Legends Division Notebook: Iowa, Nebraska look forward to rivalry

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | APRIL 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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When Kirk Ferentz travels around the state of Iowa, he continually hears questions about one opponent: Nebraska.

“People have always asked about, ‘Are you going to be picking them up in a nonconference game?’ ” Ferentz said in a teleconference Tuesday. “There’s going to be a lot of enthusiasm from people in Iowa.”

Nebraska will officially join the Big Ten on July 1. The border-state teams are scheduled to play for at least the next two seasons on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Cornhusker head coach Bo Pelini said he looked forward to the rivalry game and praised the Hawkeye program.

“That is a natural rivalry for us,” he said. “It’s a good football team, and a well-coached team, and a program that’s won a lot of games. It should be a lot of fun for our kids.”

Nebraska linebacker Sean Fisher comes from an Omaha high school with a significant list of former students who became Hawkeye football players. The most recent member of that list is his younger brother, Cole Fisher, who orally committed to Iowa in July 2010. The 6-2, 195-pound defensive back will join the Hawkeyes this fall.

“My parents joke about it pretty frequently,” Sean Fisher said about the new sibling rivalry. “Unfortunately, we both play defense. So I won’t get the opportunity to tackle my little brother.”

Sean Fisher, who visited Iowa City several times while being recruited, said it was “a great place and a great program.”

The siblings will step into a rivalry enhanced by the schools’ geographic closeness and the strong presence of Cornhusker fans in the western part of Iowa.

“It’s a big deal down in the western part of the state,” said Iowa linebacker Tyler Nielsen, a native of Humboldt, Iowa. “There might be more Nebraska fans than Iowa State fans over there.

“I heard the nickname for it is ‘Farmageddon,’ so that’s pretty neat. It’ll be a good rivalry and we’re excited to play it.”

Persa rehab ahead of schedule

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said Tuesday that quarterback Dan Persa is ahead of schedule in his rehab from a ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered against Iowa Nov. 13, 2010.

Persa injured the tendon while throwing the game’s winning touchdown pass. The senior said he has turned a corner in his rehab and should be ready to resume full-contact activities by June.

“It’s still sore, but not as sore as it was,” he said. “It used to be a sharp pain, but now it’s just soreness from muscle-building.”

Fitzgerald praised his quarterback’s attitude and work ethic in recovering from an injury that has kept him out of spring practices other than light tossing, jogging, and agility drills.

Persa was named the All-Big Ten first team’s quarterback last season after throwing for 258 yards per game and completing 73.5 percent of his passes. Those numbers prompted Fitzgerald to mention his quarterback for an even bigger honor this season.

“To have a Heisman candidate come back at QB gives me a little extra sleep at night,” he said.

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