Iowa wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley (11) returns a punt for a touchdown during the first half against Western Michigan at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, September 21, 2013. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
PLAY(S) OF THE GAME
- TIME: 11:45, second quarter/10:46, second quarter
- SCORE: Iowa 10-0/17-0
- DOWN AND DISTANCE: Western Michigan facing fourth-and-4 at its 40/Western Michigan facing fourth-and-10 at its 17
- FORMATION AND PERSONNEL: Iowa – base punt return. Western Michigan State – base punt alignment
- WHAT HAPPENED: Both times Western Michigan punter J. Schroeder punted to Iowa’s Kevonte Martin-Manley. The first was a deep punt Martin-Manley fielded at the Iowa 17. Martin-Manley started up the middle then veered to his left. Quinton Alston sprung him on a big block and George Kittle got in the way of a defender en route to an 83-yard score. The second punt, 59 seconds later, featured Schroeder punting rugby style. Martin-Manley fielded the punt at his 37. He raced left to right and key blocks by Jacob Hillyer and Maurice Fleming vaulted him into the end zone.
- WHY IT WAS IMPORTANT: The returns gave Iowa a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter.
- THE QUOTE 1: “I saw that I was going to have a lot of time so I took my time, made the right reads and just hit it real hard. Guys blocked, and it was to the house,” Martin-Manley said of his first return. About his second he said: “I didn’t think I was going to have that much time after it rolled for that much and for that long. The looks we saw on film, it came true. It came alive.”
- THE QUOTE 2: “As soon as Kevonte got the ball, he said he knew he was going to be gone,” Kittle said of the first score. “Their guys, they’re not very good coverage guys, so they’re going way too far up the field. He cuts it back and we have two or three lead blockers and it’s out the gate. I tried to catch up to him because I saw some big guy catching up to him, so I tried to cut him off. I’m just glad he got into the end zone.”
- THE QUOTE 3: “We were a little bit nervous with him, that’s why we had a lot of the rugby kicks,” Western Michigan Coach P.J. Fleck said. “We even tried delay rugby where he took his time and had to rugby kick it. Let them get down there. Even the one that he took and even the one that was floating on the ground for three, four seconds, he still picked up and took off.”
- THE ANALYSIS: Iowa special teams coach Chris White exploited Western Michigan’s weaknesses by emphasizing Martin-Manley should take chances with the punt return. The blocking was superb both times and younger players like Kittle and Fleming had the presence of mind to simply obstruct opposing players when Martin-Manley was making final moves on the way to the end zone.