Iowa Football

Big Ten football notebook: Rocky Lombardi gets his shot ... as a punter

Former Cedar Rapids Washington prep is backup QB at Michigan State

West Des Moines Valley's Rocky Lombardi (12), a former Cedar Rapids Washington quarterback, breaks away for a run and is stopped by Iowa City West's Blake Ealy (64, behind) and Khalloe Jordan (54) at Iowa City West High School on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. (The Gazette)
West Des Moines Valley's Rocky Lombardi (12), a former Cedar Rapids Washington quarterback, breaks away for a run and is stopped by Iowa City West's Blake Ealy (64, behind) and Khalloe Jordan (54) at Iowa City West High School on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — You kind of always knew Rocky Lombardi would end up playing big-time college football. But as a punter?

The former Cedar Rapids Washington and West Des Moines Valley prep made his debut last Saturday night for the Michigan State Spartans as an emergency punter late in their game at Arizona State. ASU won, 16-13.

Lombardi’s lone boot was 32 yards. He replaced Jake Hartberger, who was injured in the game and is expected to be out of action six to eight weeks.

A redshirt freshman, Lombardi — son of former Wash Coach Tony Lombardi — also is MSU’s No. 2 quarterback.

“I think he’s an outstanding athlete, and he’s punted, and he has a strong leg,” Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio said this week at his weekly press conference. “He needs to work at it a little bit more and probably be coached a little bit more in it, because I think he punts with raw power right now. I do think he has the ability to do it and we’re going to find out a little bit more as we move forward. I like his attitude and his competitiveness and ... he gives you a guy back there who is a quarterback, so he understands pressure.”

“I am probably as shocked as everybody in America that follows the Spartans,” Tony Lombardi told mlive.com. "He played football at Arizona State and was in attendance at last week’s game in Tempe.

“On the other side, I’m not shocked. If you had a golf tournament on the football team, I wouldn’t be shocked if he won. He’s just one of those guys.”

Nebraska's 12th game

Iowa State finished its search for a game to make up a weather cancellation from two weeks ago against South Dakota State by coaxing Incarnate Word to play it Dec. 1 at Ames. Nebraska, which also had its opener weathered out, continues looking for at 12th game.

Head coach Scott Frost said Thursday his strong preference is for the Huskers to play on their previously scheduled bye week of Oct. 27 instead of Dec. 1. His reasoning for that is simple.

“I don’t want to schedule a game for December, because I think we’re going to have a chance to be in the (Big Ten) championship game,” Frost told local reporters after a Thursday practice. “Scheduling a game in December, I don’t want our kids thinking that we’re not going to be in the championship game. We need to be in the championship game.”

Wisconsin WR to stand trial

Wisconsin wide receiver Quintez Cephus will go to trial on a pair of sexual-assault charges, it was decided this week. A judge denied a motion from Cephus’ attorneys to dismiss a second-degree sexual assault, meaning he faces that charge and a third-degree charge after a spring encounter with two women in Madison, Wis., who claimed they were heavily intoxicated and subsequently sexually assaulted by Cephus after meeting him at a bar and then ending up at his apartment.

Cephus and wide receiver Danny Davis II were suspended by Wisconsin, though Davis (who was alleged to have taken a photo of the assault) has been reinstated to the team after not being charged with a crime.

Hooser up

Indiana got 204 yards rushing from freshman Stevie Scott to knock off Virginia last Saturday night, 20-16. The total was just 3 yards shy of the school record for a freshman, set by Anthony Thompson. Scott is 6-foot-2 and 236 pounds and hails from Syracuse, N.Y., of all places.

Iowa's honorary captain

Marvin Sims Jr. has been selected honorary captain for Saturday’s home game against Northern Iowa, Iowa announced Thursday.

Sims is the son of Marvin Sims, who was employed by the university for 22 years, mostly working with student-athletes as a counselor. He passed away in 2010.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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