INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
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IOWA CITY — The saying goes that the biggest improvement for a football team comes between Week 1 and Week 2.
After what No. 10 Iowa saw from its football team in Week 1, there were certainly plenty of improvements to make. But there’s always risk in overreacting to Week 1, too. Just take a look at both the USA Today Coaches Poll and AP Top 25. Teams rose and fell dramatically.
To keep from swinging wildly in preparation or assessment, the Hawkeyes had to be honest with themselves about what they saw. Things weren’t gloom and doom, but they also weren’t perfect.
“It’s all about how well you can run the race, how well your players take what they are hearing on Sundays from the corrections and then take it to the field and work on that independently, and those are the things that it’s a big challenge,” said Coach Kirk Ferentz on Tuesday at his weekly media availability. “But you know, good teams know how to practice well. They know how to take what they see and hopefully move forward with it, show improvement.”
The defense did not have a great day as a unit against Miami (Ohio), particularly in the secondary, as has been well-documented. Defensive back Greg Mabin saw 11 passes targeted his way, and seven of those were completed; one of which for a touchdown. Brandon Snyder had the other touchdown pass credited against him. Miles Taylor saw four passes thrown his way, and all four were completed. Even Desmond King saw the three passes sent his way completed.
Ferentz didn’t like how the Hawkeyes fared in run defense either, saying “we can’t give up runs and rushing yardage like we did the other day. They came too easy in my opinion for our opponent, and that’s not good.”
There’s a fine line between using a mistake as a learning tool and getting hung up on it.
“You’ve got to take the mistakes to heart, realize what you did, but at the same time, you’ve got to get over it,” Mabin said. “You remember what happened, but you can’t let it affect you down the road.
“I used to take it more to heart. I used to cringe on the same mistakes, over and over again. But now, I have the mentality that if I make a mistake, ‘Screw it, I’m still on the field. I still have to perform. I can’t let those guys down.’”
It wasn’t just the defense, either. The offensive line had breakdowns in pass protection that saw all but one starting lineman grade out negatively, according to Pro Football Focus. Quarterback C.J. Beathard was hit twice and sacked twice, and that’s obviously not something Iowa wants to see.
Players all said the easiest way not to overreact or overcorrect to what went wrong Saturday is to stay within themselves — stay within their jobs and not play over their heads. Obviously, that can be easier said than done.
“You’ve got to take a step back,” said guard Boone Myers. “It’s communication and making sure everyone knows where we’re working. We’ve been doing a really good job of it so far.
“There’s a lot going on and if you get mixed up and start thinking too much, you can get lost.”
CY-HAWK TROPHY MOVED
The Cy-Hawk trophy has spent the past year at the Hansen Iowa Football Performance Center, and was prominently displayed with the Hawkeyes’ other rivalry trophies on the first floor. On Tuesday, though, it was missing from its usual spot by the stairs.
The trophy was moved to the weight room this week, and not by accident.
“We didn’t do anything yet,” said running back Akrum Wadley. “We hear a lot of things, people talk about last year, how we went 12-0. It’s a brand-new year. We want to leave our mark this year. It’s an empty trophy case down there; that means we didn’t do anything yet.”
The coaches wanted it present as a reminder of what’s at stake on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
A rivalry trophy is more than enough to light a fire under players — especially those who haven’t gotten to play in it yet.
“Hopefully it stays there (in the weight room),” Wadley said. “Every time we go in, as a team, we see that trophy right there. It’s our motivation.”
BLACK AND GOLD GAME
In a news release Monday, Iowa announced this week would be a black and gold spirit game. According to the release, fans are asked to help stripe Kinnick Stadium. Fans with tickets in even-numbered sections are asked to wear gold. Fans with tickets in odd-number sections, as well as all UI students, are asked to wear black.
Also, it was announced Monday there would be no tailgating allowed after the conclusion of the Iowa-Iowa State game.