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IOWA CITY — Go down the Iowa box score. Go to the tackles section. Keep going. Josey Jewell’s is in there, but way, way down the list.
That’s what happens when your day ends early and unexpectedly.
The junior linebacker was in for seven plays before he was called for targeting a Miami (Ohio) player while on punt return. Less than three minutes into the season opener, the No. 15 Hawkeyes (1-0) defense lost one of its best players, a second-team all-Big Ten pick last season and, in his role as middle linebacker, its central nervous system.
There wasn’t much of an argument from the Iowa sidelines. Jewell slammed into Miami defensive back Matt Merimee’s head, twisting his neck and leaving him tumbling to the FieldTurf.
After a quick review, Jewell, who also happens to be a captain and who had 126 tackles last year, was led up the tunnel and into the locker room. It was the second ejection for an Iowa defender since the targeting rule was voted in for the 2014 season (defensive back Jordan Lomax was ejected in 2014).
“Josey is one of our better players, I think the fact that he was elected captain last year says it all,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But all that being said, that’s football. We’re going to have guys come out of the game. If we want to look for excuses, it’s not going to take us very far.”
Sophomore Jack Hockaday replaced Jewell and made an immediate impact. He forced a fumble out of running back Maurice Thomas. Defensive end Parker Hesse recovered and returned it to the Miami 12-yard line. The offense needed just two plays to make it 14-0 in the first quarter.
It goes without saying that there was drop-off as the game wore on. There’s no planning for an ejection. And this is football. Of course, the rest of Iowa’s defenders had Hockaday’s back, but they also had to make sure he was seeing what he needed to see.
“It sucks that Josey was out, but next man in,” weakside linebacker Bo Bower said. “Whoever comes in has to be ready to play and play to a high level. We expect that from everybody.
“... We definitely rallied around him, but we can’t stay quiet when something bad happens. He needs to know it. That includes everybody, including me. I wasn’t perfect today at all. He’ll tell me. We’ll collaborate, get around each other and tell what needs to be done.”
It’s hard to quantify what Jewell’s absence meant for Iowa’s defense. Maybe these numbers do that — the RedHawks put together scoring drives of 75, 75 and 74 yards that went 12, 13 and 12 plays and almost 21 minutes off the clock.
Jewell can’t mean that much, can he? Probably not, but maybe.
“It’s hard to get used to that, we had a young guy in there calling the plays,” cornerback Desmond King said. “It hurt us with Josey leaving. That created a spark in their running game and that eventually helped them in the passing game.”
The RedHawks rolled up 424 yards of offense. They didn’t crush Iowa with their running game, but King is right. The 158 yards were more than enough to open up the passing game to the tune of 266 yards and two TDs.
Because the ejection happened in the first half, Jewell is eligible for the entire Iowa State game next week. Maybe then his presence will be quantifiable.
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