Marvin McNutt playing hoops for the Hawkeyes might’ve been fun. Now that Iowa baseball is enjoying a renaissance, maybe Marvin McNutt in black and gold and in center field might’ve been fun.
I’m here to tell you, in 2011 Iowa football, Marvin McNutt the wide receiver was most definitely fun.
(See feature story below)
McNutt set the Iowa career record for touchdown receptions in this one, catching three to up his total to 24. He finished his career with 28.
Quote: “You don’t earn records by accident. It’s a tribute to his work ethic.” — Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Note: McNutt finished 2011 with 82 catches (tied with Kevin Kasper for the top mark in Iowa history) for 1,315 yards (Keith Chappelle is the next closest at 1,037) and 12 TDs (also a school record for receiving TDs in a season).
Why No. 98? — I think we can all agree, McNutt owned Indiana.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2011
IOWA CITY — There is photographic evidence that Marvin McNutt walked on air.
Of course, these guys are trained to keep perspective and not allow the highs to rocket into space. McNutt talked about the two drops he had in Iowa’s 45-24 victory over Indiana before 70,585 Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
OK, sure, there’s that. But in a few years when he’s making NFL money, even McNutt might take a step back and admire this one. And, yes, looking around the corner, that Iowa defense did allow 414 yards to an offense directed by a true freshman quarterback.
Let’s start this out light.
Outside the lines, it was homecoming. On the field, it was Marvin McNutt Day.
McNutt set the Iowa career record for touchdown receptions with a dazzlingly easy 80-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter and then padded the record with two more to help the Hawkeyes (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) build 35-14 halftime lead.
When all was said and done, McNutt caught six passes for 184 yards and three TDs. McNutt has 24 career TDs, breaking the record held by Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes. McNutt has 2,303 receiving yards and needs 314 to break the career record set last season by Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (2,616).
Hughes sent a text to McNutt. Dwight probably wasn’t far behind. DJK is in Iowa City, so you know McNutt will hear from him.
Where would McNutt’s numbers be if he’d arrived at Iowa as a wide receiver instead of a quarterback? That’s a hypothetical, but talk about rocketing into space.
“You don’t earn records by accident,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s a tribute to his work ethic.”
When all is said and done, McNutt might go down as Iowa’s greatest wide receiver. He needs 44 receptions to tie Johnson-Koulianos’ career receptions record of 173. That might be a stretch.
But hey, let’s not be a Debbie Downer on Marvin McNutt Day. Even ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay got in on it with this tweet, “He’s one of the most underrated college football WRs.”
“He’s a stud,” quarterback James Vandenberg said. “I know all the receivers have learned so much from him. I know I’ve learned so much from him. I just feel really fortunate to have had a chance to play with him.”
The dance McNutt and Vandenberg performed in the first half was otherworldly. Vandenberg completed 8 of 10 for 211 yards and three TDs. That’s a pass efficiency of 356.24.
The 80-yarder popped wide open when the double team covering McNutt on a crossing route crashed into two other Indiana (1-7, 0-4) defenders. Cornerback Michael Hunter delayed No. 2 when he broke up the first fade attempt. On the next play, Vandenberg called an audible out of a run play and went to the same pass. This time, McNutt snatched the ball over the trailing Hunter.
“I knew I had to win that time,” McNutt said. “I wasn’t going to drop another one.”
McNutt scored the hat trick on a 29-yarder with 16 seconds left in the first half. That basically sent Indiana home.
So, was it like walking on air?
“Not really,” McNutt said with a laugh. “It just felt like I was playing football, and it was fun.”
Running back Marcus Coker got in on the fun with 139 yards and two TDs. Vandenberg finished 12 of 16 for 253 yards and four TDs (290.32 pass efficiency). Even the No. 2 running backs (De’Andre Johnson and Jordan Canzeri) chipped in with nine carries for 52 yards.
This was Marvin McNutt Day. In the postgame, it didn’t take long to realize that, yes, the numbers are outstanding, but McNutt is more than that. Remember Coker’s start to the season, three fumbles in two weeks?
”He’s been one of those guys who’s picked me up ever since I’ve been here,” Coker said. “He’s one of the guys I fell back on when I was having a hard time. Seeing him go out there and get three today, just amazing.”
OK, the defense.
IU freshman Tre Roberson might have stamped his name on Big Ten freshman of the week with his 278 yards of offense and a TD pass. Indiana gained more yards (414) than it did against North Texas (404). Last week against Wisconsin, the Hoosiers converted 2 of 14 third downs (14.29 percent). Saturday, it was 7 of 14.
The Hoosiers rushed for 218 yards, the second time this season Iowa has allowed 200-plus on the ground.
“I don’t know what it is about yardage, but psychologically, it’s yards on the ground that really ... seem to give you Pepto-Bismol moments,” Ferentz said. “That part, we’ve got to tighten down. It’s just not a good feeling when people run the ball successfully.”
