IOWA CITY, Iowa – Moving on to the next game or to the next challenge is hard to do in sports because it takes adjusting to so many different circumstances.
The Iowa men’s basketball team and the Iowa football team are two examples of how different the circumstances can be.
The Iowa basketball team has to move on from the thrill and excitement of defeating two ranked Big Ten opponents in back-to-back games, while the Iowa football team has to move on from being humiliated by Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
The Iowa basketball team only has three days to move on before facing Nebraska on Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, while the Iowa football team has eight months to stew over being whipped on a grand stage.
The Iowa basketball players have to move on from being praised and rewarded for two huge wins, while the Iowa football players have to move on from being dismissed as a legitimate national power in the wake of the Rose Bowl disaster.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has to temper the enthusiasm and guard against complacency, while Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz has to rally his troops and not let doubt creep in.
By Sunday afternoon, it’s likely that both coaches had moved on.
The only thing that matters to McCaffery right now is defeating Nebraska on Tuesday, while the only thing that matters to Ferentz is doing whatever it takes at this particular time to get better.
Each day matters at this level. Decisions are made that will impact the future, either in a positive or negative fashion.
Remember, this is about the same time last year when Ferentz decided to switch starting quarterbacks from Jake Rudock to C.J. Beathard.
Ferentz’s decision ultimately would benefit both quarterbacks. Beathard led Iowa to its first 12-0 record in the regular season, while Rudock led Michigan’s 10-3 resurgence under first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh.
McCaffery already was in Nebraska mode just minutes after Saturday’s 19-point comeback at Purdue, which was the third largest comeback in school history and the second largest against a Big Ten opponent. Iowa overcame a 22-point deficit to win at Illinois in 1987.
“Nebraska is a really good team,” McCaffery said when asked about the Cornhuskers on his Learfield post-game radio show.
Actually, Nebraska isn’t a real good team by league standards. The Cornhuskers probably aren’t even a good team, with records of 0-2 in the Big Ten and 8-7 overall.
McCaffery would argue that point, partly out of respect for a fellow Big Ten opponent, but also because he wants his players to stay in the moment.
And that requires moving on from two emotional wins.
It’s easier to move on when you have four senior starters, including arguably the best player in the Big Ten moving on with you.
That’s the case with McCaffery and 6-foot-9 senior forward Jarrod Uthoff, who is emerging as a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, especially with Michigan State senior guard Denzel Washington out with a knee injury.
Uthoff scored 25 points and made some shots on Saturday against a defensive-minded Purdue squad that you’re more likely to see in an NBA game. His left-handed layup in which Uthoff performed a 360-sweeping spin move in the lane was a thing of beauty.
Uthoff is the only player in the nation from a power five conference to average better than 18 points and three blocks per game.
McCaffery also has one of the Big Ten’s top reserves and best stories in redshirt freshman forward Nicholas Baer. The walk-on from Bettendorf has secured a spot in Iowa’s rotation by impacting the game in multiple ways. Baer scored all seven of his points against Purdue in the final 6 minutes, 30 seconds of the game.
It’s hard to think of a time when Iowa fans experienced a devastating low followed by an exhilarating high in back-to-back days.
Fans don’t necessarily have to move on from Iowa’s sobering defeat in the Rose Bowl. They can dwell on it for as long as they want.
Many of them probably were until the Iowa basketball team gave them something else to think about.