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PLAY OF THE GAME
The Setup — The Hawkeyes had a 10-7 lead late in the first half. They had the ball at North Texas’ 47 with a first down and around two minutes left on the clock.
In his postgame, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said that when you see an unblocked rusher with a free stroll to the quarterback, someone goofed somewhere.
Here it was the inside of the O-line where it all went wrong. Linebacker E.J. Ejiya flew through the middle of the line of scrimmage and sacked Iowa QB Nate Stanley. The ensuing fumble popped into the air. Mean Green nose tackle Ulaiasi Tauaalo came free with the call and a full head of steam downfield.
What Happened — Ejiya hammered Stanley. The ball came out and it looked like North Texas would have the ball in Iowa’s red zone.
Football is cool because of efforts like the one Iowa RB James Butler summoned here.
The Results — Butler hit the jets and caught the nose tackle. Instead of tackling Tauaalo right away, Butler took a swing at the ball and came up with gold, causing a fumble that he recovered.
The Mean Green would eventually score a late TD in the first half for a 14-10 lead, but Butler saved this play from being a total disaster. Butler also sustained an elbow injury and his status is up in the air with an update coming Tuesday, Ferentz said.
C+ — This grade might go up or down, but for now it’s under review. Like half the plays in this game.
C — Look for play reviews to undergo scrutiny after review after review turned this into the football version of “Infinite Jest,” a 1,079-page book that always will have better reviews than this.
C — Somewhere in Las Vegas, a dude in a Hawaiian shirt and a fedora was eating his napkin when Iowa got to the 2 yard line with less than a minute to go and a 19.5-point spread on the line. Never gamble.
PASSING THE BARR
Fred Barr, Iowa linebacker from 1999-2002, was the Hawkeyes’ honorary captain Saturday and appeared to be relishing his role.
Barr wore a yellow hat and black-and-yellow bib overalls.
Hawkeye fans: Fred Barr, Iowa's honorary captain today, now wears your uniform. pic.twitter.com/VH5Z4lCMY0— Mike Hlas (@Hlas) September 16, 2017
He’s from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but remained close to his alma mater after college. He moved to Des Moines from Rock Island, Ill., in 2009.
Barr was a first-year freshman on Kirk Ferentz’s first Iowa team, which went 1-10. They were 3-9 in his sophomore year, then ascended to an Alamo Bowl win in 2001 and a Big Ten championship and Orange Bowl berth in 2002.
Barr always told reporters what was on his mind in interview sessions, and someone who covered him when he was at Iowa told him he loved interviewing him.
“I know you did,” Barr said. “Kirk didn’t like it as much.”
BY THE NUMBERS
182 — Combined penalty yardage
43 — Plays run by Iowa in the second half
21:30 — Time of possession advantage for Iowa
19 — Combined penalties
18 — Plays run by North Texas in the second half
11 — Quarters in a row Iowa has scored 4 — Career pass attempts North Texas backup Quinn Shanbour had before Saturday
10 — Touchdown passes for Nate Stanley so far this season
4 — Fourth down conversions for Iowa
2 — Passes Shanbour completed on a scoring drive in the second quarter, one for a touchdown
2 — Touchdowns on fourth down for Iowa
2 — Players who scored their first career touchdown for Iowa on Saturday
Among the strangeness of Saturday’s 31-14 victory for Iowa was the mounting number of injuries the Hawkeyes sustained — particularly in the backfield.
Both Akrum Wadley and James Butler exited the game and spent time in the locker room with injuries Saturday. Wadley’s came in the second quarter, on the drive that led to Miguel Recinos’ 42-yard field goal. Wadley carried right for no gain and injured his ankle, taking him out of the game for the remainder, despite his returning to the sideline for the second half. Coach Kirk Ferentz said he wasn’t worried.
“Akrum tried to walk out without an ice bag, so sent him back in (to the locker room) for that, but it doesn’t look like anything serious,” Ferentz said. “He just didn’t feel real confident in that second half.”
Butler stepped in for Wadley and carried 16 times for 74 yards, but saw his day end in the third quarter on a one-yard run that injured his elbow. Butler also went to the locker room and returned to the sideline with his right elbow taped with ice and did not return to the game. Ferentz said he doesn’t think Butler will miss extended time.
“We’ll know more Tuesday,” Ferentz said.
Iowa also saw short-term injuries to two other key players Saturday. Defensive end Anthony Nelson left the game in the first quarter with a shoulder injury, but was able to return and finished without any tackles.
Tight end Noah Fant also briefly left the game with what he described as a “shoulder stinger,” in the second half. Trainers put a brace on Fant’s left shoulder and he was able to return as well. Fant said after the game he would be good to go next week.
After the loss of offensive lineman Ike Boettger last week, Ferentz acknowledged injuries are wearing the Hawkeyes a little thin.
“It doesn’t help your continuity,” Ferentz said. “It leaves you pretty thin. We’re getting a little thin here.”
Big Ten Conference play now begins for the Iowa football team, which heads into league play with a 3-0 record. The Hawkeyes get No. 5 Penn State for the conference opener Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium, with a 6:30 p.m. kickoff on ABC. The last meeting between the two programs did not go well for Iowa, which left Happy Valley with a 41-14 loss. The Nittany Lions enter the game having wrapped up their non-conference slate against Georgia State.
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