Hey, Marvin McNutt day, right?
Marvin McNutt Feature From 2011
In his grasp
IOWA CITY — They come here with bodies. Kind of hard to play football without one.
Some bodies need building and, eventually, maintenance. Most bodies need the weight room and training in the explosive art of the game. Other bodies need to find where they fit, or where they can shine and help the most.
The lanky 6-foot-4 walked in the door at the University of Iowa as a quarterback. The 215 pounds spent a redshirt season and some of his freshman year figuring out the QB playbook. The long legs went to quarterback meetings with Ricky Stanzi, the future No. 1 QB.
The monster hands need one touchdown catch to stand alone in the Iowa record books.
Yes, Marvin McNutt, who needs one TD reception to set Iowa’s career record at 22, has had his hands measured. During NFL timing day last spring, league scouts took out the tape measure.
“They took a look, but I don’t know the actual measurement,” McNutt said with a laugh. “I think it’s a common hand size, for my body.”
The feet, the abs, the long arms came out of Hazelwood (Mo.) Central, a St. Louis suburb, with options. McNutt had a basketball scholarship offer from Southern Illinois.
“It was a tossup between basketball and football, all the way up to the summer before my senior year,” McNutt said. “I had a lot of MAC (Mid-American Conference) schools. There were a lot of schools looking at me, period, but I didn’t finish out summer basketball.”
The vision and the timing also were a draftable baseball prospect. McNutt didn’t check the “I will enter draft if drafted” box during evaluations.
“I got an email one time asking me what I’d do if I got drafted,” McNutt said with a smile. “I said, well, it depends on what round.”
Iowa wide receivers coach Erik Campbell came to Iowa in 2008, just when McNutt made the switch from quarterback. Campbell was in on the ground floor. He had no idea where it would go, but he knew one thing, even in the early moment with this transformation.
Remember, McNutt had to be taught everything. Six games into his junior season at Hazelwood Central, he was made the QB. His team went on to win six straight and land a spot in the state title game. There was no looking back. McNutt was a QB and was recruited as a QB.
In other words, he had to learn how to line up as a wide receiver. Yes, line up.
”There were never any negative thoughts, but it was a process that started with the very basics,” Campbell said. “We had to teach him how to line up, how to get off the line of scrimmage, technique, everything.
“But it was always positive. When you have that kind of body, 6-4, 215 pounds, when you can run and jump, you never give up on it.”
The transition McNutt’s body made has been chronicled up and down. Here are some hard numbers to show you what exactly changed: McNutt’s 40-yard dash went from the 4.7-second range to 4.5. His vertical went from 38 inches to 42. He said he already had the abs, so we’ll take his word on that.
Quarterback is not an explosive position, not at Iowa. Nebraska, yes. Florida with Tim Tebow, yes. Wide receivers need to be fast and need to bounce back after a 25-yard route one play and throwing a block on the next.
McNutt changed his body into a wide receiver body. That took a lot of will and a lot of work.
”He has quick feet and is big enough to beat you on a slant pass,” Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg said. “He can jump and he has big hands, so he can also beat you all day on the fade.”
That says it all about the body.
”He’s one of those lanky guys with long arms who somehow comes up with the catch,” said Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater, who’s been butting heads with McNutt at practice for four years now. “Even if you have perfect technique and cover him well, he’ll still come up with the ball. He’s more physical than he looks, too.”
McNutt tied Tim Dwight (1994-97) and Danan Hughes (1989-92) with his 21st career TD reception last week. Hughes, 41, now lives in Kansas City and serves as a color analyst for the Big Ten Network and for Missouri Valley Conference games.
Hughes came to Iowa as a high school quarterback. He said the transition makes sense with football IQ.
”You understand the mental aspect of the game as far as coverage and windows,” he said. “You’re throwing the ball all the time and you’re also catching it. That makes your hands stronger.
“Quarterbacks have some of the strongest hands in the NFL. It’s not a huge difference in that aspect, but when you have someone who has a big body and who can adjust speed-wise, then, I think the transition is normal. Not everyone has the speed, but Marvin is the complete package.”
The talk once again comes down to McNutt’s big, strong hands. And, yes, the NFL measures hands.
“I was always the guy at the combine who was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” said Ferentz, who voiced a no vote for hand measurement while serving as an O-line coach for the Cleveland/Baltimore organization (1993-98). “Can the guy play? I used to get in arguments in meetings over stuff like that.
“That being said, it’s good for quarterbacks and receivers to have big hands. I won’t deny that.”
Junior wide receiver Keenan Davis has measured his hand against McNutt’s. Davis said his are bigger.
Yes, athletes are that competitive.
”We compared hands a long time ago,” Davis said. “Everybody says we’re like twin brothers. Everything is the same. Our families are close and the way we grew up is the same.”
Davis’ hands are bigger. Now, he only needs 15 and who knows how many more TD receptions to catch McNutt.