By Don Lund
Can you believe that Iowa has played the Western Michigan Broncos three times and last Saturday’s 59-3 blowout was their first win?
I was at the first one in 2000 as a fan. That was Kirk Ferentz’s second year and the Hawkeyes lost, 27-21.
The second loss came in 2007 as Iowa went into the game with a 6-5 record and the 28-19 loss to the Broncos kept Iowa out of a bowl game.
That was depressing and I remember the Bronco players doing a lot of trash talking during the game as I was on the sidelines taking pictures for the Leader.
They are not talking much now.
There were four things I was hoping to see from the game last Saturday at Kinnick.
1. To score at least 30 points (Iowa had 38 at half)
2. To see some big plays (Iowa had at least seven big plays, six were touchdowns)
3. To see a backup quarterback take some snaps (C.J. Beathard played all of the fourth quarter)
4. To have a big enough lead that Mark Weisman didn’t have to play much in the second half (Mark didn’t play at all in the second half)
This is a tough call to start with offense, defense or special teams.
The defense scored 14 points on two pick-sixes by B.J. Lowery. Special teams scored 17 points on two punt returns by Kevonte Martin-Manley and a field goal by Mike Meyer while the offense scored 28 on two touchdown passes and two touchdown runs... and the winner is special teams, by a close call.
Whenever a player has a great day and threatens a Nile Kinnick record, that has to be a good place to start.
Kevonte Martin-Manley had two punt returns for scores and his 184 total yards was 17 yards short of Nile Kinnick’s record of 201 yards set against Indiana is 1939.
No Hawkeye has ever returned two punts for touchdowns before.
I was on the Iowa sideline close to the north end zone when Kevonte broke the first one and he was kind of a blur going by.
“I saw a lot of holes and I didn’t know which one to choose,” Kevonte said on his first return. “The guys in front of me made great blocks and I made the right reads. It was also great preparation of our coaches all week. They told us we’d have some opportunities to make some big plays.”
Chris White is the special teams head coach (as well as running backs) so that hire is already paying off.
“He knows the game really well,” said Kevonte. “He doesn’t over-coach anything. He says it’s really simple. Play hard and do your job.”
The best part about Kevonte? He’s only a junior and was named Special Teams Players of the Week in the Big Ten.
Connor Kornbrath had his best day as a Hawkeye, averaging 47 yards on three punts including a 55 yarder. Those are Reggie Roby-type numbers.
Mike Meyer stayed perfect on extra points and kicked a 20-yard field goal.
“It’s a credit to Mike,” said head coach Kirk Ferentz. “His attitude, his work ethic and to watch him improve. Last year was when he really started to hit stride. He’s a guy that works extremely hard. He’s not a real vocal guy, but he’s there everyday and he’s got a great attitude.”
When you hold a team to 3 points, that’s a good start.
How about only nine first downs and 74 yards rushing?
Then you add B. J. Lowery’s two pick-sixes and you have a great performance.
B.J. was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.
No other Hawkeye has ever picked off two passes and scored both times.
The Broncos had the ball only 23:49 minutes and converted only 1-14 on third down.
A lot of second and third team players got into the game and that will help down the line.
James Morris and Anthony Hitchens led the way with seven and six tackles, but it was the defensive backs that stole the show.
Tanner Miller also had a big interception in Iowa’s end zone.
No big pass plays and no big runs.
I know Western Michigan isn’t the Wolverines, but it a good start.
How about the defense hasn’t gave up a rushing touchdown?
Only three other FBS schools have done that so far.
I’m going to start with the running backs, although Jake Rudock had a solid afternoon.
Mark Weisman started and only played the first half, finishing with 43 yards on 10 carries.
Damon Bullock rushed for 37 yards but it was redshirt sophomore Jordan Canzeri who led the way with 73 yards and a 5.6 average.
Jordan is a lot better runner now than when he played as a true freshman.
Jordan is stronger, looks quicker and is making better decisions, like he did on his 16-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
True freshman LeShun Daniels Jr. looked sharp even after a fumble. He had 54 yards.
“I’m confident both of those guys (Jordan and LeShun) will continue to get better with the more work they get,” said coach Ferentz.
Jake Ruddock was 10-15 with two touchdown passes. Jake has five touchdown throws this season. Iowa had a total of seven touchdown passes last season.
Jake even had some nice runs, including a 31-yard scramble.
How about the new kid, Damond Powell, catching his first touchdown pass of the season? He was wide open for a 29-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Damond also caught a 54 yard pass from C.J. Beathard in the fourth quarter that set up Iowa’s final score. He has three catches for the season and averages 44 yards per catch.
“He’s been getting better,” said Kirk Ferentz of his junior college receiver. “He works extremely hard and he’s been getting better in practice each week. It good to see him and both quarterbacks made nice throws.”
Speaking of C.J. Beathard... what a good arm.
The 54-yard pass C.J. threw to Damond was right in stride.
He also had 30 yards in 4 carries and ran the read-option well.
Ray Hamilton is quietly becoming a solid go-to receiver. He caught three passes for 39 yards.
Most of the “experts” picked Iowa to start the season 3-1, but the loss was to come at Iowa State, not at home against Northern Illinois.
Iowa State isn’t very good right now and Northern Illinois could run the table again.
I’m glad the Hawks have a road game under their belt going to Minnesota this Saturday.
Floyd needs to stay in Iowa City.