Three cool things:
1. Is this a Drew Ott game? Close enough.
I had to ask James Morris how to approach Drew Ott. I don’t remember exactly what Morris said, but basically it was “Quiet kid, seems to like watching TV.”
At this point, here was this Nebraskan who had decent scholarship offers but not one from the home-state college. What did Iowa have in Ott? Why was he wearing a mullet? And did he say he drove his motor scooter from Iowa City to his hometown of Trumbull, Neb.?
Iowa had a lot in Ott. Yes on the mullet. And yes on driving the scooter from Iowa City to Trumbull.
(See feature story below)
2. Sometimes, yeah, I do build up an opponent and then wonder, “Am I going over the top on this?”
Totally coping to that here. Illinois State was a nice team that came into Kinnick in 2015. It was the FCS runner-up the year before. Iowa didn’t deal well with Tre Roberson when he was a freshman QB at Indiana. What would he do in Iowa City?
Well, not much.
The Hawkeyes held Illinois State to 35 rushing yards. Ott had two sacks. Was it a statement game for Iowa? This was coming off the abrasive malaise that was 2014. You hate to say Iowa had a statement game at Kinnick against an FCS team, but if you look at the entirety of 2015, maybe it was.
3. Ott and LeShun Daniels ended up with bloody noses in this one.
I’m just going to make a little note about football lightning strikes. You do not see that very often.
Quote: “We talked in January about how it’s a new season, a new year, and we talked to (players) last night. This is the first chapter in that story.” — Kirk Ferentz
Note: This was the first game at Kinnick after 2014 Nebraska and “That’s football.” I suggested the headline “Now that’s football.” I’m sure that went over well with everyone.
Why No. 86? — FCS game at Kinnick. I hope we drop this one a few spots when we reedit. I should say when someone else reedits.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2015
IOWA CITY — Drew Ott grew up on a Nebraska farm, and, yes, they slaughtered animals. But no, he didn’t compare that to the gusher of a bloody nose he had in the third quarter to that.
“Irrigation well, I guess,” Ott said.
LeShun Daniels is from Warren, Ohio. It’s just north of Youngstown and, no, he didn’t grow up on a farm. He has no idea how he ended up with a bloody nose.
“It was a little cut earlier in the game,” Daniels said. “I don’t even know how it happened. It was just a regular cut, I guess.”
Those weren’t the only two bloody noses in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.
After an offseason of questions and doubts and general negativity, the Hawkeyes (1-0) came out swinging against Illinois State (0-1) and landed blow after blow.
Junior running back Daniels rushed 26 times for 123 yards, quarterback C.J. Beathard, who completed 15 of 24 for 211 yards, rushed for two TDs and threw for another and Iowa’s defense sacked quarterback Tre Roberson five times and held the Redbirds to just 35 rushing yards in a 31-14 victory before a crowd of 59,450.
Yes, Illinois State is an FCS school, but the Redbirds were the national runner-up last season and returned Roberson, a former Indiana QB who put up nearly 300 yards as a true freshman at Kinnick in 2011, and running back Marshaun Coprich. (And, yes, the FCS part likely figures into the Kinnick attendance, which dipped below 60,000 for the first time since Aug. 30, 2003, against Miami (Ohio), when the attendance was 54,128.)
There was blood, outside zones that went for 27 yards, screen passes that set up field goals just before halftime, bubble screens that looked like bubble screens and a 99-yard drive. To be clear, it was a 99-yard drive for Iowa, so you know the Hawkeyes didn’t just pick up where they left off last season.
“We talked in January about how it’s a new season, a new year, and we talked to (players) last night,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “This is the first chapter in that story.”
The Hawkeyes, who piled up 431 yards total offense, started typing on their first drive, a 13-play, 81-yarder that Beathard finished with a 6-yard QB draw. Then, the Hawkeyes penned their “Infinite Jest,” a 577,608-page novel. with Beathard’s 2-yard QB sneak pushing a 12-play, 99-yard drive off the dock and finally into the end zone on running back Jordan Canzeri’s 5-yard run.
“We practice situations in camp and one of them was a 99-yard drive,” said wide receiver Matt VandeBerg, who led Iowa with six catches for 59 yards. “We just grinded it out, good, old Iowa football, ground and pound. It pays off when you go 99 yards, it boosts everyone’s confidence.”
The 99-yarder tied a record, with Iowa last pulling it off at Miami (Ohio) in 2002. More than that, it was a statement of purpose.
By the way, the 99-yard drive only worked in camp against Iowa’s defense when Ferentz dictated that it worked.
“That’s hard to do for any offense against any defense,” said Beathard, who hit VandeBerg for a 17-yard gain to convert the one third down the offense saw on the 99-yarder. “It was big.”
Any hope of dragging itself off the 120-plus degree FieldTurf for Illinois State was punched in the face by Ott on the next drive. First down, the senior defensive end sacked Roberson for an 11-yard loss. On third-and-14, Ott pulled off the sack and strip.
Ironically, Ott ended up with the bloody nose, not on that play but later. A poor student-trainer had to pinch his nose on the bench for a little while. With Ott, there always seems to be a comic touch, but not far behind is something pretty good on the field, too.
“Ott was a handful, I don’t know what else there is to say,” ISU Coach Brock Spack said. “We tried to put a tight end over there, but he ran by or ran through him a few times.”
Maybe the most popular play of the day was the field goal that Marshall Koehn tried in the second quarter. He was tackled two yards short of the first down, but it didn’t matter. Kinnick cheered it.
