IOWA CITY, Iowa — Following a feel-good Saturday and plenty of back-slapping congratulations that followed, the University of Iowa football team returned to work Tuesday.
“Big Ten play starts this week and I think we’ll all get a pretty good understanding of that in practice,’’ Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis said. “I know the tempo will pick up and the coaches will be on us a little more. That’s the way it works.’’
Iowa players understand that.
“The intensity will be different in every game from here on out, and I think we understand that,’’ linebacker James Morris said. “No disrespect to the opponents we’ve played already, but these are the games that we’ve been working toward since last winter and what we do Saturday starts on the practice field today.’’
The Hawkeyes put in their first day of preparation on the field for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game at Minnesota Tuesday afternoon, a workout that signified the start of a new week and the start of a new conference race.
Where Iowa fits into the puzzle in the Big Ten Legends Division, coach Kirk Ferentz said only time will tell.
“It’s week to week and that is something that I try to emphasize to our team every year in August,’’ Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “The way things look in August or July or June, everybody is prognosticating and guessing. You never know what it’s going to look like when you get to October and November.’’
What Ferentz does know is that the Hawkeyes will take a 3-1 nonconference record into league play and that the Golden Gophers will bring a 4-0 record into the battle for Floyd of Rosedale for the second straight year.
“It’s all week to week and Minnesota looks like they have a really good football team. That’s where we are at right now,’’ Ferentz said.
Kevonte Martin-Manley, whose record-setting punt returns led to Big Ten and national accolades for the junior, said the sooner the Hawkeyes understand how good the Golden Gophers are, the better.
After fielding four punts and returning them 184 yards in last Saturday’s 59-3 win over Western Michigan, Martin-Manley fielded more than 50 text messages from family and friends in the hours after the game.
“It was pretty crazy, like nothing I’ve dealt with before, but now that’s over,’’ Martin-Manley said. “People keep patting me on the back, but I have to worry about this week. It was fun to watch those plays a couple of times, but you have to move on.’’
Martin-Manley said coaches do a good job of forcing that issue, something that started with Sunday’s film session and likely will continue as the Hawkeyes work through practices this week.
Win or lose, Ferentz views that as a necessity.
“Every game is so important because you only get 12 cracks at it, and now being the start of conference and divisional play, that amps it up even more,’’ Ferentz said. “Unlike some other sports, every game really is important on your resume. It’s the nature of the beast when you only play 12.’’