Kirk Ferentz 143

This wasn't the 'fun' Iowa-Syracuse game, this was the Orange crushing

Iowa's Tony Moeaki jumps into the arms of Rafael Eubanks as he celebrates his first-quarter touchdown against Syracuse at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2007, in Iowa City. (The Gazette)
Iowa's Tony Moeaki jumps into the arms of Rafael Eubanks as he celebrates his first-quarter touchdown against Syracuse at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2007, in Iowa City. (The Gazette)

Three cool things:

1. Oh, finally an in to talk about tight end Tony Moeaki.

Injuries are certainly a part of his story at Iowa. It’s the title of the book, actually. On one play against Wisconsin in 2007, Moeaki suffered a dislocated elbow and broken hand. On the same play. There was a broken left foot that never completely healed and eventually led to hamstring and calf problems. There were concussions. At least two.

Without the injuries, Moeaki probably goes down as one of Iowa’s best tight ends. That’s saying something.

He was a quiet guy and not easy to interview. When it came time to sum up his injury history, he caught my attention.

“I think when I broke my foot, I think for one day I was a little pissed off,” he said. “But I’ve been fortunate. The injuries haven’t been too severe. I think I’ve played in every season. So, it hasn’t been too bad.”

Let’s not dwell on the “could’ve.” Moeaki played seven years in the NFL, playing 11 games with the Falcons in 2015.

He was a Mormon with Tongan heritage strained through the Chicago suburbs. Let’s face it, in Iowa City, Moeaki was a stranger in a strangeland, at least at the beginning.

Kirk Ferentz brought him to Big Ten media days for Moeaki’s senior year. Just because a guy doesn’t say a whole lot doesn’t mean he has nothing to say. He had paths in front of him with more familiar faces, but he picked Iowa and Iowa City.

“It was something I had to consider (coming to Iowa City),” Moeaki said. “Tongans, we’re really close. Family and relationships are really big in our culture, that’s why I looked at USC (where his cousin, running back Stanley Havili played), UCLA and Oregon. But in the end, it didn’t matter. I liked Iowa City and coach Ferentz so much.”

We’ll never get much exposure to Ferentz the closer, but I’ll bet that’s an interesting side.

2. I forgot my computer power cord for this one. My wife [redacted] was nice enough to brave the Kinnick traffic and save my sorry ass.

I also ran into Jim Reilly, a former Iowa linebacker I happened to play high school football with. Jim still had his jet black hair. We hate Jim, you guys.

Kidding. The Reillys are the best. Of course, Jim’s dad, Mike, was an all-American linebacker at Iowa. Steve played golf at Iowa. As a kid growing up in Dubuque, I followed Notre Dame because, wow, we all were Catholic and my friend Brad Burgmeier’s brother, Ted, was on a national championship ND team. I followed Iowa because of the Reillys. Mike did radio with Ron Gonder on WMT. My dad tuned in and blared it. He was pretty deaf, even then. I followed Wisconsin because my dad was from there and, well, I wanted to be him. Still do.

3. DE Bryan Mattison had three sacks in this one. Let’s talk about Bryan.

One of the most genuine people I’ve covered. He came from a golden football pedigree, but you wouldn’t have known it. Always a smile, even when the result sucked. An honest engager.

Of course, Brian’s dad, Greg, is a longtime assistant coach, spending the last several years at Michigan. I always thought Brian would be a great coach and asked him about it once.

I think Iowa was playing Brady Hoke’s Ball State and that’s how I started the question. Bryan said he knew Hoke and he’d love to start as a grad assistant at Ball State.

Another thing about Mattison, he was a damn good football player. He finished his career with 19.0 sacks.

Quote: “Jake (Christensen) looked better than he did last week,” Ferentz said. “Not that he looked bad last week, but he took a step forward tonight.”

Note: Defensive back Devan Moylan had a sack. There’s a name. Another “guy” who walked on and worked his way up. Amazing how many “guys” turn out to be athletes. Give Ferentz credit. His greatest strength for Iowa football might be seeing players’ skills and knowing how they might work for the Iowa program and whether or not they’ll help move things an inch or a mile. The inches count. Moylan definitely helped Iowa gain a few.

Why No. 120? — Greg Robinson coached Syracuse in this game. Remember him? Some sort of athletic director’s cautionary tale.

IOWA CITY — Midway through the second quarter, the headline “Orange crushed” went down the tubes.

