Iowa’s players, coaches and fans needed this win, not just for the 3-1 record, but for the margin of victory.
The 59-3 win allowed fans to feel good about their team again. It gave backups a chance to play in a comfortable situations and younger players an opportunity to compete for the first time.
Among those getting their first positional reps include quarterback C.J. Beathard, tackle Ryan Ward, center Eric Simmons, receiver Blake Haluska, safety Anthony Gair, cornerback Maurice Fleming, linebacker Reggie Spearman and defensive end Faith Ekakitie.
“It was big for us going into Big Ten play,” Iowa wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. “It showed a lot of maturity for us to go out and beat a team, quote-unquote, that we were supposed to beat on paper. Just come up and show it and actually put a game like that in that fashion.”
BY THE NUMBERS
184 — Kevonte Martin-Manley’s punt return yardage, 17 yards shy of Nile Kinnick’s single-game record
56 — Iowa’s margin of victory, tying the largest under Kirk Ferentz
4 — Iowa running backs carrying the ball at least 10 times
76 — Offensive plays by Iowa, the fourth straight game the Hawkeyes have exceeded 75 plays
22 — Consecutive games with a catch for Martin-Manley and C.J. Fiedorowicz, who boasts the second longest streak for tight ends
A — For their next trick, the Hawkeyes will score a TD while sky diving from the stratosphere with one hand tied behind their back.
– Marc Morehouse
A — On Nov. 26, Western Michigan plays Northern Illinois on ESPN2. You have been warned.
– Mike Hlas
A — There were nearly as many returns at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday than at Coral Ridge Mall in late December.
– Scott Dochterman
Martin-Manley approached Iowa football’s holy ground with his return performance. By halftime he notched two punt returns for touchdowns, tying the Big Ten record with Wisconsin’s Earl Girard (1947) and Ohio State’s Garcia Lane (1983).
Martin-Manley’s 184 punt return yards are 17 shy of legendary Nile Kinnick’s school record. Martin-Manley had a fair catch in the second half and let another punt go. He wouldn’t have done either if he had known how close he was to Kinnick’s record. Receivers coach Bobby Kennedy told Martin-Manley about the record in the fourth quarter.
“I was a little salty about it, that I didn’t break it, but to even be mentioned in that same breath (as Kinnick), I was really honored and a pleasure for me,” Martin-Manley said.
For Western Michigan’s final punt, Martin-Manley asked to go in but he was overruled in favor of Riley McCarron.
“That was exactly what I said,” Martin-Manley said about pleading to go in, “but (the coaches said) ‘We’re going to keep your healthy and stay off the field.’”
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz was leery of seeing Martin-Manley break that record.
“With all due respect to Kevonte, I love the guy, he’s a great young man, I think it’s OK if that one stayed right where it’s at.”
Spearman became the fourth true freshman to play to this year. He opened up on the kickoff squad and later played weakside linebacker.
“I think we’re all pretty much convinced that he could really help us out there on special teams,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I think looking down the road here, we feel like he’s got an excellent opportunity. We’ve got three senior linebackers. I think he’s got an excellent opportunity to be right in the thick of things at one of those three spots. So I don’t see much downside here.”
Spearman, who turned 17 in mid-August, joins cornerback Desmond King (who made his third straight start), wide receiver Matt VandeBerg and running back LeShun Daniels as true freshmen contributing.
DAMOND DA MAN
Junior wide receiver Damond Powell has impacted Iowa since arriving on campus. He made two big plays Saturday. The first was a 29-yard touchdown pass from Jake Rudock midway through the third quarter. The other was a 54-yard completion from backup quarterback C.J. Beathard.
“Rudock made a great pass to me,” Powell said. “I felt real good about (scoring a touchdown). I can’t even really explain it because it was in front of 70,000 people and to make a touchdown, it’s just overwhelming.”
Powell, who now has three catches for 132 yards, arrived on campus just three days before practice began in August. Martin-Manley said Powell has picked up the offense in quick fashion.
“He has been making plays in practice,” Martin-Manley said. “I feel like he can do it in a game as well. So hopefully he’ll step up in there in Big Ten play.”
Iowa cornerback B.J. Lowery returned two interceptions for touchdowns, a single-game school record. He returned one pass 35 yards for a score with 56 seconds left in the second half. He brought back Western Michigan’s first pass of the second half 13 yards for a score.
“The energy was high so that’s pretty much what we were tried to capitalize on today,” Lowery said.
Lowery has three interceptions in Iowa’s last two games.
BIG TEN ROAD TRIP
Western Michigan concluded its whirlwind of Big Ten competition 0-3. The Broncos opened with a 26-13 loss at Michigan State and lost 38-17 last week at Northwestern. Western Michigan also lost 27-23 to FCS Nicholls State.
“We played three very good Big Ten teams,” Western Michigan Coach P.J. Fleck said. “Start with Michigan State, whose defense I think is one of the best in the country. You look at Northwestern, whose offense is one of the best in the country and Iowa, we made all three phases look really special. So again, I think we played three of the top Big Ten teams. I really do.”
Iowa (3-1) plays at longtime rival Minnesota (4-0) next Saturday (2:30 p.m. KCRG). The Gophers have won the last two at TCF Bank Stadium, taking the 2010 game 27-24 and winning 22-21 in 2011.