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IOWA CITY — On Tuesday, defensive end Anthony Nelson talked about his nerves headed into his first career game as an Iowa Hawkeye. He wanted to get to the game, find the field and get the worrying behind him.
Mission accomplished in Iowa’s 45-21 win against Miami (OH).
The redshirt freshman didn’t start — he was an either/or with Matt Nelson, who did start — opposite Parker Hesse at defensive end, but he more than saw the field. He disrupted it.
Anthony Nelson finished the game with 6 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, a pass breakup and, most importantly, two forced fumbles recovered by the Hawkeyes that led to touchdowns. It was, in pretty much every respect, a dream start to his career.
“I was really nervous, especially before, coming into the stadium. Coming out for the first snaps, I had a lot of butterflies,” Anthony Nelson said. “I was able to get free (on the first sack). I thought he was going to throw it, I kept going and he ended up pulling it back. I was able to be there at the right time.
“I didn’t ever envision a day like this. I tried to focus on doing my job and being disciplined out there, and this was a result of that.”
The younger Nelson got a lot of love from his teammates — on and off the field — during and after his first game as a Hawkeye, and a few of them pointed out his tremendous impact when asked about it after the game.
The youth movement has hit the Hawkeyes (1-0), with eight other redshirt freshman seeing action on Saturday to go with the 10 true freshmen that played. If the rest have the kind of impact Anthony Nelson had Saturday, Iowa will be in good shape.
“Anthony Nelson is a very versatile athlete; he’s long, he’s fast off the corner and knows how to use his hands,” said defensive back Desmond King. “He showed today what kind of player he is and the ability he can have, and the effect he can have on the game. That’s what kind of players we want on our defense.”
His coach saw this, in a way, as the start of something, but more so a continuation of what the Iowa coaching staff has come to expect.
Coach Kirk Ferentz redshirted the Urbandale native to get him time in the weight room and a chance to mature for a year. Even though he looks like he’s made a tremendous leap, Ferentz said there’s still plenty of room to grow.
What that means for his future should certainly get the Hawkeyes fan base as excited about Anthony Nelson as his coaches are.
“You like to think a guy’s going to improve as he gets older and keeps going, but what he did today is really what he does in practice,” Ferentz said. “He’s a guy we have been excited about, going back to the spring. He really did some good things. And even in ball prep we saw him do some good things. He’s not near at the physical maturity that he will be before he graduates, but he’s a good football player and I thought he made a real nice account of himself today.”
TIGHT END USAGE LOW
The Hawkeyes have long been a team that relies heavily on its tight ends to have success on offense.
Saturday against the RedHawks, though, tight ends were almost nowhere to be found on passing plays. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard only targeted a single tight end while going 13 of 20 for 192 yards and a touchdown, and that was a dropped potential touchdown by George Kittle Freshman backup Nathan Stanley had one target to a tight end when he came in in the fourth quarter. That one was an overthrow to Nate Wieting.
Have no fear, though, Hawkeyes fans. Ferentz said after the game that was simply due to what Miami showed Iowa.
“It really gets down to how they play you. It’s just simple as that,” Ferentz said. “So, if there are opportunities there, they are, and if not, one of those deals. But tight ends will be a big part of our play.”
Miami head coach Chuck Martin was very complimentary of most things regarding the Iowa Hawkeyes and Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.
However, he did have one (sarcastic) comment regarding the locker rooms that seemed to go against what he expected: they weren’t as pink as he expected.
“I was a little disappointed,” Martin said. “The tone of pink was a little — now, I’m old — light to me. I thought it was going to be pinker.
“Seriously, it was cool to be part of that tradition. That’s a great football team that plays hard and smart all the time.”
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