THREE THINGS WE LEARNED
NO BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL
I think we all assumed that Sunday morning when the Iowa players headed into the football complex for treatment and practice that they would be greeted with a note in their locker. It would simply be the quote from Penn State star running back Saquon Barkley, who said after Penn State’s drubbing of Iowa last year that the Hawkeyes quit. He didn’t dance around it, he said Iowa flat out quit.
Fast forward to Tuesday and when the topic was brought up and reporters asked if that quote had made it into the locker room this week, the answer was a firm, “no”. Sure, most of the veteran players remember the quote, but Barkley didn’t tell them anything they already didn’t know. While using the term “quit” might not have been accurate, they knew they played their worst game of the year and perhaps the worst game in several years.
Of course, that next week, instead of resigning themselves to another drubbing, this time at the hands of then undefeated Michigan, the Hawkeyes showed everyone that the team that took the field the previous week was not who they were and knocked off the Wolverines, 14-13, at night inside Kinnick Stadium. The quote wasn’t up in the locker room this week to provide motivation, but my sense is the Iowa football team remembers it very well.
SAFETY SHUFFLE AND BRANDON SNYDER MAY BE BACK IN THE MIX
The injury related shuffle on the offensive line has been the story of the early portion of the season from a player movement perspective. That was until after one series last week against North Texas. Starting free safety Jake Gervase was headed to the bench and sophomore Amani Hooker was into the lineup. Hooker played the rest of the way and did a nice job in pass coverage and on run support. Apparently, defensive coordinator Phil Parker agreed and this week, Hooker is listed as the starting free safety.
What’s interesting is that instead of keeping Gervase behind Hooker, he’s now listed as the backup at strong safety behind Miles Taylor. The struggles that Taylor has have been well known going back to last season, when he didn’t return to the starting lineup after a concussion early in the upset win over Michigan. Anthony Gair finished the year as Iowa’s starter ahead of Taylor.
Following the game on Saturday, Kirk Ferentz hinted that we could see a rotation at safety moving forward. My sense right now is that if Taylor struggles on Saturday, the plan could be to insert Gervase in at strong safety. The wild card at safety in the coming weeks could be the potential return of Brandon Snyder. Last year’s starting free safety suffered an ACL tear during spring ball and at the time, most assumed that Snyder would be out for the year. Snyder has always been a quick healer and his work ethic is among the best on the Iowa roster. He’s starting to work his way back on the practice field and Iowa is taking a wait and see approach at this point. My sense is the key point will be sometime after the bye week as to whether Snyder ends up getting the opportunity to play this season.
DESERVING HONOR FOR CHAD GREENWAY
Even though Chad Greenway grew up in South Dakota, he’s as much an Iowan as any native of the Hawkeye state. He grew up in small town, worked on a family farm, and has exhibited the values of hard work each and every day.
That’s why he became an All American at Iowa and played in the NFL for ten years with the Minnesota Vikings. This weekend, Greenway will be inducted into the ANF Wall of Honor, which salutes former Iowa players who have exhibited the tenacity, work ethic, and character of an Iowa farmer. Greenway will be the first former Iowa player not born in the state to be on the Wall of Honor and I can’t think of a more deserving person. Greenway is as good as they come on and off the field and it will be great to see him be honored in this way on Saturday.
WITH BUTLER OUT, HOW DO THE BACKUP RB CARRIES GET DISTRIBUTED?
Iowa’s running back position took a hit this week when it was learned on Sunday that James Butler would be sidelined for a few weeks with an elbow injury sustained against North Texas. If you saw the play, you know it was ugly. Butler will be out until after the bye week and that opens the door for Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin to get more work.
Butler has rushed for 168 yards on 36 carries as he spelled Akrum Wadley during the first three games. The North Texas contest was his heaviest workload of the season with 16 carries. Iowa doesn’t necessarily have Wadley on a snap count, but they would like to keep his touches per game somewhere around 25, so there will be a chance for Young and/or Kelly-Martin to get some work starting Saturday evening.
It’s likely that both will get an opportunity, but based on what we saw against North Texas, I’m slightly more intrigued by Kelly-Martin than Young. It’s not that Young did a bad job. Quite the opposite actually. He led Iowa with 78 yards on the ground in his first action this season. Kelly-Martin might offer a bit more of a game breaking option out of the backfield, after rushing for 74 yards on just 11 carries.
WHY ISN’T THE PENN STATE GAME SOLD OUT?
Late Thursday afternoon, Iowa officials said there were 4,000 tickets remaining for the Penn State game. Last Tuesday, an Iowa spokesperson said there were 5,500 tickets remaining for this game, which kind of surprised me. The start time for the game was released a day earlier and given that it was a night game, I think most of us assumed the tickets that remained would be gobbled up rather quickly.
We assumed incorrectly.
Why hasn’t this game sold out? Reminder, the student tickets for the season sold out before the year began, so no one can blame the students for the lack of a sellout.
I think it’s a couple of factors that are in play here. First, the ticket is $95. That’s the highest single game ticket price for an Iowa home game. Iowa has charged $70 or $80 in the past and perhaps we have found that there’s a price point that Hawkeye fans won’t cross.
Second, I do think that the 12 day TV window is having an impact. In the past, night game were announced sometime in the summer and fans would have a good amount of lead time to plan and make hotel reservations if they were coming in from out of town. With the new TV deal for the Big Ten, fans have basically 12 days to plan and for a night game, especially if you have kids who won’t be going to the game with you, it’s very difficult to make the necessary arrangements.
Lastly, I think we are seeing and will continue to see fans just being more comfortable watching games at home in their living room. This has been the trend for many years and with the ability to order a pizza, drink a few beers, and sit in your favorite chair and watch the game in HD rather than spending several hundred bucks on tickets, parking, a hotel room, and meals.
Iowa will have a pair of home games this season against schools that will be highly ranked when they come to Kinnick Stadium. Those two games are Penn State this weekend and Ohio State in November. We know Iowa’s history in these games and the upsets happen at Kinnick. Iowa will win one of these two games this year.