By LARRY LAGE
The Associated Press
Kirk Ferentz has almost seen it all in the Big Ten, leading Iowa’s program for 15 seasons and spending nearly a decade on Hayden Fry’s staff earlier in his coaching career.
For the first time this year, he is getting two Saturdays off this fall.
“There’s a lot of firsts going on with expansion,” Ferentz said Tuesday.
When football seasons start in August and ends after Thanksgiving – as it does this year in the Big Ten – teams will have two byes over 14 weeks.
After that happens again for conference teams again next year, they will not have two Saturdays off again until the 2019, 2024 and 2025 seasons. The other years, they’ll have only one bye during 13-week regular seasons.
The byes give players a chance to rest and relax and the coaches get a chance to take a breath. Some use the time to recruit, as Nebraska coach Bo Pelini and some of his staff did last week.
“Some coaches went on the road, I went on the road,” Pelini said. “It’s an off week for a game, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and we try to make the most out of every opportunity.”
Teams – such as Indiana against Penn State – have taken advantage of having two weeks to prepare for a game they ultimately won. The Nittany Lions, coming off a bye, hope the extra time they had last week helps them upset No. 4 Ohio State on Saturday night.
Planning for bye weeks is a balancing act for coaches, who weigh the positives of giving players a breather against the negatives of not having many hard-hitting practices to improve on the field.
“I am probably more toward giving them a little bit of a break, let them study and get caught up on their academics and get healthy,” Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said. “To me, it’s about being fresh and healthy and being ready to go on Saturday night.”
No. 25 Nebraska, likewise, will have had two weeks off before it plays Saturday at Minnesota.
In Pelini’s program, though, the Cornhuskers don’t get a lot of time to sit back and chill during a bye week, not when they had three tough practices with the first-string offense facing the first-string defense a lot.
“I told the guys, ‘You’re going to get your rest, but when we’re going to go, we’re going to go because we have a lot of improvements that need to be made,”’ Pelini said.
Wisconsin is off this week, and that might give standout linebacker Chris Borland enough time to get healthy enough to play next week against the Hawkeyes. Borland left the Badgers’ 56-32 win at Illinois on Saturday after aggravating the same right hamstring that caused him to sit out the final two games of the regular season last year.
“It’s a good time for us, especially with a little bit of a tweak to Chris to allow him to heal him get back,” Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. “I like where this one fell. The timing is good and maybe is a little bit fortunate for us.”
And, Ferentz felt lucky that a bye earlier this month allowed him to simply be a grandfather for a change on a Saturday in the fall.
“I went to a granddaughter’s first birthday party that afternoon,” he said. “So, it was a pretty good day.”
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By LARRY LAGE
Danel helping Falcons to Division III tournament
When Chelsea Danel was a senior at North Star, the Cougars were able to win a District 5-AA basketball title.
Now Danel, a senior at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, is a key contributor on a Falcons’ hoops squad which upset top-seeded Lebanon Valley 53-47 in the Commonwealth Conference championship on Saturday. It was the ninth title for the Falcons in 13 appearances.
Ferndale grad aiding Duquesne women’s hoops
Matt Schmidt was hired as an assistant coach for the Duquesne women’s basketball team in June.
Now the former Ferndale High School standout will have his first opportunity to experience March madness with the Dukes, who are the sixth-seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament which opened Thursday in Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Va.
Icecats on way to national tournament
The Pitt-Johnstown hockey team needed to overcome some long odds to advance to the ACHA Men’s Division III national championship tournament in Coral Springs, Fla. next week.
- Local Sports Briefs 3-7-14
St. Francis wins NEC quarterfinal
Ronnie Drinnon hit a go-ahead basket and a pair of free throws in the final 48 seconds, scoring a career high 20 points as sixth-seeded St. Francis battled past third-seeded Bryant 55-54 in the Northeast Conference tournament Wednesday night.
St. Francis hasn’t been in the playoffs since the 2010-11 season and scrapped past Bryant (18-14) in a closely fought contest that saw five ties and five lead changes – three in the final 3:37.
Wake Forest beats Pitt in ACC opener
Dearica Hamby finished with 25 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and two steals as No. 11 seed Wake Forest women beat 14th-seeded Pittsburgh 72-58 in the first round of the ACC tournament on Wednesday night.
Hamby had a tremendous night in notching her school-record 22nd double-double of the season.
UPJ makes day special for young sports fan
The Pitt-Johnstown baseball team made one of the most important signings in the program’s history on Wednesday at the Sports Center.
Johnstown resident Jill Miller signed a letter of intent on behalf of her 4-year-old son Brandon, who is battling Chiari Malformation, a brain ailment that leads to pain throughout the young boy’s body on a daily basis.
Warren leads N.C. State past Pittsburgh
T.J. Warren scored a career-high 41 points and N.C. State surged past Pittsburgh 74-67 on Monday night.
Warren’s eighth 30-point game of the year gave the Wolfpack’s flagging NCAA tournament hopes a needed boost. N.C. State (18-12, 8-9 ACC) won for just the second time in its last six games, riding Warren for much of the second half.
The ACC’s leading scorer made seven straight shots at one point and finished 16 of 22 from the field. His emphatic dunk in the final seconds sealed it.
Bishop Carroll grad earns honor
After earning All-Patriot League recognition at the Indoor Track and Field Championships over the weekend, Bucknell senior Emily Waksmunski was honored for her success on the track and in the classroom as a winner of the 2014 Patriot League Indoor Track and Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year award.
Waksmunski finished second in both the 1,000-meter run (2:55.98) and as part of Bucknell’s 4 X 800m relay (9:05.48).
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