Iowa Football

Iowa football notebook: Mekhi Sargent hopes "slump" is over

Dane Belton appears to be in for rest of season

Iowa Hawkeyes running back Mekhi Sargent (10) stretches out to score a touchdown against Purdue in the fourth quarter of their NCAA football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Iowa won 26-20. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes running back Mekhi Sargent (10) stretches out to score a touchdown against Purdue in the fourth quarter of their NCAA football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Iowa won 26-20. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Everyone has a slump.

Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent was asked Tuesday if he felt he had been in one prior to a late flurry that produced a game-clinching touchdown last Saturday against Purdue.

“As a football player, I feel like we all go through adversity at some point,” the junior from Key West, Fla., said. “As a team, we were going through adversity since we’d lost two in a row. It all starts at practice, the basic fundamentals. Just move forward. We want to capitalize on every opportunity. Yeah, I was faced with some adversity.”

Sargent has been Iowa’s starter but fumbled on his first carry three weeks ago against Michigan. He finished with just seven carries for 12 yards.

Two weeks ago against Penn State, Sargent had just 18 yards on nine attempts. He was kind of the poster boy for Iowa’s struggling running game.

But with everything in the balance and Iowa nursing a 19-13 lead on Purdue with three minutes left and the Hawkeyes at the Boilermakers 35, Sargent ripped off a 21-yard run to the left side, then a 14-yard touchdown run up the middle on the next play. Both runs looked very determined.

“You know, I wasn’t the first to cough the ball up, and I won’t be the last,” Sargent said. “It hung with me for a few days, but we’re still in season, and you don’t want to be thinking negatively the whole time. No dwelling on the past. My thing was to move forward, there’s a lot of football left. Down the line, there’s just a lot of football left, and I just want to continue to be the best football player I can be for our team.”

Superb field goal unit

Iowa’s Keith Duncan leads the nation with 17 made field goals this season. The North Carolina native is 17-for-19 and has made all 16 of his extra-point attempts.

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It’s a team effort, though, and Duncan’s holder Colten Rastetter and long snapper Jackson Subbert were on hand at Tuesday’s player availability to talk about their roles.

“The field goal unit has grown tremendously,” said Rastetter. “Especially early in the season, we were all in new roles. Keith was kicking again, Jackson was in his second year snapping, it was my third year holding. So it was kind of like trying to build a new bond together. How we operate is a big part of it. Our friendship away from the building. We’re relying on Keith, and he knows we’re there for him.”

Rastetter is a senior from Clayton Ridge High School who has had punting duties wrested away from him this season by graduate transfer Michael Sleep-Dalton. Subbert is a senior from Williamsburg.

Middle linebacker, Dane Belton talk

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said middle linebacker Kristian Welch still isn’t practicing and is out for Saturday’s game at Northwestern. The plan is to continue to rotate redshirt freshman Dillon Doyle and true freshman Jack Campbell at the position.

Ferentz also said true freshman defensive back Dane Belton likely will be a full go the rest of the season. Belton played extensively against Purdue as a nickel back and had six tackles.

It was just his second game of the season, and he can play in two more and still redshirt. It appears he’ll play in more than two, “unless he hits a wall.”

“He made a good showing on Saturday,” Ferentz said. “And he’ll help us on special teams, too.”

Superb defense

Here are the numbers for Iowa’s defense. It is giving up 11.6 points per game, the lowest of the Kirk Ferentz era and the lowest for an Iowa team since 1965 (9.2).

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The Hawkeyes are allowing 275 yards per game, the lowest since 1984 (272.2). They rank third in the Big Ten Conference right now in total defense and rushing defense and are fourth in scoring defense.

And they face a Northwestern team that is averaging just 12.5 points a game. Other than a 30-point outing in their only win, against UNLV, the Wildcats’ point totals have been meek: 7, 20, 15, 10 and 3 in that order.

Game captains

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz announced team captains for the Northwestern game will be quarterback Nate Stanley, running back Toren Young, Welch and fullback Brady Ross.

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

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