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.”
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larrylage
By LARRY LAGE
- Pirates cut down by Reds’ Cueto
- Blown leads are troubling trend in series
- Sunnehanna makes changes to tourney week
Penguins finish hot to grab 2-1 series lead
Brandon Sutter, Lee Stempniak and Jussi Jokinen scored in a span of 2:13 of the third period to revive the Penguins from yet another two-goal deficit in a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.
Pirates walk off against Reds to halt home skid
Ike Davis became the first player to hit grand slams for different teams in the same April, and Neil Walker had a winning run single with two outs in the ninth inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates twice overcame deficits to beat the Reds 6-5 Monday night.
Pittsburgh trailed 2-0 before Davis’ fourth-inning homer off Mike Leake.
Sitting Bulls bring home national sled hockey title
The Johnstown Sitting Bulls disabled sled hockey team recently won a national championship.
The team, comprised of disabled athletes from Cambria, Somerset, Indiana, Bedford and Blair counties, finished first in the Youth B Division at the USA Hockey National Disabled Hockey Festival held April 11-13 in Marlborough, Mass.
- Local Sports Briefs
Marathon men’s winner has names of victims on bib
The winner of the Boston Marathon men’s race had the names of last year’s victims written in marker on the corners of his race bib.
Brewers top Pirates in game highlighted by dustup
Ryan Braun homered in the ninth inning to tie it, then Khris Davis hit a home run in the 14th that put Milwaukee ahead for good.
Yet those were hardly the big blows that attracted all the attention Sunday in the Brewers’ 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Football team ends boycott of embattled coach
Minnesota State University-Mankato’s football team has ended its boycott of reinstated head coach Todd Hoffner, who successfully fought child pornography charges and other misconduct accusations that removed him from the job for 20 months.
Hoffner said he assured the players, who refused to take the practice field Wednesday, that interim coach Aaron Keen, who led the team in Hoffner’s absence, will continue in a major role with the team.
- More Sports Headlines