Iowa Football

Iowa kicker Keith Duncan looks to build upon unparalleled season

Iowa Hawkeyes place kicker Keith Duncan (3) is congratulated after successfully kicking a point after touchdown during t
Iowa Hawkeyes place kicker Keith Duncan (3) is congratulated after successfully kicking a point after touchdown during the second half of 2019 Holiday Bowl against the USC Trojans at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019. Iowa won 49-24. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — If he had to do it all over again, yeah, he’d do it all over again.

Iowa kicker Keith Duncan was asked last week in a Zoom interview with reporters about his personal celebration after nailing a 48-yard field goal in the regular-season finale to beat Nebraska in Lincoln.

After the football went through the uprights and nestled ever so gently into the net, Duncan ran down field, turned toward the Nebraska bench, wagged his finger at it and blew a kiss. No, that didn’t exactly fly with the Cornhuskers and their fans, who were denied a bowl game with the loss.

With about 11 months in the rear-view mirror since then, Duncan was asked if maybe, just maybe he felt he went too far. At least a little bit, Keith?

“No, I would not have done anything differently,” he said, flatly. “I wish it could have lasted longer. So much fun, a lot of fun, something I’ll always remember.”

You bet he heard from Nebraska fans about what they considered to be unnecessary celebratory shenanigans. He expected that.

“Yeah, I’ve gotten a lot of Twitter messages, hand-written letters with watermarks on them,” he said. “I think that’s pretty cool. They’ve got a lot of passionate fans, I loved playing at Nebraska, have a lot of respect for the program, as well as their fans. I hope we can do it again this year. I don’t care if it comes down to a field goal or a plain blowout, I’d love to see us get one more against Nebraska this year.”

So there you go. No regrets, man.

And no looking back for the senior North Carolinian. Duncan’s historic 2019 season saw him named a first-team All-American and set Iowa and Big Ten Conference records with 29 made field goals.

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He was 29 of 34 overall, including 14 of 18 from 40 yards and beyond. He also was true on all 32 of his extra-point attempts.

Somehow he didn’t win the Lou Groza Award for the nation’s top kicker.

“Yes, personally, I do feel like he got snubbed for that award,” said Iowa special teams coach LeVar Woods.

“My number one goal in the offseason was not to look at anything I did last year,” Duncan said. “Other than form wise. I like to reflect back and see what is good and what’s bad there. But, right now, I haven’t made a field goal this season. So that’s kind of the mindset that I’m going into this year. Totally new season, I’m 0 for 0. It’s just making the most of your opportunities and going after it.”

Duncan’s story is something else. He kicked for Iowa as a true freshman walk-on in 2016, making a 33-yard field goal on the final play to beat No. 3 Michigan at Kinnick Stadium.

But he was beaten out for the kicking job the following season and redshirted. He did not see any action in 2018, either.

He got the nod over Caleb Shudak last fall and produced an immaculate season. Woods said every position on special teams is open as Iowa prepares for its opener at Purdue next week, and that includes placekicker.

“I feel very strongly about Keith as a placekicker. I also feel very strongly about Caleb Shudak as a placekicker,” Woods said. “Those two are two very good teammates and very good placekickers. I think everyone is looking forward to moving forward into 2020. Last year was last year, and you can’t go back to it. I’m really looking forward to this year. Last year, they competed really, really well together. They complement each other well. The same thing is going on right now.

“I can’t say enough about them and their leadership. Not just at their position but across the team. Which is very unheard of for kickers.”

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Duncan is part of Iowa’s 2020 leadership group and was vocal when the Hawkeyes’ program was thrust into the national spotlight over the summer with accusations from current and former players about racial disparity and bullying. An independent review of the program was conducted and strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle lost his job.

Duncan was asked how things are now.

“I think one of the main changes is probably the communication,” he said. “That goes from leadership groups down to the freshmen. Having that open line of communication to the coaches is crucial. I think everyone feels comfortable now, which is great, and that allows us to just play football.”

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

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