Iowa Football

Iowa football #PaintedTower Mailbag: We're all working through some things

You do you, Matt Campbell; if you want to wear khakis and get some strength training in, you do that

It’s #PaintedTower time.

Austin has the saying “Keep Austin Weird.” I ran for Cedar Rapids mayor on a “Let’s get weird, Cedar Rapids” platform.

No, I didn’t. I live in Fairfax. We have a good mayor. I’m sure.

Week 2 brings the Iowa State Cyclones to Kinnick Stadium. It’s like the 300th game between the schools. They do it every year.

If I’m still around when Dolph starts the radio, there might be a #GoodTimeyRadio sampler. It always kind of feels like the Seinfeld reunion that actually ran on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”


And right into the mud, scum queen. You guys remember that line? Before Steve Martin became a pretty good banjo player he was an insanely funny comic who made some movies during my impressionable teen years.

This line is from “The Man with Two Brains.” Steve Martin, as Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, pushes Kathleen Turner into a mud pool.

“Into the mud, scum queen.”

If you’re a full-time working human, you lift weights in whatever you’ve got. Me? I like to fish a lot and don’t have a lot of time for changing, so I get in there with waders and swoll it up.


So, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell, you do you. Khaki the heck out of that PR on the hang clean. Get with Duluth Trading Company, get some of those fire hose pants and squat until you can set a can of Coke on your behind.

Let’s get weird, Cedar Rapids.

Intern: Send Irrational the T-shirt. (There’s no intern.)


@JacksonHarris89 — Which is the bigger negative impact? ISU not getting to play week 1, or Iowa getting no current film on ISU? I’d say not playing, considering the Hawks’ 1st half sloppiness Saturday.

I’ve had a hard time seeing any advantage or disadvantage to this deal.

But I do know this: Last week, I think we saw how things can change when someone turns on the earthquake machine.

You think something is going to work a certain way. You think someone is going to perform. And then the earthquake machine buzzes and clips on and you can barely remember your name.

There is something to the earthquake machine. ISU has yet to feel that. Iowa has. That doesn’t necessarily mean advantage Iowa. The Cyclones have a lot of veteran players who’ve been in the earthquake machine and now think of it as ... fun, I guess that’s the word. Playing can be fun, too. Maybe.

So, I’m at push.


This is a good question and I’m glad Travis asked it. Once again, I don’t have a specific answer on why Toren Young didn’t get a carry in the first half.

I think sometimes we can work our way through these types of questions together and reach a thought that makes sense.


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In this case, Young was an “OR” on the depth chart with No. 2 Mekhi Sargent. Young got No. 3 carries in the first half, which is to say none. He played just one snap in a split-back situation.

I think it’s just that. Ivory Kelly-Martin won the job in camp. I think offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz has big plans for him. I think when Iowa gets to the point where the RB is a receiving threat out of the backfield (a la El Patriots), Kelly-Martin will make things happen.

Glad you asked about Kelly-Martin. He did something to his ankle vs. Northern Illinois. I didn’t think it was a thing. I saw him cruising around in the postgame, but it could’ve degraded over the weekend. We’re talking about a back whose strengths are cutting and quickness. Ankle injuries tend to hamper that.

Kirk Ferentz was evasive on Tuesday. He was asked directly if Kelly-Martin was going to play.

“Well, we’ve got a couple guys that are a little bit dicey, so we’ll see where they’re at,” Ferentz said.

So, probably Kelly-Martin day-to-day. Fullback Brady Ross came off the field with an ankle injury. He’s expected to play. The fact that wide receiver Nick Easley got half of the snaps the other starting receivers might be something to pay attention to.


Excellent observation, Jack.

A.J. Epenesa was a fingernail away from two strip/sacks in a game. In other words, from a D-lineman’s perspective, Epenesa was a fingernail from a pair of grand slams, a four-goal hockey game and whatever the equivalent is in basketball (he didn’t travel — “travel,” wink, jump step, wink — during an entire game).


I’d go as far to say he’s the best non-starter in the Big Ten West. I don’t know enough about the East. I’m sure that little outfit in Columbus that everyone hopes overcomes all the odds has a guy or eight. (Yea, Big Ten football.)

As far as the whole “why isn’t AJE a starter” thing — and I don’t think Jack is doing that here, honest question I appreciate, but I know it’s going to come, it does every week — let’s toss this one to Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.

“The thing that comes easy to him is playing on the edge and rushing the passer,” Doyle said. “He needs to be stronger so he can be a more physical defensive lineman at the point of attack. He needs to get bigger and stronger to play the point well.”

