Three cool things:
1. I’ve gotten to know the Kinnick Stadium ops crew a little over these 23 or so years. Pretty sure the four-hour rule in the press box (you have to be done four hours after the game) is my bad. I’m consistently amazed how the ops crew moves bodies in and out of Kinnick.
This was a stormy Saturday in September of 2011 and it rained like mad. The lightning delay lasted 84 minutes. It was the one and only in Kinnick that I can remember.
So, that happened.
2. Late defensive coordinator Norm Parker was up in the press box at this point. It was his final season with the Hawkeyes. We stood at the soda machine together and talked Tennessee Tech. He was worried about their speed and how easily a school like Tech can find fast players.
It was nice to have a chat with an assistant coach before the game. That doesn’t happen a lot. Thousand-yard stares. I get that.
3. This was the first leg of the Marvin McNutt world tour 2011. Six catches for 140 yards and two TDs. McNutt was really, really good that year for Iowa and it’s probably a bit underappreciated. Best season ever for an Iowa wideout — 1,315 yards, 12 TDs and a 16.0 average on 82 receptions.
Quote: For the record, I hate talking to running backs about fumbles. They happen. There’s really not much more to it.
Here’s running back Marcus Coker on the topic. He fumbled twice in this game and really had a problem early in his career. Credit here for honesty.
”You start thinking to yourself, don’t fumble, and then you’re thinking about it,” said Coker, who had fumbled three times in eight games. “You just try to get that fog out of your head.”
Note: Still very touchy about running back here. Mika’il McCall had 61 yards on his first nine carries as an Iowa RB. He shattered his ankle on that ninth carry. He made it back at the end of the year, but AIRBHG and stuff and that was that.
Why No. 140?: Tech was an FCS school. Not a good one, either. I can’t even imagine all of the frustration that goes with making college football schedules. All the work, negotiating and contracts for some jerk like me to say “You really shouldn’t be playing these games.” I’d feel bad, but most of you are the same way.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2011
IOWA CITY — Kind of a mixed bag this weekend for Iowa running backs coach Lester Erb.
Friday night, he welcomed a son into the world. A.J. is his fourth child and second boy. In the grand scheme, Erb had to be on top of the world. Then Saturday happened and his professional life turned into a shattered ankle.
Yes, the Hawkeyes won their season opener Saturday over Tennessee Tech, 34-7, at drenched Kinnick Stadium. Quarterback James Vandenberg took a clean handoff of the baton from Ricky Stanzi and completed 13 of 21 for 219 yards and two TDs.
“It’s the first step of many,” Vandenberg said. “We have to keep pushing forward.”
Wide receiver Marvin McNutt put his name in the hat for the first round of the NFL draft with an 88-yard TD reception that he sprung with a hurdle of a Tech defender and a sideline tiptoe. Cornerback Shaun Prater did him one better, with an 89-yard interception return for a 27-0 halftime lead.
“I knew it was a touchdown,” McNutt said after replay officials took a look at his sideline dance.
McNutt had six catches for 142 yards and two TDs, making a few nifty moves and taking a tunnel screen in from 19 yards to make it 34-0 early in the third quarter.
And the defense, the preseason consensus as the hot spot, held Tech in check after giving up a 17-yard gain on the first play. Tech’s lone scoring drive came late against Iowa’s second-team defense.
“We’ll see offenses like this again,” Prater said. “It was great to get a look at it and see what we need to fix.”
Even the Kinnick Stadium operations crew negotiated a wonderfully organized evacuation, sending the crowd into the concourse and out of the stadium for a lightning delay that officially lasted 84 minutes.
”It was obviously an unusual situation,” Athletics Director Gary Barta said.
Seven freshmen began their Iowa careers. Overall, a generally positive day for the Hawkeyes.
”I hope our players can learn a lot from the Iowa kids, because that’s how I teach them to win games,” TTU Coach Watson Brown said. “It’s not big plays all of the time, it’s consistent football.”
Then there was running back.
Sophomore Marcus Coker fumbled on his first carry, which was understandable considering the open-air dishwasher that engulfed Kinnick late Saturday morning. It was the second fumble that sent him to the bench in favor of freshman Mika’il McCall.
McCall looked bent on starting a running back controversy, rushing nine times for 61 yards and bringing stability to the offense.
Oh, but wait. We’re talking Iowa running back. Remember that heart-of-midnight black cloud that has hovered over the running back position at Iowa since 2009? It’s still there and still raining down misery.
McCall made a cut, took a hit and ended up with a ruined right ankle in the second quarter. Coach Kirk Ferentz confirmed broken ankle and out for the season. The second it happened, Ferentz was mentally going down the depth chart.
”Anytime any player gets hurt at any position, I sure do,” he said. “Especially when it’s a serious injury, which unfortunately this one was.”
Coker’s performance was sluggish, and he wasn’t happy about it.
After the two fumbles, Coker’s first half just never took hold. He ran high — as he did last season — and tentative. Coker refused to lean on the weather as an excuse.
After middle linebacker James Morris returned an interception 52 yards to TTU’s 9, Coker appeared to go the wrong way on third-and-2, missed a block and ran into Vandenberg.
Coker finished with 11 carries for 41 yards and the two fumbles.
”You start thinking to yourself, don’t fumble, and then you’re thinking about it,” said Coker, who’s fumbled three times in eight games. “You just try to get that fog out of your head.”
It’s been a torrent of torn ACLs and early departures since Shonn Greene left in 2008. After a sleepy blowout against an FCS school, Iowa is back on red alert for the next 11 weeks.
Run the roll call and it’s Coker, who also refused to blame the little contact he had in camp, junior walk-on Jason White (one carry for 1 yard), redshirt freshman De’Andre Johnson (eight carries for 32 yards) and freshmen Damon Bullock and Jordan Canzeri.
Bullock played in the first half, so he’s in. Canzeri didn’t play and could redshirt. White was primarily a special teamer Saturday.
The Hawkeyes will need them all.
”It feels like it’s inevitable sometimes,” White said.