IOWA CITY — Buffalo chicken wings and shrimp on the barbie.
It was good eating for everyone related to Iowa Hawkeyes football Saturday, with all three units owning Michigan State on the way to a well-done 49-7 grilling of the Spartans at Kinnick Stadium.
You spend umpteen dollars recruiting and umpteen hours scouting to try to build the perfect football beast, but two of the players who gave the Hawkeyes so much Saturday were a transfer from Buffalo and a punter from Australia.
Charlie Jones came to Iowa from the University of Buffalo Bulls without a scholarship awaiting him here because he said he wanted to play closer to his Chicagoland home and compete against “the best of the best.” He returned a Spartan punt for a touchdown in the first half.
Tory Taylor, a 23-year-old punter from Melbourne who had never seen an American football game in person before he played in one two weeks ago, was part thunderfoot, part trick-shot artist. When he wasn’t hitting tape-measure home runs balls for a third-straight game, he was dropping kicks inside the MSU 10 and somehow getting them to bounce Iowa’s way.
A lot of other Hawkeyes joined Iowa’s program in more conventional ways. They, too, helped their team find its way out of the darkness of an 0-2 start by locking in and unloading on an opponent that simply wasn’t etheir equal.
Iowa’s offensive and defensive linemen both played their best games of the season and overwhelmed their foe, as did the rest of their teammates. Jones and Taylor didn’t carry the Hawkeyes, but instead supplemented a ball-hawking defense and an offense that was far more in rhythm and used a game plan with more rhyme and reason than was seen the week before in their 21-20 loss to Northwestern.
“The guys played really hard out there,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “They played tough and they played physical.”
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Comments like that have been uttered by football coaches since Bear Bryant was a cub, but when Ferentz gives those kinds of kudos after a game, you know his team has taken an opponent apart.
“We needed a win,” he said. “We needed to play well.”
After two games in which they didn’t get or do those things, this one was over as soon as it started. Going on a long touchdown drive for the first time at Kinnick this season felt so good on their first possession that they did it again on their second. In between, Iowa’s Jack Koerner picked off a Rocky Lombardi pass, something two of Koerner’s teammates also did before halftime.
“We talked all week that we needed to show up at 11:02 for the kick and be ready to play,” said Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras. “I think collectively we did that.”
By 11:15, it was clear that were would be no squandering of a lead the way there had been the week before against Northwestern when the Hawkeyes’ 17-0 first-quarter advantage was gradually erased.
The yardage was 203-45 in favor of Iowa at one point. The score went from 21-0 to 35-0 in the amount of time you can say “Zach VanValkenburg.” Jones’ punt-return for a touchdown and Riley Moss’ interception return for a score happened 27 seconds apart. Both covered 54 yards.
For a few moments, defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon had an apparent touchdown on a fumble return early in the second half before the officials changed the call to an incomplete pass after a video review. You can’t have everything, but the Hawkeyes sure came close.
They’re 1-2 despite outscoring the opposition by 37 points this season. There isn’t a team left on their schedule they can’t beat if they don’t keep showing up at 11:02 or whenever the games start. They have players worth watching, that’s for sure.
Brandon Smith makes catches, beauties. Nixon makes mayhem. And this Taylor fellow who kicks footballs into orbit?
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“A delightful young man,” said Ferentz, whose dinner surely tasted better Saturday than it has for quite a while.
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