Let’s try to remember this, so when you go to the message boards, you’ll have an answer and you can actually flame the other anonymous guy with a stone, cold thought straight from the Iowa strength and conditioning coordinator’s mouth.


Jones didn’t read his keys and kind of froze.

He spent all summer preparing to replace Josey Jewell. That’s a lot of pressure. Let’s look at this like a math class. We’ve all taken a math class (or maybe you’re a beautiful mind) that punched us in the face on the first test. I know I did. Quantitative Something Something for Business. It went about like that sentence did.

The first test still counts, but it’s just one. Study, do your homework, break down the word problems and push your standard a little higher every week.

It’s doable.


Remember last spring when special teams coordinator LeVar Woods got a little testy with me when I asked why he didn’t blow up the punter spot?

“Our mantra, our thought is always develop people,” Woods said. “That’s first and foremost. ... To blow a guy up or blow up a position, that doesn’t make any sense to me or to us. That’s not our philosophy. We’re trying to develop the people first and then as players and see what we have.”

But what about the non-called fake punt against Ohio State? (Would a younger coach have handled that more gracefully than KF? Maybe, but that coach would be showing an otherworldly amount of patience for a young coach. KF was basically, no one lost a finger, so let’s move on.)

“Do I trust Colten? Yes, I trust him,” Woods said. “People do silly things, right? You correct and you move forward.”

Maybe LeVar was scolding me a bit. Hey, I’m still learning in year 20. I saw this, but never articulated it.

And hey, look at Colten Rastetter last week. It was a bouncy 53.8 on four punts. Iowa didn’t blow up the position. No one lost a finger. And there’s life after the struggle.

Let’s give Amani Jones a minute on this.

“It can be painful at times, and sometimes you have no choice,” Kirk Ferentz said. “Last year we had two guys out of high school playing receiver, and thank God Nick Easley was here. But that’s who we were, and that’s where it was.

“You grin and bear it and push through it and all that kind of stuff and read about how our passing game is not too good. Like no kidding. But you just keep working through that, keep pushing, we’ll get there hopefully.”


That’s a revealing answer. You do understand by now you’re not going to get your Bo Pelini “chicken bleep” moment, right?

Or maybe we had it with “Muster one up” and we learned and moved on.

No idea on Samson Evans (probably redshirting). The return guy isn’t always the fastest. More goes into it than running.

Kyle Groeneweg averaged 8.4 yards on five punt returns last week. That’s almost 2 1/2 yards more than Iowa averaged last season. That’s third in the Big Ten after week 1. That would’ve been fifth in the league last season.

I don’t know what else you want. Speed, I guess.


Picked this one to talk a little about the Huskers and Cyclones pulling the plug on last week’s games.

I’m glad they did. I think an Oklahoma-Texas Tech game a few years ago started between 10 p.m. and midnight. Gross. Don’t do that, football.

Good call by both to pull the plug. Your stadium is about to become the “The Cornballer.” I did a quick radio thing with Greg Sharpe on Wednesday. Greg is the play-by-play voice for Husker football and baseball. He said the last lightning strike at Memorial Stadium happened around 3 a.m.

Credit both programs for looking at the radar and using smart situational awareness. Better to pull the plug than risk anything, even wet breeches sitting in the rain. OK, the wet breeches might be your problem.



Yes, but please, Metallica fans, this isn’t me attacking your music. This is just changing things around, or my lame attempt at just a different thought.

A lot of people like a lot of different music. I suggested The Japandroids’ “Fire’s Highway” on Twitter before NIU. It has a line, “We dream and now we know.” Isn’t that every Saturday ever?

I think it’s OK to look past metal and guitar rock. I hear good things about rap music. I’m sure there is some country music that goes along with Busch Light. I’m sure that exists ... somewhere.

Don’t touch “Back in Black.” That’s Iowa football, in my mind. But transition to something different. Metallica is great, but I’ve always thought “Sandman” was just another metal song in the face of “Back in Black.”

But hey, I’m going to see Dinosaur Jr on Monday at Codfish Hollow in Maquoketa. You should come, too. Get ready for not being able to hear for two days, but worth it.

And, really, Metallica fans, I used to be the kind of person who thought, it’s not my music, it’s crap. I’m not that anymore. The line in the sand was EDM. It’s not my thing, but it’s a lot of people's thing. Whatever gets you to sway, I’m good with it (Florida Georgia whatever whatever is literally where I do draw a line. You hear some Colter Wall, that is going to be all the country you want — and Sturgill.)

This isn’t always going to be football C-SPAN. Thanks for the question!



