116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — With the music for the Chicken Dance blaring on the public-address system of Maryland Stadium late Friday night, it was a polka party for a crowd that had dwindled to about the size of that at a typical small-college game.
By then, the overwhelming color in the stands for a “blackout” game wasn’t Maryland black, but Iowa gold.
This was kind of crazy.
The Maryland student section in the end zone that had been jam-packed in the first half was deserted. Nine hundred miles from Iowa City, this was the Iowa Hawkeyes’ home off the Capital Beltway.
Testudo, the turtle mascot of the Terrapins, followed Herky the Hawk in high-fiving Iowa fans as the final seconds of No. 5 Iowa’s 51-14 romp over the previously unbeaten Terps wound down.
Give the turtle credit. Unlike Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and his team against these fireballs from Iowa, it didn’t go into a shell.
“Everything’s like crazy right now,” said Hawkeye freshman wide receiver Arland Bruce IV, who had six catches including his first career TD.
Spencer Petras was in on five touchdowns, three passing and two rushing. Petras’ critics are going into a shell themselves.
“I obviously wasn’t on the team last year but I saw a lot of criticism about him,” Bruce said. “Everything I’ve seen has been great. Since spring when I got here, I have never understood the criticism.”
If things keep going as they went Friday, we may look back at those who dogged Petras and say “Crazy.” We may want to say it now.
“We in the staff probably look at it a little bit differently than maybe the rest of the world,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We think he’s been pretty good for us.”
You could cut and paste that last sentence and apply it to virtually every Hawkeye who played Friday. The defense caused its usual mayhem, the offense was crisp and ultra-opportunistic, and the special teams were up to their normal high standard.
The stage is set, should Penn State hold up its end of the bargain and defeat Indiana in Happy Valley Saturday night. Iowa’s game against the Nittany Lions next Saturday afternoon likely will be the first meeting of top-five teams in Kinnick Stadium since the 1-vs.-2 Iowa-Michigan epic of 1985.
There’s a week to lick our chops about that one, though. This blowout of a Maryland team that had been 4-0 and had passed the ball freely, cleanly and sharply can’t get tossed on the yesterday’s news pile just yet. It was too impressive.
The team that started the year with two pick-6s against Indiana had six picks Friday. Five were of Tagovailoa, who had just one interception and 10 touchdown passes over the first four weeks.
“That guy’s a really good player,” Petras said. “There’s been a lot of really good quarterbacks we’ve played this year that have kind of had similar results, so I hope he doesn’t get too down on himself. It’s just I think our defense is pretty good.”
Petras said that without a drip of condescension. He has to see those Iowa defenders during the week in practice, every week. He knows.
What that defense and Iowa’s kickoff-coverage team did to Maryland in the second quarter simply was not nice. Four forced turnovers in a quarter!
Iowa’s offense spent almost as much time hustling back onto the field after Terrapin turnovers as it did taking the ball down the field after getting the ball back.
“I was actually talking to T-Good about that,” Petras said, and that’s running back Tyler Goodson, who had 151 yards from scrimmage. T-Good was V-Good, as in Very-Good.
“I don’t get tired that much because I don’t really run, I just sit back there, said Petras. ”But like T-Good, these guys that are just gassed, it’s like you sit on the bench for two seconds, you’re right back out.
“But credit to our ‘D.’ I don’t know what, six interceptions? Yeah, that’s pretty incredible.”
Iowa led 10-7 before the turnover deluge. It began when the Hawkeyes’ Sebastian Castro blasted the ball from Maryland’s Dontay Demus on a kickoff return and Iowa recovered at the Terrapins’ 8.
Castro is a defensive back on a team that has a defensive backs room-full of good defensive backs. So he just made a name on special teams, like defensive back Terry Roberts before him. Roberts got his first career interception Friday, by the way.
Demus, a superb wide receiver, was carted off the field with a severe leg injury. His team’s spirit seemed to ride off the field with him. The Hawkeyes scored two plays later, Petras hitting 19-year-old Bruce.
Kirk Ferentz is playing first-year freshmen at wide receiver. Keagan Johnson caught a long TD ball the previous week. Crazy!
You want nutty, wild, koo-koo? The coming week of buildup to Penn State-Iowa will have all that, with bonkers to boot.
Yet, it seems like hype and hysteria have even less of a chance of succeeding against the Hawkeyes than the quarterbacks they’ve turned back.
“I’ve been saying it, and believe me, I tell our players the same thing,” Ferentz said. “Rankings this time of year mean nothing.
“We’re five games into it. I had no idea how good we were, still don’t.
“That stuff will mean a little more in November. But that’s also why you play. You want to be in games that matter and have significance.”
Riley Moss had one of those six picks Friday. He is a senior cornerback who has seen and experienced plenty in football. His head coach will say he doesn’t know how good the Hawkeyes are or can be, but Moss said the possibilities are, well, scary. That’s his word.
“I think the scary thing is we played very well tonight and I think the sky’s the limit,” Moss said. “There’s so much more we can improve on.”
And now, Iowa could be in the Game of the Year and all that comes with it. Well, the Game of the Year since Georgia beat Clemson in Week 1.
“If you get quote-unquote big games,” Ferentz said, “the circus will come to town.”
Will the Hawkeyes put themselves in the role of Nittany Lion-tamers? If you’ve been betting against them so far, you’re the wrong person to ask.
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