Hlas: Weird and tedious game, but Iowa Hawkeyes prevail

Iowa overcomes quirks, injuries to pull away from Mean Green

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IOWA CITY — George Will, columnist, commentator, author and baseball guy, wrote the following for Newsweek in 1976:

“Football is a mistake. It combines the two worst things about American life: violence and committee meetings.”

The meetings he referred to were huddles. But today they would mean the countless time officiating crews spend reviewing calls.

Oh, how those plagued Saturday’s football game at Kinnick Stadium. The reviewing turned this particular game from weird in the first half to just plain tedious after that.

The violence was also present, of course. Just as it is and every time the last note of the national anthem has sounded and the opening kickoff is airborne.

But neither committee meetings or violence derailed the Hawkeyes this day. Because of injuries, Akrum Wadley (ankle) and James Butler (elbow) were removed from the game for good in the second and third quarters, respectively. Normally, losing your top two running backs would spell gloom and even doom.

However, freshmen Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin came in, ran, ran, and ran some more. Iowa ground out a 31-14 triumph after trailing 14-10 at halftime.

You can never have too many close friends, comfortable shoes, or capable running backs.

Young rushed for 78 yards, Kelly-Martin for 74 and two touchdowns, and the Hawkeyes had the ball for over 12 minutes in the fourth quarter and 21 in the second half.

“Ivory and Toren came in and played their hearts out,” said Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley. “The offensive line did a great job opening holes.”

If the first half had been any quirkier, it would have been close friends with those four nerds on “The Big Bang Theory.”

Wadley was a team captain for the first time. He didn’t wear the honor as well as his coach would have liked. He had what would have been a first-quarter 74-yard touchdown score off a catch denied by his unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for high-stepping as he neared the end zone.

Wadley stood on the sideline and watched Butler carry the ball for a while after that.

“I just told him he’s too good of a player to do that,” Ferentz said.

After the penalty, former Iowa star receiver Marvin McNutt immediately tweeted “I absolutely hate this call we are entertainers and get penalized for being good enough to celebrate NCAA change please.”

Had it been in the NFL, people would have said Wadley’s high-stepping was too subdued. Maybe it was.

The first-half weirdness worked in Iowa’s favor late in the first period. On 3rd-and-goal at the UNT 8, a Stanley pass was deflected by Mean Green defensive end LaDarius Hamilton. It knuckleballed its way directly to Hawkeye tight end T.J. Hockenson in the end zone, who jumped up and clutched it tightly.

“At first, I was like ‘Wow, did I just actually catch that?’ It ricocheted,” Hockenson said. “I wasn’t expecting the ball at all. After it sunk in, it was awesome.”

But it was conviction, not luck, on Iowa’s third-quarter TD that put it ahead to stay. Down 14-10 at the UNT 23, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz eschewed a field goal try on 4th-and-5. Stanley then hit Noah Fant at the 12, and Fant did the rest. He dragged one defensive back from the 6 to the goal line, and another D-back hopped on helplessly at the 1.

“Coach Brian Ferentz is unafraid to go for it on fourth down,” Fant said. “When he calls the plays in, we’re confident in his calling.”

From that point forward, the play-calling was 50 percent meat and 50 percent potatoes. It was all about rushing, and Iowa’s green running backs proved to be meaner than the Mean Green.

This wasn’t pretty, or memorable. But it sure beat what happened to Nebraska in Lincoln Saturday against Northern Illinois.

And now ... Penn State.

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