If this felt like a different Iowa, it was because it is, or at least might be. Ferentz made another reference to January and some of the talking that went on then.
“We tried to go through everything as thoroughly as we possibly could, and I think that’s (the fake field goal) probably the creation out of that think tank a little bit,” Ferentz said.
Maybe Iowa is doing a little writing and a little erasing.
Drew Ott Feature from 2013
LINCOLN, Neb. — There was no map. There didn’t seem to be any plan.
All Drew Ott wanted to do was get home. He didn’t want to be a bother to his parents, Sheree and Dan, for a ride from Iowa City to Trumbull, Neb., a 400-mile and nearly six-hour ride in the car.
Ott didn’t want to be a bother, but that’s not the whole truth. The fact is he wanted to drive his moped across the state of Iowa and home to Nebraska.
“I liked driving ATVs when I was younger,” said Ott, a sophomore defensive end for the Iowa Hawkeyes. “I didn’t have a vehicle here and instead of making my parents drive all the way here, I just took my moped.”
Ott’s parents love him. They would have come and given him a ride.
“I’m sure my mom would’ve preferred that,” he said. “I just wanted to do this.”
As far as ready-made metaphors to capture the Hawkeyes season, this will work.
Iowa (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten) will, however, take the charter to Lincoln, Neb., for Friday’s regular-season finale against Nebraska (8-3, 5-2). After Friday’s game, there will be the matter of a bowl game, which could climb as high as the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., or as low as the Texas Bowl in Houston.
Iowa sports information put out a release Wednesday in regard to bowl tickets and listed the Outback, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Phoenix, Ariz., Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., and the Texas Bowl as the possibilities. Iowa doesn’t know and won’t until sometime on Dec. 8, when BCS bowl bids are handed out.
Again, Iowa took a charter on Thursday and Ott gladly hopped on the plane. Last summer, when he jumped on the moped and put on some safety goggles, he was looking for an adventure.
OK, maybe “adventure” is too strong of a word. Maybe peace of mind? Maybe a story to tell?
“There was this one little town that had 200 people in it,” said Ott, a 6-foot-4, 265-pounder who, in his first season as a starter, has 46 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries and 2.5 sacks. “Above the town, there was this giant mansion on top of a hill. That was pretty sweet. Can’t remember the town, but it was between here and Des Moines.”
Some facts about this epic voyage and travel tips in case you’re interested in extended moped travel:
— Trumbull is an hour and a half southwest of Lincoln and 403.9 miles from Iowa City on I-80.
— We’re talking about a moped, so you know he had to take back roads. This pushed the trip to more than 450 miles and nearly 12 hours.
— Ott’s moped can reach speeds of up to 50 or 55 mph.
“I was fighting a really strong wind, so I only went about 43,” he said. “That made it take a little longer.”
— If you’re big into gas mileage, run out and buy a moped. Ott estimated the cost for gas at $16.
— Don’t try to hold it. You’re going to need frequent bathroom breaks. Ott said he needed about eight.
— If you go at the right time of the year, bugs won’t be a terrible problem. Ott went in early summer, so the mosquitoes and whatnot weren’t yet buzzing.
“I didn’t get a lot of bugs in my eyes, I wore glasses,” he said.
— Wear sunscreen.
“All I came out of it with was a sunburn and my hair was blown straight back,” Ott said.
— Pack a lunch. You’re going to get hungry, it’s a 12-hour ordeal. Ott headed west on Melrose Avenue at 9 a.m. and pulled into home around 9 p.m.
“It was a dusk-to-dawn type of a deal,” he said.
— Be aware of helmet laws. Ott didn’t wear one in Iowa, where there is no law. In Nebraska, you wear a helmet or you get pulled over.
— At one point, a semi-truck cattle pot passed Ott. You definitely want to avoid those.
“I was covered in cow feces, so that was a lot of fun, too,” said Ott, who grew up on a farm between Trumbull and Giltner.
Ott rode Highway 14 to Lake Red Rock.
“There was a milelong bridge near the lake, that was really cool,” he said.
He took Highway 92 south of Des Moines and into Omaha. So, he would have gone past Winterset, the birthplace of John Wayne, and through Fontanelle, which is just a funny-sounding name for a town.
“There are a lot of hills in Iowa; that’s different from Nebraska,” he said.
Ott, who played five games as a true freshman last year, is a Nebraska country kid who never received a scholarship offer from the Huskers.
He went to Giltner High School, where he was named Nebraska’s Gatorade Player Of The Year despite the fact he played eight-man football. He helped Giltner post a 41-6 record during his four seasons. He holds school records for season (211) and career (626) tackles.
This is a guy who had his mullet haircut shaped up last week by fellow defensive end Dominic Alvis. Now, it’s really business in front and party-rock in the back. He also has a beard he’s grown since February. He doesn’t own a TV because he has no time for it.
“I didn’t know about the beard and all that other stuff,” linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “He’s a good kid. Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
From home this week, it’s been all good-luck wishes. Ott’s expression didn’t change much when asked about Nebraska. It’s in there, somewhere deep inside.
“I don’t think they looked at me too heavily, they looked at me a little bit, but I didn’t get the offer, anyway,” he said. “It gives me something to prove. I’ll go in with a little extra motivation.”
One day last summer, he had plenty of time to think about it.
And one epilogue here: Ott didn’t moped-it back to Iowa City. He loaded it into the back of his truck for the return trip. The moped has 4,500 miles on it now and still is his main transit in Iowa City.
And, yes, he’ll definitely be wearing a helmet. Probably not on the plane.