IOWA CITY — Micah Hyde saw the light and it started running toward it.
But then he slipped on the notoriously cruddy Soldier Field and the light, on his second-half punt return return that went for 11 yards, went out. The light went out, but hey, it was a start after he spent much of last season waving his hand for a fair catch.
“I think my eyes definitely got big and I wanted to pop that one for a big play,” said Hyde, who averaged 10.5 yards on two punt returns. “In a crucial part of the game, our punt return team did a great job of blocking and I slipped.”
Hyde took his second punt return 11 yards to Northern Illinois’ 24, where the Hawkeyes set up for the winning touchdown.
Last season, Hyde’s best day as punt returner came against Louisiana-Monroe when he averaged 21.5 yards on two returns. He had a memorable one against Michigan that he fielded at Iowa’s 8 and returned 14 yards to the 22. He saved horrible field position and Iowa went on to a TD drive.
Those moments were few and far between. Mostly, it was the fair catch wave.
“Coach [Darrell Wilson] just wants me to catch the ball and get the offense position, and if I can return it, try to get some good yards,” said Hyde, who totaled more than 20 yards in punt returns in games just twice last season. “That one slipped away and I thought I could’ve popped that one.”
Iowa’s special teams were an overall uptick last week. From true freshman Connor Kornbrath’s 51-yard punt from Iowa’s goal line to John Wienke’s 43-yarder that was downed at Northern Illinois’ 1 by cornerback Greg Castillo to Mike Meyer’s four field goals, the Hawkeyes have something to build on.
“We have a great opportunity on special teams,” Hyde said. “We can try to get a jump on teams. Hopefully, this will be a key component for us.”
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