IOWA CITY — He was at the game the last time Iowa and Rutgers met. The only time Iowa and Rutgers have met.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette didn’t show up that late September 2016 day at SHI Stadium in Piscataway, N.J., until halftime. He was busy taking the ACT.
But he remembers a lot about the experience.
“It was a close game, 14-7, Iowa won,” Smith-Marsette said. “I’ll never forget it. Back then I was being recruited to Rutgers, so that’s who I was rooting for. I don’t even think I was talking to Iowa, yet.”
That didn’t happen until the next year, late in his senior season at Newark’s Weequahic High School. Wanting to get away from home, the wide receiver ended up signing with the Hawkeyes.
He is the only kid on the roster from New Jersey. Playing against his homestate team Saturday at Kinnick Stadium means something to him.
You bet it does.
“My only chance to play them,” Smith-Marsette said. “I wish I could play them at Rutgers, just to be back home. But we get a chance to play them, period, so no matter where it’s at, I’m going to show up, they’re going to show up, and it’s going to be a dog fight.”
Smith-Marsette — who caught four passes, including one for a touchdown in the season opener last week against Miami (Ohio) — said his mother and father will make the drive from New Jersey to be at Saturday’s game. He has a few friends on this Rutgers team who he said he will inevitably communicate with at some point this week.
He won’t talk any junk ... unless they start doing it first.
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“I’m not one of those guys who goes looking for a problem,” he said. “That’s not me. But if they talk, I’m going to talk. It’s just that.”
What will he tell them?
“That we’re going to bring the heat,” Smith-Marsette said.
Early game time, early conference game
This will be the earliest Big Ten Conference game Iowa ever has played. It’s the first Big Ten game of the season, actually, and the only one this week.
Ohio State plays next week at Indiana. The conference schedule then begins in earnest Sept. 21.
“It’s a little different,” said Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley. “But we are getting ready to play physical football. Big Ten games mean more, and we’re excited for that.”
“I’d rather we play all of our non-conference games first, but nobody is asking my opinion,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It is different. Anytime you are playing a conference game, it’s a significant thing.”
Ferentz said starting tackle Alaric Jackson will miss at least two weeks with a sprained right knee, sustained against Miami. His MRI came out clean, as far as no ligament tears.
Cornerback Riley Moss injured a leg against Miami and will miss four to six weeks, Ferentz said. He was seen Tuesday at the Iowa complex on crutches.
Cornerback Julius Brents did not dress last week and will miss more time. Offensive lineman Cole Banwart missed last week, but Ferentz seemed optimistic he could play against Rutgers.
The four Iowa captains against Rutgers will be the same as they were against Miami: quarterback Nate Stanley, cornerback Michael Ojemudia, fullback Brady Ross and linebacker Kristian Welch.
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Ferentz said the plan is to continue to play the four true freshmen who saw playing time against Miami: running back Tyler Goodson, guard Justin Britt, tight end Sam LaPorta and wide receiver Desmond Hutson. Britt is an especially interesting story in that the Indianapolis native missed his senior season last year with a knee injury, yet has gotten healthy and made an impression, obviously.
“He really hasn’t played football since ‘17,” Ferentz said. “So it’s amazing that he played as well as he did in camp, and he’s doing as well as he is right now ... I think I’ve (previously) mentioned this about his recruiting. I sat down with him in December (2017), and he’s just a very impressive guy. The more you learn about him, the more you like him.”
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