Positively positive day for the Hawkeyes
IOWA CITY -- "Green for Greenwood" decorated the stadium Saturday.
Maybe a quarter of the 70,585 fans at Kinnick Stadium wore green in support of former Iowa safety Brett Greenwood, who remains in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics after suffering an apparent heart attack on Sept. 9.
The yellow stripe on the Hawkeyes' helmets ended with about an inch of green tape. Greenwood's parents, Michele and Dave, visited the lockerroom after Iowa's 45-17 victory over the University of Louisiana at Monroe. They gave the team a positive report on the status of their son.
"They said he's taken some positive steps," junior cornerback Micah Hyde said. "It might be a monthly process or a year before he gets back to normal, but we're hoping for the best."
That statement was the biggest positive on a long list of positives for the Iowa Hawkeyes (3-1), who head into an off week before beginning the Big Ten season at Penn State (3-1) on Oct. 8.
"It was powerful," strong safety Jordan Bernstine said. "It was a weird, emotional state. We saw the green and wanted to go out there and do it for Brett."
On the field, the no-huddle seems to be here to stay. Or, more accurately, it will be a part, maybe a big part, of Iowa's offense until it doesn't work. There is simply no denying the comfort level quarterback James Vandenberg feels with the no-huddle.
Last week, he engineered the biggest comeback in school history. Saturday, the junior dissected the Warhawks (1-3) with 21 of 32 for 270 yards and three touchdowns. In the last two weeks, Vandenberg has completed 52 of 80 for 619 yards, six TDs and one interception.
This all started when Iowa fell behind 24-3 against Pittsburgh last week and flipped into no-huddle. The Hawkeyes went no-huddle on the first drive and zipped 74 yards down field. The no-huddle set the rhythm for TD drives in six of Iowa's first nine possessions.
It works and it's not going anywhere.
"I'm not as hard-headed as you guys think I am," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We're going to do whatever we can to score. That's what it comes down to."
The players do get a vote. They don't get final say, obviously, but they do get a vote and that is resoundingly in favor of no-huddle.
"It's an easy way to get everyone involved quickly and get everyone into a rhythm," Vandenberg said. ". . . I think it is a good spark for us and we definitely have the personnel to do it."
They definitely have the personnel to do it.
Senior Marvin McNutt caught seven passes for 100 yards and two TDs, pulling within one of tying Iowa's career record for TD receptions, shared by Danan Hughes (1989-92) and Tim Dwight (1994-97). McNutt has had 100 receiving yards in three of Iowa's four games this season.
"Anytime, you can execute, it's a great feeling," said McNutt, who's 12th career receptions and sixth in career yards at Iowa. "Right now, Vandenberg is making all the plays. I wouldn't say he's hot, he's a kid who can do it all for us. We're going to continue to try to make him look good."
Yes, McNutt was joking with the last part. The laugh gave him away. But it's true, nonetheless. Freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley caught six passes for 82 yards. Keenan Davis caught two for 32 yards, including a 23-yard TD that made it 42-17 late in the third quarter.
Even the O-linemen are buying into the no-huddle. Yes, it's a lot of running around for the big fellas, but hey, whatever works. The Hawkeyes racked up 453 yards total offense, marking the first time they've produced more than 400 yards in back-to-back weeks since Eastern Illinois and Iowa State in weeks one and two last season.
"It's faster and, yeah, you get a little tired," tackle Riley Reiff said, "but I don't think it affects us that much. We're in really good condition, so it's OK."
The Hawkeyes are gaining and giving up yards. ULM put up 352 yards total offense, but Iowa held the Warhawks to 59 rushing yards, the first time this season Iowa has held an opponent to less than 100 yards.
The changes made last week have stuck and are pretty much working. Iowa allowed five pass plays of 20-plus yards last week. This week, there was just one 35-yarder. Also, Iowa had another five tackles for loss Saturday, its best four-week stretch since early last season.
Don't discount the defense feeding off the tempo that Vandenberg and the offense put up.
"We felt like we had to match their [the offense's] tempo," linebacker James Morris said. "We had to operate at the same level they were."
One more positive, the off week should give players like outside linebacker Tyler Nielsen, who's nursing an ankle injury, a little time to heal before that whole Big Ten thing starts.
Positively positive up and down the board for the Hawkeyes on Saturday.