IOWA CITY — What would you guess was showing Friday afternoon on the big-screen television you see from the staircase to and from the second floor of Iowa’s football building?
That’s too easy. It was a replay of last November’s Ohio State-Iowa game. At the moment in the replay as I came upon it Friday, the Hawkeyes had lined up for a third-quarter field goal on 4th-and-3 at the OSU 20.
You probably know the rest, but … they suddenly shifted into a swinging gate formation, the ball was snapped to holder Colten Rastetter in the backfield, and he faked a run to the right before lobbing a pass up the middle to snapper Tyler Kluver on 4th-and-3 at the OSU 20.
Kluver caught the throw and stumbled to the 2, and Iowa scored on the next play to increase its lead to 38-17 on the way to its 55-24 stunner. It may be replayed in that complex from now until it’s time to build a new billion-dollar facility.
It’s hard to remember which was more jarring. Was it Iowa kicking sand in the Buckeyes’ faces, or was it a Hawkeyes team doing something so zany against a premier foe?
“A little trickeration from Kirk Ferentz,” analyst Brian Griese said on the ESPN telecast. “That’s out of character.”
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While Ferentz has yet to shed a national reputation as someone who won’t hesitate to punt from the opponent’s 30-yard line, the Hawkeyes have taken a lot more chances in recent years. They went for first downs on 22 fourth downs last year, about 50 percent more than in 2014 or 2015.
Trick plays aren’t an Iowa calling card, but Rastetter’s first completion last season wasn’t against the Buckeyes. He threw a 15-yarder to freshman defensive end A.J. Epenesa off a fake field goal at Michigan State.
Taking chances and hitting on them invigorates a team and its fans. LeVar Woods has been involved in Iowa’s special teams since he became a Hawkeyes assistant coach in 2012. He became the special teams coordinator a year ago.
Earlier this year, he became Ferentz’s first full-time special teams coach in Ferentz’s 20 years as Iowa’s head coach. Woods left the coaching of the Hawkeyes’ tight ends to someone else.
Coincidentally or not, Iowa tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant combined for four touchdowns in that devastation of Ohio State.
But it was the holder-to-snapper completion that rivaled Josh Jackson’s one-hand stab of an interception as the Hawkeyes’ top impact play on that day they did so much so well.
Asked Friday if that exotic was his baby, Woods said “I drew it up and designed it.”
He then tried to eliminate any perception of bragging by adding “I’m not the most-creative person on the planet.”
Spoken like a football coach. They think of themselves as builders, not architects.
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“Every week I try to have something in my mind that I can bring to Coach Ferentz,” Woods said. “Hey, if we need a play, this is it.”
The “trickeration” (a word that’s in the Oxford English Dictionary) against the Buckeyes is something Woods said the Hawkeyes “sat on a couple of weeks. I thought we were going to use it, but the situation didn’t come up. The next week, I thought we were going to use it. It didn’t come up. Then it just happened to show up in that game against Ohio State.”
But why then, in a moment in which a field goal would have given Iowa a three-score lead? Because it was there to be had. You just have to know it. Which brings us back to Woods claiming he isn’t creative.
“A lot of that comes from just watching and seeing what other people have done,” he said. “I watch a lot of high school film and there are some things that will show up. I’m like ‘Man, that’d be cool if we could pull that off.’
“Pull off the video, look at it, study it, how’d they do this? Which guy should we throw it to, which guy should handle the ball?
“A lot of that comes from just studying, watching, knowing what hurts (an opponent’s) defense or knowing what hurts people. … that don’t have their eyes in the right place.”
Who’d have guessed it? If you don’t have your eyes darting all over when Iowa lines up for a short field goal in these modern times, you can get trickerized.
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