IOWA CITY – There’s a lot of smoke coming from outside Iowa football signaling a switch of quarterbacks. Within the program there hasn’t been a puff, until Tuesday.
“I have an arm. Man, I played quarterback in high school,” Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde said. “I swear I can get a reverse pass going, or something.”
OK, so not exactly who Hawkeye Nation was looking for and the fans shouldn't rejoice in the euphoria of a quarterback controversy, quite yet.
“No, definitely not quarterback, Vandy has that spot on lock,” Hyde said. “I’m not worried about that, I just know I have one last throw in me before I give it up.”
Considering Hyde's season, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the senior defensive back complete a 50-yard double reverse pass for a touchdown. He's gone through almost everything else.
He’s played the role of respected veteran captain. He’s seen his name run through the mud, with fans calling for his suspension and even expulsion from the team, after his arrest in early October. Saturday, he embodied the quality that hasn't wavered, playmaker.
Already this season, Hyde boasts career-bests in tackles for loss (4), forced fumbles (2) and passes defended (9). But his resume header occurred early in the second quarter against Northwestern. Hyde opened some important eyes, maybe not fans’, but NFL scouts undoubtedly took notice.
Hyde ran down running back Venric Mark, holding him to a 72 yard gain, instead of what everyone watching thought was a 99-yard touchdown.
“I just tried to turn a positive out of a negative,” Hyde said.
It’s a gaffe by his team, that may help him in the long run.
“I think he made some money by running him down,” said Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald Saturday after the game, referencing Hyde’s draft stock.
The Mark chase-down isn’t the only accomplishment scouts will see on Hyde’s resume. With seven tackles against Northwestern, the defensive back eclipsed the 200-tackle plateau for his career. He is also has seven career interceptions.
Hyde said he doesn’t pay attention to the NFL draft and where he is slotted. Then again, scouts may not know where to grade him. They're aren't many cornerback/quarterback/wide receivers in the draft.
“I always joke around with (offensive coordinator Greg) Davis obviously and the receivers. I always say that I’m better than them too, jut to mess around,” Hyde said. “I’m just trying to talk junk; trying to liven up practice. And I always yell at coach Davis, let me get a reverse or something like that. It hasn’t come yet. These next four games I’m going to try to convince him.”
Give it away now
The Hawkeyes forced at least one takeaway in seven of the last eight games. Iowa turned its opponents over 15 times, forcing seven fumbles and picking off eight passes. Iowa sits atop the Big Ten with Penn State with a +8 turnover margin.
The Hawkeyes also boast the second fewest giveaways in the conference. The only team with fewer: Indiana. The Hoosiers are also the only team in the country not to lose a fumble.
“You always go into the game looking to create turnovers,” linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “But they’re taking care of the ball real good this year so we’re just going to have to force turnovers on our own.”
The Hoosiers haven’t given possessions away often this season, but it won’t stop Iowa from trying to create turnovers. Turnovers can seem like a fluke, but there is an art to being in the right place at the right time.
“Watching film will always put you in that position,” Hitchens said. “So I just think the more film we watch, the better off we’ll be.”
In 4-4 campaign, Iowa’s special teams have been just that: average. There were highs, like Mike Meyer’s surpassing Nate Kaeding for consecutive extra-points made. Then of course ill-executed onside kick recovery against Central Michigan.
Iowa saw another low Saturday, having a punt blocked that eventually turned into six-points. Against Indiana, the Hawkeyes could see an even better unit.
“I think we have to be prepared for everything. It starts with their kicker. He’s a really good kicker, both kicking off and field goals,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “..They’re a good specials teams unit. They’ve got good return guys too.”
Indiana leads the Big Ten in kickoff returns at 24.3 yards a return. True freshman Tevin Coleman leads the conference, taking kicks back 26.7 yards on average.
Since the start of Big Ten play, the Hoosiers recovered two onside kicks, returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and blocked a punt.
“They have a good special teams unit,” Hyde said. “We’re going to have to go out there and compete on special teams too. We do every week but, maybe put extra film work in just to try to get a grasp of what they do.”
For the first time since the season-opener against Northern Illinois, Damon Bullock eclipsed the 100-yard barrier Saturday against Northwestern. More importantly, it marked the first time he took the field since Sept. 15 against Northern Iowa.
“On Sunday I just felt pretty sore,” Bullock said. “I haven’t been in the mix of things for a while. It’s pretty new to me so I just had to get back into it. Just a couple of things here and there, but other than that I’m fine.”
Bullock carried the ball 22 times, tied for the second most in his career. He tallied 30 rushes against Northern Illinois, the most of his time with Iowa. Mark Weisman took the reins to the running game when Bullock went down with a concussion. He’ll look to reverse the role with Weisman out with an ankle injury, just with a different style.“A couple of times I tried to pick people up with one arm and throw them like he does,” “But it doesn’t work somehow.”