I’d been frustrated with “Better Call Saul.” It’s a show that has to operate with the heavy, heavy, heaviness of “Breaking Bad.” It’s also a show that has said yes to reverse aging its characters. That bends credibility at times with Bob Odenkirk’s hair (I’m sorry, Bob, I love you, but I think your Saul hair is standoffish with you).

But then last week. We’re starting to see it and I think “Better Call Saul” cut its own ice last week.

Hey, more popular culture. OK, a few more. Let’s get back to the football.


I think you’re on the right track.

Can Iowa State find the kind of speed that the Big 12 powerdogz can? Texas literally has “Texas” in its name. Maybe it’ll actually be “Texas” again some day.

That’s a tough hill for Iowa State. It’s probably not going to be as dangerous with its read-option game, but that can change from QB-to-QB.

Can Iowa State find good running backs? Of course. It’s been doing that for a very long time. O-linemen? I think, just speaking generally, ISU has made strides in development. Iowa didn’t offer Julian Good-Jones out of Cedar Rapids Washington. Iowa didn’t offer Bryce Meeker out of Cedar Rapids Prairie. They went to ISU. Good-Jones leads ISU with 24 career starts. Meeker has eight. They’re both slated to start at OT this weekend.

ISU made starters out of them.


So on offense, why bang your head on the wall trying to recruit the same speed the rest of the Big 12 is recruiting?

On defense, I think coordinator Jon Heacock opened a lot of eyes with the Cyclones’ performance last season. There is a story on The Athletic about how Heacock literally threw away the playbook last season. He picked their top 11 and figured out ways to morph them and keep them on the field in the hyperspeed Big 12.

What would really help this take off would be a couple of OL and DL draft picks. If Iowa State gets NFL juice going in linemen recruiting, that would be a differentiator in the Big 12.

Generally, I think this is the path for Iowa State. It’s smart, I like it. Now, the big question is how far Campbell can take it?

I heard longtime Big 12 beat writer Chip Brown on the radio before the season pick ISU opposite TCU in the Big 12 title game. The gains in Ames feel real.


My impression was Stanley wanted to throw to spots that Smith couldn’t get to. On the long miss (not the interception), it felt like Smith couldn’t get to that spot and Stanley tried to throw him open.

On the pick, I’d say Smith didn’t work hard enough to box out the defender. Now, it wasn’t a great throw. Stanley has to get that ball where it’s Iowa’s or no one’s. Smith could’ve helped himself with a little better body work.


This is high-level WR drilling. Smith still is only a true sophomore. If he gets to the point where he’s using that 6-3, 220, he’s going to be a page in the playbook.


For sure on Toren Young. We’ve talked about development and staying engaged and patient. Young lost this job in camp. He played one snap in the first half last week. Instead of texting his family and telling them he wanted to transfer, he took his first carry of the second half 40 yards and eventually became the backbreaking element Iowa’s offense needed to push through a day without their two starting offensive tackles.

That’s perseverance.

And with Kelly-Martin on the ropes this week, of course, you’ll see more Toren Young.


This is getting into the “turning over stones” category.

I don’t see Iowa practices. I’d love to be able pull out reference points for that. But what about this: Jack Hockaday was ready when he went in. Nick Niemann was outstanding. Kristian Welch showed me a lot of chutzpah for pulling out a good performance that probably should inch forward all season as he gets comfortable.

Iowa held NIU to 211 total yards. That was the Huskies’ worst output in two years (33 yards vs. Boise State in the 2015 bowl game).

The defense was fine. Linebacker needs some experience.


I could try to play cool and act like I know what THX is.


Please, don’t tell my musician son about this.


This is good. You guys have probably noticed on the Iowa sidelines that the QBs aren’t signaling plays. It’s a couple of grad assistants and they wear red hats. They need to stand out.

Bill has a point. You look over at the Iowa sideline and the red certainly stands out.

But what about ... I actually think this is a good idea, maybe there’s another team from Wisconsin that actually has embraced this idea ... blaze orange?

That’s a color for the fields and valleys of Iowa in the fall. Why not throw it in the mix? Maybe get a little juice out of it.


Bonus first: I answered that last week and had KF tying Joe Paterno with 162. I think KF has more in him. How much? That’s up to him.

(BTW, I hope he reveled in the celebration Saturday night. Twenty years, 144 wins, it’s a helluva thing. Hope he howled at the moon.)


Without Wirfs and Jackson, Iowa didn’t want to try the big dropback passes last week. So, I think the game plan was shaped to fit the personnel on hand.

And even if that wasn’t the idea, whatever Brian Ferentz did do sure worked.

My answer to the film thing is Iowa always will do whatever it takes to win. Well, last week it didn’t have to show a whole lot and won.

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