Iowa Football

Iowa football Quick Slants: No 100-yard rusher yet, Noah Fant's usage and more

Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent carries the ball against Maryland at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent carries the ball against Maryland at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — We’re heading into November, and the Iowa Hawkeyes still don’t have a 100-yard rusher in a game. That’s so un-Iowa like.

Ivory Kelly-Martin has come the closest, going for a career-high 98 two weeks ago against Maryland. Toren Young had 96 yards three weeks ago against Indiana.

Mekhi Sargent set his career high last week against Penn State with 91 yards on 16 carries. The running back position has three heads, which has meant no 100s.

“We don’t pay too much attention to statistics and things like that,” Young said. “It is exciting that one week, one guy has a big game, and the next week, another guy has a big game. It’s fun to see that. You want to see other guys have good games.”

Iowa has the fewest rushing touchdowns of any team in the Big Ten, tied with Rutgers at nine. Wisconsin has the most at 20, followed closely by Maryland at 19.

The Hawkeyes have only two rushing TDs in their five conference games, and one of those came from tight end T.J. Hockenson on a fake field goal. Sargent has the other and leads the running back stable with four overall touchdowns.

Young has two and Kelly-Martin one.

Yardage wise, Iowa ranks ninth in the league with a 161.6 average per game. Again, Wisconsin (as you’d expect) leads the Big Ten with a 267.5-yard average.

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“I don’t know who’s going to do well Saturday, but we’re counting on all three of those guys to play well for us,” Ferentz said.

Tiebreaker talk

With the Big Ten Conference’s West Division being a jumbled mess, you might be curious about tiebreaking procedures for determining the division’s representative in the Big Ten championship game. In a two-way tie, of course, it’s head to head.

In the event of a three or four-way tie, here are the tiebreakers, straight from the Big Ten website.

1. The records of the three tied teams will be compared against each other.

2. The records of the three tied teams will be compared within their division.

3. The records of the three teams will be compared against the next highest placed teams in their division in order. 4. The records of the three teams will be compared against all common conference opponents.

5. The best cumulative conference winning percentage of non-divisional opponents.

6. The records of the three teams will be compared against the highest placed non-divisional teams in their division order of finish (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7).

7. The team with the best overall winning percentage (excluding exempted games) shall be the representative.

8. The representative will be chosen by random draw.

Northwestern leads the West Division with a 5-1 record. Wisconsin, Purdue and Iowa all are 3-2.

Another Ferentz milestone

One more victory will allow Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz to become the fifth coach to achieve 150 wins as a member of the Big Ten. The others are Woody Hayes (202), Amos Alonzo Stagg (199), Bo Schembechler (194) and Joe Paterno (162).

Kick (Offing) It

Iowa continues to lead the nation in kickoff returns. The Hawkeyes average 31.8 yards per return, an average that bumped up ever so slightly against Penn State, when three kickoffs were returned for a 34-yard average. Ihmir Smith-Marsette averages 33.7 yards per return, which leads the Big Ten and is second nationally.

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Ferentz credited being allowed to hire an extra assistant coach, thus making LeVar Woods a full-time special teams coach for that. He said the improvement of kicker Miguel Recinos and punter Colten Rastetter also is a testament to Woods.

“I think that has been a real benefit,” Ferentz said. “I applaud the NCAA for that ... Having a coach for all of our specialists is very good.”

Injury news

Ferentz said backup tight end Shaun Beyer (a former Cedar Rapids Kennedy prep) was injured in Monday’s non-contact practice and will miss Saturday’s game against Purdue. He could be out multiple weeks.

Kelly-Martin didn’t play much against Penn State and part of it was an ankle injury that has nagged him since the first game of the season. Ferentz said Kelly-Martin is “a little sore” but is expected to be available against Purdue.

With the suspension this week of Matt Hankins, Michael Ojemudia is listed on Iowa’s depth chart as backup cornerback on both sides. True freshmen Riley Moss (right corner) and Julius Brents (left corner) continue to be the starters. Hankins and defensive back Trey Creamer were suspended from all team activities this week after being charged by Iowa City police for excessive noise during a party at their residence.

Trickeration nation

Ferentz was asked about the increased use of trick plays this season for Iowa. For instance, Iowa scored a touchdown on a fake field goal pass against Penn State from holder Rastetter to defensive end Sam Brincks and tried a fake punt later in the first half.

T.J. Hockenson scored against Minnesota on a swinging gate run off a fake field goal. Ferentz notoriously has been against “trickeration” throughout his career, but said he has re-evaluated that thinking.

“I have definitely been more open to it the last four years or so than 15 years ago,” Ferentz said.

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Fant usage

The usage, or sometimes lack thereof, of tight end Noah Fant has been a hot topic of conversation this season. The junior’s play count has been much less than fellow tight end T.J. Hockenson, and Fant did not become a factor in the passing game against Penn State until very late.

He also was not in the game on the final play when Iowa had to throw a Hail Mary. Fant was asked about passing targets Tuesday.

“Honestly, I would like to be more involved all the time,” Fant said. “But that’s not really in my control. I can control if I catch the ball, I can control what I do with the ball once I catch it. I’m just taking that standpoint of it. Taking advantage of the opportunities I’ve given when (passes) are thrown to me and things like that ... Just focused on being a team player.”

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

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