What’s worse than “crushed?” The Iowa Hawkeyes scored touchdowns on four straight possessions in the first half and walked away for the Syracuse Orange, 35-0, before 70,585 fans Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium.

Syracuse loaded up to stop the run. Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen loaded up his stat sheet on the Orange, completing 23 of 32 for 278 and four touchdowns.

Iowa’s defense put a lid on the Orange, allowing just 103 total yards on 50 plays. It took the Orange and sophomore quarterback Andrew Robinson almost two quarters to produce just minus-1 yard.

SU wideouts dropped four passes in the first half while Iowa’s Andy Brodell caught six for 44 yards and returned a punt 49 yards to set up another score.

What’s the old punch line, “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?”

This one was over before halftime, when the Hawkeyes (2-0) trotted into the locker room with a 28-0 lead. Defensive end Kenny Iwebema single-handedly kept the Orange (0-2) scoreless, blocking a pair of field goal attempts to preserve the Hawkeyes’ first shutout since a 56-0 blanking of Ball State in the 2005 season opener.

Syracuse’s 103 yards offense is the lowest Iowa has ever given up in the Kirk Ferentz era. The previous low was 110 yards against Kent State in 2001.

“We’re a work-in-progress as a football team,” Ferentz said. “But for the second week, we came out and played hard and with great intensity. We do that, we’re going to have a chance.”

After two drops sent Syracuse three-and-out on its first possession, Christensen showed what Ferentz needed to see after a shaky-at-times debut last week. On third-and-3 from Iowa’s 48, Christensen hit wide-open tight end Tony Moeaki for a 52-yard score and a 7-0 lead with 7:10 left in the first quarter. Christensen put a little touch on the ball, and Moeaki put a lot of oomph in the run after the catch, brushing off Dowayne Davis and A.J. Brown and steaming his way down the left hash marks.

“That’s something we saw on film,” Christensen said. “We knew we were going to have that play. When it was called in the huddle, I wanted to relax and not overshoot it. We knew it was going to be there.”

The play probably went a long way in calming Christensen and Moeaki, who dropped three passes last week.

“Jake looked better than he did last week,” Ferentz said. “Not that he looked bad last week, but he took a step forward tonight.”

Less than two minutes later, Iowa linebacker Mike Humpal picked off his second pass and returned it 13 yards to SU’s 36. Two plays later, Christensen hooked up with Young for a perfectly executed screen pass for a 36-yard TD.

Blocks from wideout James Cleveland and guard Travis Meade were key. SU linebacker Ben Maljovec got an arm on Young and that was it.

Iowa cornerback Adam Shada blitzed and sacked Robinson on a third down to stop the Orange’s next drive. Then, the Hawkeyes drove 43 yards on 12 plays before running back Damian Sims cruised in from the 1 for a 21-0 lead with 12:57 left in the second half.

Orange also is the international color for traffic pylons. Syracuse has to work its way up to pylon.

Brodell then got in the act, nearly matching his 56-yard punt return from last week with a 49-yarder to SU’s 21. Five plays later, Christensen drifted left, spun out of three defenders and threw way right to the backside of the play and found Moeaki wide open for a 5-yard TD and a 28-0 lead 9:55 left before halftime.

Christensen kept his cool and made a play, a smart play.

“I remember (former Iowa quarterbacks) Drew Tate and Brad Banks had rough Septembers,” Ferentz said. “Jake is built to work through that. He’s moving forward.”

As Moeaki did, Brodell brushed off three drops from the previous week, catching seven passes for 54 yards. Moeaki scored Iowa’s only TD of the second half, a 6-yarder with 43 seconds left in the third quarter. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder caught eight passes for 112 yards and the three TDs. The Orange ran 21 plays in the first half and had minus-1 yard to show.

Syracuse concentrated on Iowa’s running game, which produced two 100-yard rushers last week. Iowa rushed for just 118 yards on 41 carries. So, that was something for the Orange. A little something.

Defensive end Bryan Mattison led the way for the Iowa defense with three sacks. He also had a tackle for loss. Iwebema, Shada and safety Devan Moylan also had sacks.

At one point in the third quarter, Iowa had 35 points and the Orange had 36 total yards. This was Syracuse’s worst loss in Coach Greg Robinson’s three seasons.

Syracuse took the “O” out of orange. There was no “D” in either orange the word or Orange the team. Saturday night, this Orange is most definitely a punch line.


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