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
Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT
Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post and wristed a shot into the open net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.
Brewers rally to clip Pirates
Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 Saturday night.
Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the last 65 games of 2013 following Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal.
Area runners gearing for Boston Marathon
The time was 12:15 p.m. It was Monday April 19, 1897. Tom Burke had drawn a line across the dirt road with his foot. Eighteen men gathered near Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland, Massachusetts.
UPJ takes one, drops second
John Fees’ spring baseball season accurately mirrors that of his Pitt-Johnstown team.
Fees started slow, losing his first four decisions, but has rebounded nicely in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division.
Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid
Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.
Drama lacking sans Tiger
If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
The course was there in all its splendor.
Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets
Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Pirates power past Brewers
Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.
Jackets preparing for Game 2
The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.
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