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Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said before the season that there were eight to 10 true freshman who were in the mix to find playing time for the Hawkeyes. Iowa hit the high-end of that estimate in the 45-21 season-opening win against Miami (Ohio) as 10 true freshmen saw action.
In addition to starting kicker Keith Duncan, quarterback Nathan Stanley saw time in the fourth quarter. Burning so many redshirts was a point raised to Ferentz after the game as well — not to mention on social media — particularly with Stanley.
He came in for Iowa’s last drive, threw one pass (a drop by George Kittle in the end zone) and led the Hawkeyes to a touchdown after a RedHawk turnover.
“It means he’s the No. 2 guy right now,” Ferentz said. “It’s been nip and tuck with he and Tyler (Wiegers), and at the end of the week, we decided to go with Nathan.
“And we had discussion about (his redshirt), certainly, as a staff, and at this juncture that’s kind of the decision we made.”
Running backs Toks Akinribade and Manny Rugamba, defensive back Amani Hooker, wide receiver Devonte Young, linebacker Kristian Welch, tight end Noah Fant, defensive end Cedrick Lattimore and offensive lineman Amani Jones were the other eight true freshmen to see action on Saturday.
Ferentz said after the game the reason for that was twofold.
“There’s a little bit of a void because of the seniors we graduated — 21 guys played really good football, and 11 or 12 were starters,” Ferentz said. “The other combination was we felt good about the class we signed a year ago. Once they got here in June and July, we felt event stronger. Most importantly, we put the pads on in August, and we thought they had a chance. I’m hopeful. I’m encouraged; we’ve seen a lot of improvement this last month. Now the objective is to keep pushing them forward.”
PLAY OF THE GAME
The set up: Iowa was sailing along and chilling at 14-0 midway through the first quarter. Miami’s offense was far from tapping out, and you could argue it never did. So, after running back LeShun Daniels’ 1-yard run, Miami quarterback Billy Bahl zipped a 67-yard pass to wide receiver Rokeem Williams, moving the ball to Iowa’s 8.
What the heck happened: Redshirt freshman defensive end Anthony Nelson whipped the Miami tackle across from him and blindsided Bahl, causing a fumble that fellow defensive end Matt Nelson jumped on. Iowa ball.
The Nelsons aren’t related, but on this play, yes, they were FULL NELSON. OK, got that out of the system.
The upshot: Iowa took over at its 19-yard line. QB C.J. Beathard hit wide receiver Jerminic Smith on a flea flicker for a 38-yard gain. On the next play, running back Akrum Wadley was supposed to get on the field for a toss sweep play. The play was late and the toss went to fellow RB LeShun Daniels. He sprinted 43 yards for the TD and a 21-0 lead.
Anthony Nelson finished his debut with 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He seems to understand the game of football.
“Helluva game for his first game out,” Matt Nelson said of Anthony Nelson, not related. “He kind of got robbed (of a sack) on that delay of game penalty, that would’ve made (Anthony Nelson’s debut) a little bit better.”
B- — Anthony Nelson is on pace for 130 career sacks.
B+ — Luckily for Iowa, next week is “Bring your Josey Jewell to work” day.
B- — Stopping the run was an issue. That won’t be helped by Mike Warren carrying the ball next week for Iowa State.
Saturday, Iowa director of football operations Paul Federici Periscoped the team boarding its buses at its Cedar Rapids hotel, and broadcast part of the ride on I-380 and entering Coralville. The live shot was shown on video boards outside Kinnick Stadium near where the team made its entrance two hours before kickoff.
If you’d told Game Report the Hawkeye football staff would use Periscope on Game Day, we would have encouraged you to switch from the Busch Light to an unenhanced lemonade.
“We wanted to give the fans an inside look at the team getting on their buses and on their way to the stadium,” said a program staffer. “We want to give people an incentive to be here at Krause (Family Plaza) before the game.”
That includes having DJs on hand. DJ NYJ (Jason Wells) and DJ Commando (Troy Williams of Cedar Rapids) were working for the people. Wells is the official DJ for Hawkeye men’s basketball games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and the longtime DJ at the annual UI Dance Marathon.
FANS DISSECT SEASON
Three hours before kickoff, Game Report asked a random sampling of Hawkeye fans to make predictions on Iowa’s 12-game regular season. Here are a half-dozen replies:
11-1: C.J. Slaton, Cedar Rapids: “I just think (fellow C.J.) Beathard is a magician and he’ll figure something out, and we probably have one of the best defenses in the Big Ten.” Slaton played football for Kennedy High School in 2015 and was a good one.
