The Iowa-Iowa State rivalry reaches back to 1894, and for those in the state of Iowa, the matchup always seems to be one of the biggest events of the year. The Hawkeyes are 0-2 against the Cyclones the past two seasons and returning the Cy-Hawk Trophy to Iowa City would be a bright point for Iowa this season.
This week I caught up with Iowa senior linebacker James Morris to get his thoughts on the defense and his team heading into this rivalry game.
What does this rivalry mean to the Hawkeyes and the state of Iowa as a whole?
James Morris: It means a lot. But at the same time, we don’t want to think too globally. It’s one game. This game happens to be against our rival. We’re just trying to prepare to win like we do every week.
Some people are saying there’s less buzz around the rivalry this season. Do you feel that?
JM: Whether there is buzz or there’s none, we try not to worry about it. We treat every game like it’s important. Myself, I’m from Iowa, so this game might have a little added meaning just given that fact. But every game is important to us regardless of what the outside buzz might be.
Having grown up in Solon, Iowa, what are your memories of this rivalry?
JM: I went to a few games when I was younger. I grew up an Iowa fan my whole life. If you’re an Iowa fan, on the other end it means that you’re not an Iowa State fan. The two are mutually exclusive in many senses, at least from the perspective of Iowa fans. For me, I always wanted Iowa to be successful and to have bragging rights over our rival. At the same time, it’s a game and we keep that in mind. It’s fun.
This rivalry has been streaky in the past, especially early in your life, was that ever important to you? Is it something you look at?
JM: My recent memories of Iowa-Iowa State rivalry has always been competitive. Whether teams have put streaks back-to-back, I more or look at games themselves, not necessarily the streaks. As a player, I’m not really worried about what we did last year, I’m worried about trying to win this week. We know that it’s going to be a competitive game and we’re going to get their best shot. But in turn, we feel that they’re going to get ours. Hopefully we have a chance to win.
The last two seasons Iowa State has won. What would it mean to bring home that trophy as a senior?
JM: It means a lot. We don’t have many trophies in our trophy case right now. That’s one of our goals -- protect the Iowa legacy and win our trophies back. It would be huge for us. It’d be a symbol of our success and the strides that this program is hopefully making.
Iowa has had its struggles, as a senior captain, what do you tell your team this season to keep morale up in the locker room?
JM: Just staying the course, staying positive, encouraging guys. Just trying to control what we can control -- our effort and our attitude. Just trying to [improve] and [stay] driven.
With how tough Iowa’s Big Ten schedule is, what do you say to keep younger guys from looking too far ahead?
JM: You just have to focus on taking games one-by-one. I think if you start to look at it too much you just create more stress for yourself and you’re really hurting yourself in the preparation that you’re trying to do that week. It’s just a real narrow scope or narrow focus for us right now.