EVANSTON, Ill. — There is a bit of a download going on with Tyrone Tracy.
The redshirt freshman from Indianapolis, Ind., scored and gained yards every way imaginable for his Decatur Central High School team. Running back, wide receiver, kick return and punt return. Tracy brought the circus to the circus.
At Iowa, it’s all been wide receiver. It’s come with a little bit of a learning curve, but maybe Tracy jumped over it in the first quarter during the No. 20 Hawkeyes’ 20-0 win Saturday at Northwestern.
After the Hawkeyes failed on a golden opportunity with an interception that gave them a first down at NU’s 28, quarterback Nate Stanley looked Tracy’s way on a third-and-10.
Tracy ran a curl and settled in the zone. Stanley fired a strike. It was going to be a first down, but NU’s Trae Williams missed the tackle and instead spun Tracy into the open.
Tracy took it from there, going 50 yards down the opposite sideline for a 7-0 lead.
“We didn’t know running back or receiver,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I remember Tom Moore (former Iowa player and longtime NFL offensive coordinator) was at a practice last year during a bye week. He made a move and we (Ferentz and Moore) just kind of caught eyes after he made that move.
“The question was what’s he going to end up doing?
Adding degree of difficulty for Tracy this week was the fact it was his first game at “X” wide receiver, the split end spot that junior Brandon Smith had turned into an ad for all-Big Ten the last couple of weeks. Smith suffered an ankle injury last week and will be out for up to five weeks.
Tracy said in the postgame he knows all three spots. He showed that with his two catches for 88 yards (he also had a 38-yard reception that set up a field goal in the fourth quarter).
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“I hold myself to being electric,” said Tracy, whose 50-yard TD was Iowa’s third-longest play this season. “I spun and I saw two blockers, Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Nico Ragaini, they did their thing and that’s basically how I scored.”
It was 0-0 at Northwestern. You’ve seen enough Pat Fitzgerald Northwestern and Kirk Ferentz Iowa to know that the Wildcats and Hawkeyes can be like watching a Buick sink into quicksand.
Tracy gave it a zap.
“It was a big play in general because we were going to get the first down,” Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs said. “That’s happened like twice this year, where someone swings him around and he just keeps going. I ran after the play, thinking first down and we’re going to get in the huddle, next thing I know he turns on the jets.”
Tracy showed electricity and some savvy on Saturday.
The Hawkeyes went for a fourth-and-8 on their first drive of the third quarter with a 10-0 lead. Stanley passed to tight end Shaun Beyer. Beyer might’ve had the first down, but with three Northwestern defenders in pursuit, Tracy peeled off his route and landed just enough of a block on the player closest to Beyer, ensuring the first down and an 11-yard gain.
“I saw Shaun Beyer get the ball, I didn’t think he had the first down and I saw three people going after him,” Tracy said. “One-on-three is never a good situation. I’m trying to make the team better in every single way I can, so I threw my body in there and we got the first down.”
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