10-2: LaVonne Stemper, Marion
10-2: Andrew Wagg, Ely
10-2: Lonny Tanner, Victor. Tanner probably had a hard time forecasting two defeats, because he is a Hawkeye fan’s Hawkeye fan. His collection of Iowa memorabilia was featured on the Big Ten Network last year.
10-2: Charlie Krogmeier, Coralville: “My losses would be Michigan and at Penn State.”
8 1/2-3 1/2: Paul Kuhl, Fairfax: “Somewhere between eight and nine wins,” he said. Coincidentally, the Las Vegas over/under for Iowa wins this year was set at 8.5.
Oh, and there was this from DJ Commando himself: “All the way. Twelve-and-0 again. If we could do this last year, we can do it again.”
A SUITE OF EXPERIENCE
Former Iowa athletic director Bump Elliott, former Hawkeyes head football coach Hayden Fry, and former Iowa defensive coordinator Bill Brashier shared a Kinnick Stadium suite Saturday.
Elliott, 91, hired Fry, who in turn hired Brashier. Elliott was Michigan’s football coach from 1959-1968. He was Iowa’s AD from 1970-91.
Fry, 87, was Iowa’s coach from 1979-1998. Brashier was Fry’s defensive coach from 1979 until he retired in 1995. Elliott and Brashier still live in Iowa City. Fry lives in Mesquite, Nev.
Another former Hawkeye assistant coach, Dan McCarney, was Saturday’s honorary captain. Also, former Iowa offensive coordinator Don Patterson was present. Patterson was on Fry’s Iowa staff from 1981 to 1998.
BY THE NUMBERS
68,390 — Saturday’s season-opening attendance at Kinnick Stadium.
45 — Points scored, the most by Iowa in a season-opener since beating Maine, 46-3, in 2008.
10 — True freshmen to play on Saturday. Quarterback Nathan Stanley got in and led a scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Kicker Keith Duncan was perfect in extra points at 6 of 6 and hit a 22-yard field goal.
8 — Passes C.J. Beathard completed in a row to start the game. Initially he was 9 of 9 to start the game, but what would’ve been a fumble by Riley McCarron was ruled an incomplete pass.
7 — Kickoffs that resulted in touchbacks from senior punter/kickoff specialist Ron Coluzzi. The graduate transfer said kickoffs were his favorite play, and it showed.
3 — Drives of 70 yards or more by the Miami offense. The RedHawks had scoring drives of 75, 75 and 74 yards. Miami also had a 60-yard drive that ended in a fumble.
3 — Turnovers Iowa turned into touchdowns.
2 — Turnovers handled by the law firm Nelson & Nelson. Anthony Nelson forced two fumbles and former Cedar Rapids Xavier prep Matt Nelson recovered one.
0 — Snaps Josey Jewell will miss to suspension in the Iowa-Iowa State game.
Sophomore Jay Scheel dressed, but did not play, in Iowa’s season-opener. The 6-foot-1 wide receiver has been dealing with a nagging injury that Ferentz said had not cleared itself up by game time on Saturday. Scheel’s status for Iowa State next week still is uncertain.
“(Scheel has) had some health issues (and) we thought he might have a chance to go today, but at the end of the week we made the decision on him,” Ferentz said. “There were two other guys in that boat who did play. We’re watching them a little bit to make sure things are OK. Fortunately, they came out fine. Hopefully Jay will be ready Monday. It’s just kind of a touch-and-go thing until the end of the week.”
Starting defensive end Parker Hesse also suffered an injury Saturday, coming out of the game after a fumble recovery and return in the first quarter. Hesse stood on the sideline with ice on his left hamstring for the rest of the first half, and remained with the team in the second half (sans ice), but did not play.
Ferentz didn’t have specifics on Hesse yet, either, but was hopeful after the game.
“Hopefully (he’s) good,” Ferentz said. “He had a strain out there, that’s why we took him out of the game. Hopefully it’s nothing that’s going to last too long.”
Iowa hosts Iowa State in the 64th installment of the Cy-Hawk Series game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The Cyclones have won three of the last five times the two teams have faced off, and the road team has won the last four games. The Hawkeyes won last year’s game in Ames, 31-17, and lead the all-time series, 41-22.
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