play of the game, and if you’re not ready for it, it can send you back a little bit.”
The Sr. Knevel played his first career game at right guard on Saturday against Penn State. He’d missed four games this year, mainly due to an ankle injury, but he came through the game and played decently well.
Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said his performance graded out around a C+.
“I thought he jumped in there and did alright,” Cavanaugh said.
Langsdorf was also impressed with Knevel’s first try on the interior part of the offensive line.
“I thought he was okay,” Langsdorf said. “He had some good plays. He had a false start penalty, which we have to make sure we are holding our water and not getting too jumpy in there, but I thought he’s got some athleticism in there at guard. I think that’s helped us. I think he moves well. I thought he did a nice job of passing some of the stunts off.”
Penalties continue to be a nagging problem for the Huskers in 2017. They had nine of them for 89 yards against Penn State. Nebraska ranks 104th nationally with an average of 53.45 penalty yards per game.
Tyler Hoppes, Jack Stoll
Hoppes is one of 22 seniors who will be playing his final game at Memorial Stadium on Friday, and he has the chance to end his career with the most receptions for a tight end in a single season.
Hoppes currently has 30 catches for 340 yards and three touchdowns. He needs just three more grabs to break the single-season receptions record for tight ends held by Mike McNeil (2008).
“We’ve targeted him more,” Langsdorf said. “I think he’s responded. He’s made some nice plays. I thought he had a really good game against Purdue. I thought he played well last week. I think the production is better and better from that tight end spot.”
Hoppes caught five passes for a career-high 105 yards and a touchdown against Purdue. He had six receptions for 43 yards against the Nittany Lions.
Langsdorf also commended RFr. TE Jack Stoll for his recent production.
“He’s got really good hands,” Langsdorf said. “I think he’s faster than you think. I think he’s really improved his route running, and he’s made some really nice catches.”
Langsdorf mentioned that when they recruited Stoll, he was more of a “bruiser” or blocking tight end, which is still considered to be his strength.
Head coach Mike Riley said at his Monday press conference that Stoll “is going to be a player.”
The Lone Tree, CO native made his second touchdown catch of the season and of his career on the final play of the Penn State game. He has seven catches for 77 yards on the season.
>> Stanley Morgan is 88 yards away from becoming the first Nebraska wide receiver with 1,000 receiving yards in a single season. Wide receivers coach Keith Williams says the record “should have already been broken” and that he’s left some yards on the field with a number of dropped passes.
>> Williams said the best part about coaching Morgan is his work ethic.
“He leaves it out on the field every day,” Williams said. “He has no ego. He’s what you want in a football player.”
>> Williams also said “he would think” Sr. WR De’Mornay Pierson-El would “get a shot” at playing in the NFL.
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You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.