IOWA CITY, Iowa – Chemistry is more than a science class you took in high school with the periodic table of elements and Bunsen burners. It’s also something that makes relationships special.
Members of the Iowa football team are showing they have that intangible that’s hard to quantify or create. You either have it or you don’t.
Sure, the Hawkeyes are executing better and producing big plays at a higher rate than they did during a disappointing 7-6 2014. There’s more going into the 4-0 start than simple Xs and Os, however, even if it’s just a psychological boost of togetherness the players are experiencing.
"It really feels like a band of brothers," Junior Tight End George Kittle said after Saturday’s 62-16 mauling of North Texas at Kinnick Stadium.
"I don’t want to be cliche but everyone is humble. No one thinks they’re better than anyone else. Everyone is just on the same level and we’re all headed in the same direction. We’re all in the same boat."
Iowa’s mettle likely will be tested on Saturday in its Big Ten opener at Wisconsin (11 a.m. CT, ESPN). The 19th-ranked Badgers (3-1) come into the action having defeated the Hawkeyes in their last three meetings.
To win Big Ten trophy games on the road, the Hawkeyes will need the same effort and focus they’ve shown in their first 4-0 start since 2009, the year they won 11 contests, including the Orange Bowl. That approach has fueled a group of players enjoying each part of the ride and not taking anything for granted.
Running Back Jordan Canzeri had led by example in his fifth season in the program. Instead of relaxing on the sidelines in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s blowout win, he stood up and cheered on back-ups Derrick Mitchell Jr. and Akrum Wadley as they ran with the ball.
"It’s just awesome to see them get work and our (second-team) offense go in and get a late score and our defense with their Pick-6s (from linebackers Josey Jewell and Bo Bower) they had," said Canzeri, who ran for 115 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries.
"Again, when all of us are playing the way we are and having a game like (North Texas), it’s just so awesome to be on the sideline and be cheering and everyone is up and excited and the energy is there. It’s just so cool to be a part of."
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz credits his senior class with setting the example for the players bringing the right attitude and focus to the field so far. He’s sees his group growing through experiences.
"We try to teach the same things pretty much every year. Just how it gets received a little bit," he said. "The other part of the equation which I’ve alluded to as leadership. That’s got to grow. I think that’s something we’ve really seen dramatically since August. Going through tough times, camp’s not an easy time for the players certainly, going through the ups and downs of the season, preparation during the week and the games.
"Yeah, we’ve been in a couple of really interesting situations already in four games into it. So to see the guys do some of the things they’ve done and just it’s something that can really grow if you have the right guys."
RECRUITING RUMBLINGS: Saturday’s crew of prospects didn’t cause as much of a stir as a week earlier against Pitt. Of course, Tyler Cook and K.J. Sails officially visiting and A.J. Epenesa on an unofficial carried a lot of weight on Sept. 19.
The North Texas crowd was intriguing, however. Much of the juice came in the form of high school juniors with the 2016 basketball class filled and football close to doing so.
Mount Vernon Offensive Lineman Tristan Wirfs, who picked up an Iowa offer after summer camp, returned to Kinnick for the second time in three home games. He was greeted by assistants Reese Morgan, Jim Reid and Seth Wallace.
West Des Moines Dowling teammates Rocky Lombardi, a quarterback with offers from Iowa State and Virginia, and linebacker Ben Campos, brother of Cyclone Offensive Lineman Jake Campos, checked out the Hawkeyes on Saturday. I’ve heard this duo was luke warm on the Hawkeyes based on family ties and previous relationships, but the fact that they came to town and the staff spent quite a bit of the pre-game talking to them said something different.
Another guy on which to keep an eye is Richmond (IL) OT Dalton Wagner (6-8, 280), who’s the type of mobile, lean front man Iowa’s done well with in the past. Wallace made a point of brining Wagner and his dad over to position coach Brian Ferentz for an introduction and discussion.
On the basketball side, a pair of 2017s with Iowa offers visited campus. Indiana’s Jack Nunge and Christian Negron, a Chicago area product, and their families looked to be having a good time with commits Cordell Pemsl and Jordan Bohannon, who were officially visiting, and Connor McCaffery (’17). Future pledge Patrick McCaffery (’19) also joined the group as did Alex King (’17) and Brennan Schofield (’18), both from Indiana.
It’s interesting to watch head coach Fran McCaffery interact with the prospects. He’s very loose and makes sure to thank all of them and their families for coming to visit.
Connor and Negron know each other from the Top 100 camp in St. Louis. You can tell they have get along well.
WELL, THAT DIDN’T TAKE LONG: Nothing like a shot fired early during Iowa-Wisconsin football week. The Badgers take the baton first:
— Wisconsin Badgers (@Wisconsin) September 28, 2015